Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walking the wires: high and low

A wire, yes, but not a high wire
Why would anyone want to write a book? Maybe the question belongs in the same drawer as the ones we chatted about the other day (I and my chicken friends who get vertigo tying our shoes). Questions like "Why would anyone willingly jump from an airplane," or, "Why would anyone walk from the USA to Canada on a high wire strung over Niagara Falls?" A friend and I discussed this on the street the other day. He's authored ten books, good books although fitting into niche markets. I think we concluded that if we worked hard and saved our money, we could probably each afford to write another one.

Ah yes. We carry impulses that are not easily explained! If writing didn't satisfy some need in me, I certainly wouldn't have written these lines and you wouldn't be reading them. At the same time, I can't think of any hunger that tying wings on my arms and jumping off a mountain would begin to feed.

There are, of course, some impulses that are more commonly held. S_x, for instance. And, of course, the hunger that causes us to salivate at the sight of money, the love of which is said to be the compost in which evil so readily takes root. Many take satisfaction in order, in military stuff, in art, in music, in old things or new things or things generally. A man interviewed on TV the other day

. . . runs. Marathon after marathon. Jerking along on knobby, aging legs, he has plans for running a few dozen more this year.

The world is in crisis: Europe, Libya, Syria, Africa, America--need I say more. I just got well into John Ralston Saul's The Unconscious Civilization, a book some might consider as prophetic for our times as Isaiah's was for his. It chronicles the emasculation of the citizenry of Western democracies by corporatism; it's an enlightening read. What it doesn't do, though, is explore the source of the greed and the appetite for power behind the destructive, compulsive behaviour patterns that have the potential for destroying economies, environments for healthy living, the fabric that holds together functional societies. It's not good enough to proclaim that "it's greed, of course!" Greed itself is not a cause, but a symptom.

Over time we've gradually been seating biological, anthropological, psychological explanations in the chair where the devil used to sit enshrined. Now we smile ironically when we say, "the devil made me do it." Seems to me if the root cause of engrained, compulsive-impulsive behaviours is ever authentically isolated, the remedies will be found to lie with parenting, teaching and a warmer embrace in the arms of truly functional families and communities.

But please, don't find a cure before I finish this novel that nobody wants to read!

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