Finding inspiration in a worn-out world when you suspect you have a mediocre mind isn’t always easy. That may be why I devote so much time to griping and navel-gazing, instead of paying greater attention to all the subtle miracles and accidental sight gags going on all around me. (Did I tell you about the sign I saw on the revolving door of a bank that read “Please enter only one person at a time?” Or the one on the subway that read: “Seat reserved for the weak old sick pregnant woman.” “Oh, there she is!” This is one of the perks of living in such a weird country.)
So many crazy things are happening in the news these days that it’s all I can do to ignore them all. William Pfaff writes on truthdig.com that US Secretary of State (and along with George W. Bush secretive Yale Skull and Bones Society member) John Kerry told Russia’s foreign secretary (notice how I can’t recall his name? Ethnocentrism has its charms) that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea could lead to nuclear war. Thanks, John. That’s all we need is a bunch of mushroom clouds sprouting all over the place. That’ll calm everyone down and solve the problem of global warming in the process by turning it into global burning.
A few weeks ago I read that President Obama’s accusation of Syrian President Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people turned out to be false, and the culprit was someone else (presumably Al Qaeda-esque rebels). I always find it funny that the leader of the only country ever to use nuclear weapons in order to annihilate two Japanese cities (although, to his credit, Obama did acknowledge that at one point in his coruscating career) is always touchy about other leaders’ putative plans to develop such omnicidal goodies, regardless of whether that leader is a Republican (George W. Hussein) or a Democrat (Bill Milosevic–granted, that invasion was about something else, a little euphemism known as “ethnic cleansing”–at least that’s the official story).
Yesterday one of my students told me there’s a rumor (trumor? tumor?) circulating that the captain and crew members of the Korean ferry Sewol who abandoned ship, leaving three hundred passengers to drown, did it because they believe they’ve already been saved by God and, since the passengers were not, the ship’s staff had no obligation to save them. Seems mighty presumptuous of them, don’t you think? I mean, how did they know that none of the passengers belonged to their sect? Did they go around and ask each one what his or her religion was before the boat tipped over? I doubt it.
If there is a god, I suspect he’ll whoop their asses but good.
Bernie Glassman, Zen Buddhist teacher and writer and literary sidekick of Jeff Bridges in The Dude and the Zen Master, speaks of the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, a monk or nun who postpones enlightenment until everyone else on earth is enlightened first. Awfully decent of them, don’t you think?
The Sewol captain and crew are the opposite of bodhisattvas, akin to the Wall Street hoodlums who cleaned up big time after forcing innumerable Americans to live in tents instead of their foreclosed homes, or company presidents who give themselves fat bonuses after laying off thousands of their employees to rescue their firms from bankruptcy, instead of doing the noble thing and slitting their guts open with a samurai sword in shame the way they used to do in Japan, Yukio Mishima-style.
Speaking of Japan, that country’s kooky prime minister Abe Shinzo, back for an encore performance, appears eager to militarize their constitution, bowdlerize their history books, and shun responsibility for war crimes against China and Korea in order to burnish the nation’s self-image. The good news is a lot of Japanese citizens aren’t buying it. The bad news is that the skirmish between Japan and China over a disputed group of islands could erupt into something more unpleasant.
Keep your fingers crossed.
You can’t say it’s not a nutty world. (It would be nicer if it were naughtier.)