Brazil

images-9Remember a certain personality type from high school?  Fussy, bossy, self-absorbed, controlling…you know, aspiring politicians.  images-7The less gifted of these future public servants would become middle managers happily devising new government rules, forms and functions.  The least endowed would fulfill their humble destinies by enriching our experience at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Their bureaucratic utopia comes darkly to life in the horrifying 1985 film, “Brazil”.

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Reptile Games…or Stories that Resonate

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“Go Team!”

I watched the Seahawks/Colts game last Sunday and found it depressingly similar to watching current American politics.

When one side fumbles, half the stadium (or country) erupts with mad cheering.  When the opposing quarterback is sacked, the other half of the stadium (country) celebrates like lunatics.  Sports and politics are bruising, partisan, usually-mindless, zero-sum games.  They excite our reptile brains.  My berserk cheers and boos reflect little more than my home address or political habit.  This causes no harm in sports…but we’re on our way to wrecking the country as America’s future gets fumbled and kicked around.

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America’s Pyramid

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The Great Seal of the United States
Its weird 1782 design anticipated America today.

The Egyptians that built the pyramids weren’t slaves exactly.  They were government employees constructing monuments that a few big shots thought were important.  Such power–to bend a whole society to its purpose–is highly admired by ruling types.  The sight of the pyramids was a religious experience for Napoleon.

The mysterious design of the Great Seal may foreshadow America’s drift toward the social model of the pharaohs.  A growing number of Americans find employment building a rising pyramid of government *.  Government loves to exercise power (attack Syria now?).  It’s building a homeland security force unprecedented in US history.  It’s spying on and regulating our private lives more and more.  It’s expanding its mind-boggling tax code (17,000 pages**) and tax collection army.  It’s extending its control of commerce, education, health care…it’s an ever-growing list***.   The Great Seal’s designers even anticipated the all-seeing-eye of the NSA.

Government will keep us in our traces.  We’re not slaves exactly…more like government employees.

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Our Ride Has a Time Limit…& That’s Strangely Essential

I’ve been reflecting on an audiobook from the San Juan Library called, “This I Believe“.  It’s an old radio show hosted by Edward R. Murrow in which 1950’s celebrities like Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson and Helen Keller, along with regular folks, speak about their core beliefs.

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Thomas Mann
“Life Grows in the Soil of Time”

I liked an essay by German-born novelist, essayist, and philosopher Thomas Mann, winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mann declares that he believes in “Transitoriness” (an awkward word). He believes that transitoriness, the perishableness of life, is not a bad or sad thing, but rather, is the key to existence.  “Transitoriness imparts value, dignity, interest to life. Transitoriness creates time—and ‘time is the essence.’  “Without transitoriness, without beginning or end, birth or death, there is no time. Timelessness—in the sense of time never ending, never beginning—is a stagnant nothing.  It is absolutely uninteresting”.

Without transitoriness there’d be no edge…no chips on the table. Heroism, the act of risking everything, would be impossible.  Growth, nobility, sacrifice, discovery, adventure…ingredients of great human stories, would be absent.  The exuberance of new life–a colt’s discovery of its legs–would be absent.  Tyrants and their wickedness would persist.  Flowers would collect dust.   Motorcycles would be boring.

The beauty of a garden springs from transitoriness.  Without transitoriness, it’d be a garden made of plastic.  Without it, we’d be made of plastic.

Listen to Herr Mann  here or read his essay below.

 

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