Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Crisis and community

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, February 17, 2009

ONE THING ABOUT THE DEPRESSION, it may force us away from extreme individualism back toward a semblance of communitarianism.

From "Sowing For Apocalypse: the Quest for a Global Seed Bank" by John Seabrook (in Seed Savers Exchange, 2007 Harvest Edition):
I asked how his cancers had influenced his work in saving seeds. [Cary] Fowler replied, "The first one, I didn't handle it very gracefully. I was scared. Really scared. And the reason I was scared was that I hadn't done anything — I hadn't contributed constructively to society. And that was frightening."
From This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald (taken from the Project Gutenberg online edition):
Amory, even had he not been a selfish man, would have started all
inquiries with himself. He was his own best example--sitting in the
rain, a human creature of sex and pride, foiled by chance and his own
temperament of the balm of love and children, preserved to help in
building up the living consciousness of the race.
In self-reproach and loneliness and disillusion he came to the entrance
of the labyrinth.


Of Amory's attempted sacrifice had been born merely the full realization
of his disillusion, but of Monsignor's funeral was born the romantic
elf who was to enter the labyrinth with him. He found something that he
wanted, had always wanted and always would want--not to be admired, as
he had feared; not to be loved, as he had made himself believe; but to
be necessary to people, to be indispensable; he remembered the sense of
security he had found in Burne.
Life opened up in one of its amazing bursts of radiance and Amory
suddenly and permanently rejected an old epigram that had been playing
listlessly in his mind: "Very few things matter and nothing matters very
On the contrary, Amory felt an immense desire to give people a sense of


"I am selfish," he thought.

"This is not a quality that will change when I 'see human suffering' or
'lose my parents' or 'help others.'

"This selfishness is not only part of me. It is the most living part.

"It is by somehow transcending rather than by avoiding that selfishness
that I can bring poise and balance into my life.

"There is no virtue of unselfishness that I cannot use. I can make
sacrifices, be charitable, give to a friend, endure for a friend, lay
down my life for a friend--all because these things may be the best
possible expression of myself; yet I have not one drop of the milk of
human kindness."

OR, AS MY COUSIN Hazel once pointed out to me, there are only two things that really matter: Generosity and Gratitude. Neither works in the absence of the other; together, they make everything work.

1 comment:

John Whiting said...

I read something in the Guardian today that I found very moving:

"An ex-soldier who was held captive in Japan for more than three years during the second world war has revealed that he gets regular birthday cards from one of his former guards."