Friends, do you also feel the collective anxiety of our world unraveling? Is that unease burrowing and metastasizing throughout your body? What to call this present reality of bombed-out cities, environmental degradation, and refugees of war and economic displacement?
Murderous, senseless events in Gaza and Israel, in besieged Ukraine, and in too many parts of our planet touch us all. The cumulative effects of these wars, and of the galloping consequences of climate change, are viruses that infect each and every one of us, either directly, as in the many lives being lost, or indirectly, as those fortunate among us trying to seek normalcy in an abnormal world.
How to maintain equilibrium? Retreat into apathy? Engage in the 24/7 cable news cycles with its shocking images and non-stop analyses? Light a candle? Pray for peace?
Singing “kumbaya” in the face of what we — or, more precisely, male egos — have wrought might be a temporary balm, but it is useless. I have tried, as John Lennon sang, to imagine a world where there is “nothing to kill or die for,” but after almost seven decades of watching the worst of human impulses play out, I can only imagine more killing and dying.
Nothing changes, but everything is different. What seems new is old. The lessons of history gather dust. The world lurches onward into uncertainty.
Life is a matter of dumb luck. I am not hunkered down in the subways of Kyiv hiding from Russian bombs. I am not an Israeli hostage of Hamas awaiting possible execution. I am not a Palestinian picking through the rubble of my apartment complex, hoping to find my son, daughter, or parent.
But I am a citizen of the world, a brother to all of the above. I cannot disassociate myself from my brethren who only want what I am so fortunate to have: food, water, shelter, safety, electricity, and some semblance of a decent future.
Masters of War
Increasingly, events in the world seem well out of my control. I have little to no say as to this great unraveling. Would I have invaded Ukraine? Would I, as Hamas foolishly has, launched a quixotic massacre on Israel that would consequently inflict horrific suffering on the innocent citizens of my own country and those of my neighbors?
Would you? Do you have that kind of power-hungry hate that these instigators of war possess? Could you, as one of these “leaders,” look upon the aftermath of a bombing raid or a suicide mission you ordered and think, I did this, and, as for those dead women and children? Oh well, collateral damage.
Just who are these “Masters of War,” to quote Bob Dylan? “You that never done nothin’/But build to destroy/You play with my world/Like it’s your little toy.”
It is not us. We control so little. I’ve aged beyond the naive notion that I can save humankind. What I can (perhaps) influence is my family and my community (at times). I can be charitable, kind, compassionate, and peaceful, but it will not stop the slaughter occurring in Ukraine, Gaza, Israel, and elsewhere. Having those qualities did not end the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, did not give my country second thoughts about invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, or meddling and failing (again) in Vietnam.
Last month, I watched a full moon cross the Colorado Rockies as I lay in a tent listening to the playful yips and mournful howls of coyotes and the questioning call of a solitary owl. With the bright moonlight making sleep impossible, I replayed the conversation earlier that evening between me and my best friends in their off-the-grid cabin as we watched the sunset through a golden alpenglow.
We are now officially old, the past 50 years of friendship behind us; the next quick years nothing but a crapshoot of medical maladies and certain grief. So we pondered: Is there any rhyme or reason to all of this? Is there some larger force at work?
After a couple of glasses of wine, we concluded that our lives, at least, were mostly a series of random acts. Yes, we guided the choices we made in education, careers, and partners. But we were blessed by sheer serendipity: mainly the country in which we were born and the time in which we were born.
Our births could have occurred in Gaza, Somalia, Iraq, or Syria. At this very moment, we could be clinging to a sinking boat in the Mediterranean Sea with hundreds of other desperate migrants escaping the ramifications of drought and dictatorships. Or we could have died as infants, as so many are dying presently, never having this blessed life at all.
As I write this, the slaughter in Israel and Gaza continues. Russia continues to bomb civilian targets. The earth boils. Have you noticed that there is no greater being coming to rescue us from our own human plight? And, when the dust settles and the bodies are buried, we will do it all over again.Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Globe Post.