I went running this morning, just a little over five miles, and because I live in Nashville, and because it’s June and it’s hot, I run very early, usually well before 7 a.m. I run anywhere between five and ten miles daily, but we’ve been beset by record heat this past week with a ten-day forecast that promises mid– to low-nineties for nearly all of it, and the early hour only helps so much. It gets so hot so early now, you can’t believe it. With the humidity down here, a sunny day in the mid-nineties that irradiates the asphalt like a kiln feels like it’s well over a hundred degrees. It’s bone-stripping heat: you feel like your skeleton’s been removed from your body, so that you go Gumby after five minutes in it. People completely avoid the outdoors come midday. It’s understandable. This morning, after dropping my kids off at camp, still sweating from my run post-cold shower, I became so dizzy I thought I was going to faint.
Like billions of people, to me the heat is a sign of things to come. My wife and I talked about it this Sunday morning. We’d gone shopping at Target, it was brutal outside, and there were almost no cars in the lot at 11:30, uncommon even though plenty of folks were at church in this church-going city. I told my wife that when it’s this hot, I get a sick feeling in my gut, something nearly animal, almost instinctual. It’s a feeling that the world is going to end, that life on this planet will be fried to a crisp. I’m neither a pessimistic nor fearful person, but I liken this feeling to the days of the recent housing bubble, that off-kilter feeling that there was too much wealth everywhere, that first splinter of collective guilt or doubt: how long can we be this…rich?
Who knows? My wife does: “No,” she said, “we’re like roaches. We’ll find a way to survive on this planet, except our lives on it will no longer be recognizable to us.” And my reptile brain flashed back to the seventies and I had visions of Michael York in Logan’s Run. We’ll live in domes, I thought, and the world beyond the glass will be as uninhabitable as the moon. As for Sandmen and youth cults, I don’t know about that, but in Minnesota, in the unforgiving winters, they avoid the weather via tubes that connect buildings. Why not a same avoidance infrastructure for relentless heat? We adapt, we adapt, and we forget.
This brings me to the Obama address tonight from the Oval Office about the Gulf oil spill. I’m praying for something, and that is to be surprised.
Rahm Emmanuel, the president’s Chief of Staff, is often quoted as saying, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” A crisis is defined as a turning point. Its etymology is very interesting: from the Greek krísis decision, equiv. to krivar. s.of krī́nein to decide, separate, judge + –sis –sis. A crisis is a moment of choice.
Like nearly all Americans, the Deepwater Horizon spill has horrified me. What horrifies me more is the fact that, generally speaking, we are more often than not a country that waits for a crisis to make a significant course correction. My prayer for tonight is that after explaining the situation on the ground, as it were, as well as way forward in the Gulf—clean-up efforts both present and future, etc.—the president announces a vigorous, even radical move away from a fossil fuel-based energy economy. If he did, my faith in Washington as a beacon of leadership would be renewed. I’m sure he won’t. This is quote from him in today’s New York Times:
“Now I can’t promise folks that the oil will be cleaned up overnight,” Mr. Obama said. “It will not be.” More businesses will be hurt and people will be angry. “But I promise you this, that things are going to return to normal.”
We have to change. A return to normal is not an option.
If not now, when?
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In Mr. Peanut news, I received the HarperCollins Canada copies of the book and their lustrous and spectacular with a beautiful black spine. As I write this, Mr. Peanut is currently #1 on The Huffington Post Indie Booksellers Beach Reads.