What Lies Within Us

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.           ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life After Coronavirus

Yuval Noah Harari wrote a very interesting article in the Financial Times recently about how the choices we are forced to make quickly today – to save lives, to expedite medical supplies – will have lasting impact on how we live post-crisis. Does our future hold totalitarian surveillance or citizen empowerment? Nationalist isolation or global solidarity?

Contrast this with the kind of thoughtful decisions we have been making, or should have been making, all along. Like the ones described by Ozzie Zehner in his book Green Illusions. Do we have the wherewithal to lower our energy demands significantly, immediately, and to live more lightly on the earth in multiple contexts? How do we set ourselves up to make our species successful?

One thing for sure. There’s no going back to “normal.” We are forever changed.

A Thousand to One by Berton Braley

There’s a thousand “Can’t-be-done-ers”
For the one who says “It can!”
But the whole amount of deeds that count
Is done by the latter clan.
For the “Can’t-be-done-ers” grumble,
And hamper, oppose and doubt,
While the daring man who says “It can!”
Proceeds to work it out.

There isn’t a new invention
Beneath the shining sun,
That was ever wrought by the deed or thought
Of the tribe of “Can’t-be-done.”
For the “Can’t-be-done-ers” mutter
While the “Can-be’s” cool, sublime,
Make their “notions” work till the others smirk.
“Oh, we knew it all the time!”

“Oh, the “Can-be’s” clan is meager,
Its membership is small,
And it’s mighty few who see their dreams come true
Or hear fame’s trumpet call;
But it’s better to be a “Can-be,”
And labor and dream—and die,
Than one who runs with the “Can’t-be-done’s”
Who haven’t the pluck to try.

Berton Braley (1882–1966) was an American poet.

Thanks to Dr. David Purlmutter for bring this to my attention.

Perspective

We are smarter, faster, and better than any virus, but only if we work together. My favorite medieval historian, Yuval Noah Harari, gives us historical context in this Time magazine article. As usual, leadership matters.

“In this moment of crisis, the crucial struggle takes place within humanity itself. If this epidemic results in greater disunity and mistrust among humans, it will be the virus’s greatest victory. When humans squabble – viruses double. In contrast, if the epidemic results in closer global cooperation, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future pathogens.”

A Revelation at Hand

The world shifted on its axis this weekend as the impact of coronavirus on the human race came into focus. I felt the zeitgeist slip a notch, in contrast to its usual slow turning – borders of all sorts closing, new leaders emerging as previous leaders are shown – in a flash -to be ineffective, new concerns moving front and center and old priorities – once held dear – suddenly not even relevant.  March 2020. Something new has been born into this world.

The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Unforeseeable

Cullen Murphy has written a fascinating article in the February 2020 issue of The Atlantic titled Before Zuckerberg, Gutenberg. It is about how successive waves of innovation were spurred by the introduction of the printing press. Some of the innovation and disruption we experience today are related to these earlier waves, even though digital technology is a new phenomenon.   “… we no longer register the impact of the printing press because we have no easy way to retrieve the ambient sensation of “before,” just as we can’t retrieve, and can barely imagine, what life was like when only scattered licks of flame could pierce the darkness of night.”

It is a short read but packed with interesting details about connections between disruptions. A favorite: “More books and rising literacy created an eyeglass industry, which in turn brought advances in lens-making, which ultimately made possible the telescope and spelled the end of biblical cosmology.”

As human species continues its march to a future we really cannot know, I appreciate the cultural mapmakers like Cullen who think about these matters. 

Bob Lefsetz

Do you get this guy’s emails? He writes (a lot) about the music industry, politics, his observations of life in general. I often agree with his point of view, and I admire his prolific output. This from today’s letter, about the Democratic debates in South Carolina last night:

This election is about hope.

I am utterly astounded that the media and most of those running, never mind the consultants, just don’t get this. They believe this is a game, a known quantity, and he or she with the most experience and expertise wins.

But they are wrong. A tsunami has already wiped out that game, but the people with the most money and the most power are somehow unaware of this.

His site is here; you can sign up for his letter here.

Your Full Life

I am realizing that living life to the fullest doesn’t mean that you will be able to live the perfect magazine life you were dreaming of, or make up the life you want … it just means that it is possible to live fully within the set of circumstances life throws at you.