Sunday, November 25, 2018

in search of terra firma

After the better part of two years overseas, there was a time when I was "getting short" -- almost done with my mandatory three-year stint in the army. As was usual for those about to walk out the military door, there was an obligatory meeting with some sergeant or someone who suggested that I might want to re-up ... sign on for another block of time. Those who were getting short with me got similar talks. We laughed at the suggestion (one guy was planning to live in Europe, another was headed for Africa and a life as a mercenary), but at some point when no one else was around, I thought the matter through. Why not re-up?

Well, for one thing, I didn't want to work for an organization that, to all intents and purposes, never fired anyone. That was too sissy by half. But the closing argument for why I wouldn't re-up was simpler: "I want to live in an environment where when I say 'the Lone Ranger,' there is instant recognition on the face of the person I am talking to." This was not at all assured on the streets of Berlin.

On the one hand, such a small matter was small potatoes. On the other, sharing a background and history and experience base was part of making "home" home. I wanted to be home in a place where the Lone Ranger was a given and I could go about whatever inventiveness I might concoct. I wanted to (ick-alert) share a background or cloak or something.

Anyway, I never re-upped. I chose to return to something that was nothing, really, but was really quite something. The whole experience sharpened my understanding of my own biases a little.

And this recollection cropped up this morning when I realized that these days, there seems to be no shared body of knowledge -- stuff that is part of the American foundation ... for you, for me, for red states and blue. Donald Trump's swash and buckle has upended the sense of agreement from which anyone might concoct his or her own inventiveness.

The press, the government, the schools, the environment, science, religion ... everything seems to be Topsy-turvey: State a proposition and there is instantaneous devolution. Fake news is real news is fake news. Accomplishments are not accomplishments, which may, in fact, qualify them as accomplishments. The government cannot lay claim to much outside undoing what has already, give or take a little, been satisfactorily done. Buddhists may clamor that everything changes, but seem blissfully blind the basis of their assumption.

Let's face it, positing a terra firma is the first rule of exploring terra incognita. So -- where is the terra firma these days -- the science and literature that once built a social platform, however rickety, of sorts? A good lie is the basis of any good truth. There may be those who are laughing, but their laughter is like water on a wood stove .... psssssssttt! Gone!

If a society cannot agree, how can it adequately disagree ... and vice versa, I suppose. If everything is "no," where and how does anyone say "yes?"

I don't know -- it just feels as if there is no longer a masked rider whose bullets were made of silver. Quick silver is the name of the game these days. It's wobbly. It can't construct anything. It collapses at the merest touch.

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