Friday, June 27, 2008

Half of California is burning--we saw on the news the other night that there are over 700 wildfires around the state--and the air is white and ashy. We are advised to stay indoors, not to do aerobic exercise which could pull more of the polluted air into our lungs. Nevertheless we walked around the lake the other night at sunset. The flocks of geese have multiplied into the millions--they are well-fed and prosperous, and their poop makes a green carpet all around the banks of Lake Merritt. The sun was setting, only because of the mixture of fog and smog there was no real sunset, just a throbbing huge red-orange ball slowly descending. It looked like something out of the Martian Chronicles.

We watched There Will Be Blood last night. Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing--he richly deserved his Best Actor award--but the movie was so unremittingly bleak. Materialism was shown to be empty; spirituality was likewise shown to be empty, at least as personified in the character of the preacher. What else is left? The Daniel Day-Lewis character started out isolated and driven and ended up insane, with a little detour of sweetness with his son for a while--but by the end that too was in ruins.

What was missing from the landscape of the film was simple humanism. There was only this Orthodox fanatical brand of religion and the greed and carelessness of the oil men. There was no character who carried a vision of making things livable for everyone--the Daniel Day-Lewis character talked about it a bit in some of his speeches, but they were simply cynical ploys to win over the townspeople.

What the greedy materialism of the oilmen and the religious fanaticism of the townspeople have in common is grandiosity. "I can heal people by the laying on of hands." "I can spread gold all over the lands." Nowhere is the simple message of the Tao: "Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity."

Today we're prepping and priming the in-law. I've committed myself to 1,000 words a day, either of the new essay I just started, or on the third act of Shame Circus, which I fear will be difficult--but a good stretch. I'm reading Hedda Gabler--very interesting, surprisingly modern--and today we'll start reading Othello aloud together in preparation for Ashland.


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