Dreams are boring. How unfair it is, then, that Vladimir Nabokov can show up, decades after his death, with a store of dreams more lush and enthralling than many waking lives?
I recently took a page from an old New Yorker in a neighborhood cafe because I was too captivated by the cartoon. Full disclosure– I stole it.
It showed a gypsy in a turban looking into a crystal ball and reading the future of the young woman slumped into a chair before her. “I see a series of cataclysms that will alter the course of human history,” said the gypsy.”and as usual, it will be all about you.”
I showed the cartoon to a friend and they kind of shrugged. It was hard to explain why to me, this cartoon was everything.
First, I identified with the gypsy. Leaving aside the fact that I had named my childhood cat, Cassandra, when I was 23 years old and seeking my first job as an adult, I got a temporary gig working for a District of Columbia event called “City Celebration.” In addition to helping out with this outdoor festival, I also set up a table in which I sat garbed as a gypsy with a pendant of my mother’s draped over my head and hanging down over my third eye. (A photographer took a portrait of me that shortly thereafter hung in a gallery and won an award. Wish I still had it. And youth as well. Maybe. But sadly, in this era of endangerment, youth is no longer an unalloyed blessing. )
Looking into people’s palms (or a basketball I had covered with aluminum foil— as a DIY crystal ball) I offered readings— and discovered I was a bit psychic. As I studied folk’s palms, I spoke what came to mind and the responses indicated I was surprisingly accurate. The one reading I’ll never forget was for an eleven year old from whose palm I could see she was a genius. I was able to validate her future path for her and it was deeply gratifying. I still remember her palm to this day.
Nine years ago I wrote an unpublished book called Health at the Tipping Point— about how a host of industries were unleashing epic eco-biological harm on the earth and its species— via the financially vested economic drivers of this society. The publishers rejected it because the solution it posed was activism, which their belief system told them “no one wanted to do.” The book remains unpublished but the reality keeps moving forward— right up to the edge of “not in time—too late.”
As a former self-help and health writer (cough) ghostwriter, who has written many books, including two that made the New York Times bestseller’s list, I’ve long recognized that the pseudo-empowering story of “you can do it yourself at home” along with the belief that “you can’t change reality, you can only change how you respond to it” ensnares us into an enslavement to the world view and values defined by the dominant economic system.
Watch the current responses to the Green New Deal proposal, for example—as people from different sides try to shoot down, ridicule, or tarnish what a powerfully authentic new leader says we must do—by trotting out all of the old chestnuts of what supposedly we can or cannot do.
A reminder: If we want our grandchildren to live to a ripe old age, it’s not the right moment to dismiss anyone or anything that helps us avoid extinction. Even if the de facto party chieftain who so gratifyingly put the evil eye on the evil-doer models dismissiveness. (That’s why we always gotta check our girl crushes on useful mafiosa.)
Still we live closer to the miraculous than it seems.
We have met two manifestations of Jesus in the temple. She has just this week spoken to the money lenders in the halls of Congress. He has defined the path forwards. Of course, the money lenders are doing their all to crucify him but a crowd of people will follow him anywhere.
Meanwhile, the media unfurls before us seductive images that tempt us into meet and greets defined by appeals to a personal liking for—or hatred of—this or that personality.
What could possibly be misleading in a friendly presence (or a competent presentation) that prompts the hope for a return to situation normal? Getting to know you and you and you and you is such a relief. And such a distraction.
Fires, droughts, floods, hate crimes, economic vulnerability a millimeter away— loom.
Never mind! Let’s gamely follow media prompts for yet another consumerist “lets pick a new President” shopping spree. Good times!
If only we had not been numbed by the years of the media, government, communities, and friends ignoring the climate crisis and encouraging us to focus on just about anything else.
Please don’t prod our tired, stressed bodies to do anything beyond what they cry to do— continue with business as usual, just one more time.
Please let us dump more sand on that eroded coastline to get one more year’s income from one more tourist season.
Please let us pretend for another day that recycling my plastics or driving my Prius is still a worthwhile activity for stemming the crisis. And that showing that I care—in any small way— is meaningful.
Please let us go through one more campaign cycle pretending we still have a working democracy with good guys and bad guys, like we used to believe we did.
Thankfully, no, we are not climate deniers. We’re climate avoiders. We’re climate bargainers. Things can go on as before, we hope. One day at a time. Let’s see. Maybe it won’t happen.
This is what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross called “bargaining.”
The staged pseudo-democracy and its actors will never focus on the issues or produce the warriors that will win the decisive battle. Wake up from the hypnosis that they can or will. Only inside-outsiders can help us. Can you begin to see that? Please don’t go on that shopping spree. Come down to earth.
Here on the field of battle presaged by the Bhagavad Gita, there are no seats, no stadiums, no big screens to watch it all happen at a distance. As the Mahabharata reveals, “the familiar is the enemy.” Because the familiar has entranced us into forgetting our role in the scheme of things— we are specks in relation to the vastness of the earth. And if we don’t wake up in time, lift the warrior’s shield and recognize and embrace our truest allies— RIGHT NOW, we are gone.