Lately a sense of inertia has come over me. Days are so much shorter than they were even a month ago, so much colder than they were in high summer heat here in California’s Central Valley. Each day I get a vivid show of how Earth turns its northern hemisphere away from the sun this time of year. Our house, which we moved into in mid-September, faces south and it has a tall picket fence behind it. As the sun passes east to west the peak of the roof creates a shadow pointer moving across the fence. At first it would hit the fence a bit more than half way up at mid day. Now the peak is way up near the top at that time. Soon enough the fence will be darkened all day by the shadow of the house.
What with all the loud public debates and various displays of intolerance over the past many weeks there is a different awareness of the interplay of darkness and light, a wonderment that so few seem to be soaking in the creative pleasure one may gain through observing possible patterns amidst shades of grey. This Central Valley grows more than half the food that is eaten in the United States, and exports lots to many other countries as well. People at all levels get together to make this possible. Yet opinions about how this food is grown, taxed via tariffs, and, most particularly, harvested can blister the ears.
Some roar out “Build the wall!” while others quietly offer jobs and sanctuary for the migrants who come and go to harvest the Valley’s seemingly endless fields. Paradoxically these can be the same people.
Anyone in the agricultural industry is aware that Americans, blond, light skinned or otherwise, will not show up asking for work picking grapes, especially when it’s 105 degrees or more. Americans do not want agricultural grunt work. But the neighbors to the south do, and go to great lengths and considerable danger and sacrifice in many cases to get here to take those jobs. Some of these workers come in year after year via programs that make it legal for farmers to hire them for periods of time, while many others are not here legally. And it doesn’t necessarily make a difference who was chanting “Build the wall!” and who wasn’t because everyone knows that without these migrant workers millions of people, American and otherwise, would have a rough time putting food on their tables. People who hire illegal migrants can come, even, from high places in government, and be from prominent families that have been hiring illegals for decades.
This is just one example of intolerance rife in what passes for America at present. My point is not the polarizing points, but the underlying reasons for them. Plus factors within seemingly opposed mindsets that can make a start towards mutual understanding.
So how have we created space for this stringent public division to go on and on? Possibly because, as in so many parts of the world, the true source of deep problems is neither economic nor material — it is spiritual. As the influence of religion has faded so too have strong principles which once gave a framework from which to operate, One that generally brought to the mind a calm, deep rooted satisfaction. Now we are living in the knowledge that the smaller number of humans consume more material goods than they need while the greater number live at levels between some distress and outright poverty and starvation. Enwrapped in beliefs about profit margins, self interest and the sense of needing more goods, it seems a bridge too far to consider who else is giving up more than they can afford, or should, in all justice, be asked to give up.
Without spiritual grounding it is difficult to see all people as coming from the same source, the same human family, to appreciate how rare in the cosmos we probably are and therefore how important it is that we practice support for one another and stop trying to take advantage, or failing to consider what will happen after we have taken more from others than they could afford to give. We get into what some call a “culture of contest”, in which control of affairs goes back and forth between contending operatives for centuries, without anyone ever having “won” or ever likely to. The gains and losses around racism is an example of the longevity of such differences. What counts today as a win is tomorrow’s loss.
The way to stop this lengthy cycling is to begin to appreciate and practice consultation and cooperation as more satisfactory means of getting things done. To work consciously on developing compassion for others.
Otherwise we’re all like frogs in a slowly heating pot of water.
On a different track, in my last blog I mentioned that I was writing for the last time on my faithful old MacBook, as well as that there were no immediate plans to replace it. Much as I like my iPad Pro, however, it does not do all the things a computer does… Along came Apple’s regular fall trot out of luscious new hardware, with less appealing price rises. One reviewer noted that Apple now seems to be sending middle income people into debt for new computers, rather than mainly lower income customers.
Wandering around the house as I walk for exercise I frequently pass a framed Baha’i a quotation about one’s home, “that it may be to friend and stranger, as to ourselves, a place of peace, a refuge from materialism.” Reading that one morning after the new Apple hardware was introduced, I found myself reflecting that for the past few years my Apple hardware was failing at about age three very regularly. After a while I found myself in rebellion against the pleasant, easy, convenient Mac worldview I had been enveloped in for twenty years.
Also I was reflecting that shaking technical things up is good for the brain.