Single Stories, With Children   2 comments

[If you’re still counting, this is Thirty Days of Druidry 27. But the count obscures the actual topic, so I’m demoting it in these last few posts.]

In a recent NY Times article (“The Danger of a Single Story,” April 19, 2016), conservative columnist David Brooks writes,

As in life generally, every policy has the vices of its virtues. Aggressive policing cuts crime but increases brutality. There is no escape from trade-offs and tragic situations. The only way forward is to elect people who are capable of holding opposing stories in their heads at the same time, and to reject those who can’t.

There, right in our faces, the challenges of a “single story”: even as he strives to diagnose the dangers of binary thinking, Brooks beautifully illustrates it: “the only way forward.”

There are, of course, nearly an infinite number of ways forward. (The larger the group you look at, the fewer the ways. So look smaller, instead. We each of us will make, are making right now, our own ways forward, different from everyone else because we’re different. This post, this blog, is my set of ways. They don’t negate yours. Both-and, not either-or.)

Right now, more than in the past, we face difficulty identifying what “forward” looks like. Oh, there’s always a raucous chorus of voices who will tell you their versions. Mostly we suspect it’s “not what we have right now.” But that’s not at all the same thing as some kind of straight-jacket on reality that drops us into one kind of cosmic “only,” a limited-time offer from the gods.

[Pause for Druid meditation on the rhododendron almost ready to bloom, on the crab apple already loud with bees.]

IMG_1355

Back again. Readers of this blog know I work mostly in the personal as opposed to the political. And I’ll continue to insist they’re two distinct things. Of course they frequently intersect. Don’t most things in our universe?

Partly that’s a matter of scale. We’re beginning to realize, painfully, that we can only effectively know the local and personal. I can and do pretend from time to time to have wisdom about things outside my experience. (Sometimes I even get away with it.) Prophets and Wayshowers manage to pull it off with panache, and get others to buy in.

But as soon as I can, I’m taking this discussion out of the abstract and into the individual. Name a policy and I’ll show how it erases the unique, the personal, the distinctive. Policy tends to exemplify the tyranny of abstract, one-size-fits-all thinking. Draw a line in the sand and that line starts to matter more than people do, regardless of which side of the line they’re on. Is that ever right, we ask? And our answer determines our experience. There’s no such thing as free will — because we will it so.

[Pause for second Druid meditation, on appearances and other realities. Not just one reality. Boring. Not even just two. Almost as boring. Multiple, endless. Now we’re talkin’.]

I want to hold multiple stories in my head, not just one, even though I’m not running for office or proclaiming my way forward as the ONLY, as if all other options, all other universes, are BAAAAAD. No, I want to hold multiple stories because they’re beautiful, and beautifully true, together or separately, at one time or another. Each one a drop of dew, mirroring the blades of grass nearby, but also the sky. Dreamer, you cry. At the risk of riding on Lennon’s coattails, “you say I’m a dreamer, but …” We’re not there yet. That’s one thing dreaming’s for.

Fall in love with the universe, I hear, as both command and prayer, fall in love with it, and you don’t seek policies, you seek the beating heart of each thing, to know it better, to celebrate with it in its own way, orgy or restraint, sowing or boundary. Yes, as I plant my garden and keep out the rabbits and squirrels, and sweat a little in order to live here at all, I can celebrate at the same time. No single story for me. Work and rejoice. They’re not opposites. Things together. The universe, I find, is a marrying kind of place, for worse, and for better.

 

 

Advertisements

2 responses to “Single Stories, With Children

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. what a creative way to put it! helps me frame what I do – I’ve not known a name for my way, which mixes and blends a variety of supposedly opposite or exclusive views (“conservative” on some issues, “liberal” on others, and usually the opposite of what the media is saying on either) – and I think you’ve got it, that the answer is to lower our sights, which our media also do not support. They like to talk about grand visions and universal solutions, which not only don’t work but do great damage. Some of this view is captured by the position that “government shouldn’t legislate,” but even that is a negative. It’s more that local people should decide the issue, not some large bureaucratic body. When the large organization does the deciding, it’s usually in tyrannical form.

  2. Cindy, thanks for your comment. It’s hard work, what you’re describing. We say we want democracy, but I look at the local town and community gatherings here in Vermont and how often do I find myself shying away from attending because, I hear myself saying, too much of it is “petty local politics.”

    But when I yield my sovereignty in small things, how soon before I start to yield it in larger things? “When the large organization does the deciding, it’s usually in tyrannical form.”

    I like how you characterize your “way:” conservative on some issues, liberal on others, which probably reflects the way of a majority of Americans, if we get past the manufactured outrage and the cause du jour.

    Lowering my sights means I look at the earth under my feet before I take a step. I also look at the sky. Looking at the sky helps me take that next step, too. It’s not “either-or.” “Both-and” can be a day’s and life’s work in itself.

Thanks for visiting! Comments?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: