20 December 2017

the infinite succession of presents

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
Howard Zinn

The sky is grey and a heavy wet fog has been hanging over everything like a dark curtain.
Our life is eminently comfortable. A few minutes ago, a steaming cup of tea and two hobnob biscuits were placed next to this laptop on my desk by an almost invisible hand. 
The bills are paid, the house is warm, the larder is stacked, the freezer full of summer memories, only the oven has packed it in, which gives me a wonderful excuse for not baking anything even remotely festive and R the opportunity to immerse himself into gadget investigation. He is in full research mode and earlier delivered a lengthy and I am sorry to say, boring lecture on induction vs. ceramic hob and other mysteries. Apparently, magnetism is involved. My polite suggestion to go for something basic, reminiscent of an open fire even, was met with disgust. 

A few weeks ago,  we spent some time in Heidelberg, forever my place of longing and eternal happy memories. The town where I found the adult me. It was freezing but we bravely cycled along the river and up and down the cobbled streets, stopping slightly dumbfounded in front of our old digs. Only when we looked at each other, did we notice our age. What have we done, we asked ourselves. What happened, did anything actually matter, then, now. Tomorrow.

Oh! How we cheer each other up, look for signs, facts, the science behind it, if need be, consult the cards, throw the dice, read the tea leaves. Anything. Give me anything. Tell me how to hope.

Today's students are so very nicely behaved and clean. I wanted to march into the well lit dining hall (with sushi, wok, fusion food, an army of baristas, for crying out loud)  wake them up, shout into their pretty faces reflecting the fb blue screens of their gadgets. But who knows, maybe they are plotting the real revolution. I do worry like a mother hen with my new sadness:

"The nature of the sadness that is and will be experienced in the face of the effects of global warming . . . struck me as unlike anything in memory or imagination. It occupies an entirely new category. Though it may contain aspects of malaises we know quite well, like regret, nostalgia, penthos, depression and despair, there [is] an unnamed something else; it seems as a whole to be other than conditions we are familiar with, other even than these in novel arrangement, with an unidentified intensifier."

Tim Liburn, quoted here.

Tomorrow, one more dreaded medical appointment, on Friday, one more day at work before the year ends.

And this:
One more night. Solstice.


  1. Thank you for the quotes and the photo and the link and, as always, your writing from the heart.

    Was just watching a documentary about Bob Dylan. It was pointed out that he wrote "A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" at a time when he felt the world might be coming to a nuclear end and wanted to write a song with the first lines of all the songs he might not ever have a chance to write. Like Octavia Butler in Parable of the Sower, he saw what had been and what was coming.

    Howard Zinn:

    "The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."


    "...Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world...

    Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
    Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
    I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
    I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
    Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
    Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
    Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
    Where the executioner's face is always well-hidden
    Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
    Where black is the color, where none is the number
    And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
    And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
    Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
    But I'll know my song well before I start singin'
    And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
    It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall"

    My starfish are the fires that have been ravaging Western Canada and the Western United States. Fires are not new to this land but the extent of the devastation is. The water is rising and the land is burning. We grieve. We do what we can. We look for the beauty in what remains. For the children who are going where we cannot go, who will stand on the ocean until they start sinking and will sing.

  2. I do think that we absolutely should live as if we think humans should, it IS a sort of victory that cannot be debated. Can we possibly say that it can be sort of boiled down to "Do unto others as you would have them do to you?" and also, of course, "Love thy neighbor."
    If that is the only rule we followed, what goodness would flow!
    I am not sure about the last quote. Perhaps it is true- that we have never felt this exact feeling of sadness in our history but then I think of people in the concentration camps, our generation, half-way expecting the atom bomb at any moment, the threat of almost certain death when plague came to a town. I don't know. How to define types of sadness? I am sure there are ways.
    May the solstice bring us all change into light and may your dreaded medical appointment turn out to be something not so dreadful after all.
    Be well, Sabine. In all ways. That would be my wish for you.

  3. I don't know, I think you are a very hopeful person. You talk about it a lot. Otherwise, Howard Zinn's quote would not have spoken to you.

    You make me feel the same - aware and realistic - and hopeful at the same time.

  4. For your rejection of my eponym's attempts to interest you in a commonplace culinary device you deserve a condign fate: ie, an omelette cooked on an open fire. Go on, insist it would taste more organic. And yes, the apparent adjective/adverb confusion was and is intentional.

  5. Oh how I agree with you about the students - troubling to think they will be running the country in a decade or few (and we’ve already seen what politics-by-Twitter looks like!). And I love the hisfory quote - but most of our history is written by men. I simply don’t believe that centuries of women have sat back and complied - but their stories aren’t told.

  6. Ah yes, 'an unnamed something else' - the thing that always frightens and fascinates us. Always round the next corner, always to be faced sometime in the near future, but never quite here, never quite now. Perhaps it's what makes us human; certainly it's what makes us vulnerable. Good luck with your medical appointment today. regards, Nick.

  7. Howard Zinn is such a thoughtful man. I love that quote, even if it's sometimes hard to remember to emphasize a hopeful response to our current world! As Ms. Moon said, I think every generation has struggled with the uncertainties of its time, war or plague or whatever it may be. We may be slightly different in that we KNOW what's going on with our planet, but we don't really know all the effects or the eventual outcomes. I was touched by your description of standing outside your old place with R and flashing back on all the roads you'd traveled together.

  8. I love the roads your posts travel, Sabine, the internal ones and the ones we actually place our feet on. I may have written this to you before, but often your posts remind me of a poem I read more than 40 years ago and have never found again. It spoke of the concentric circles of conscious awareness we draw outside of ourselves and how far they reach. Some draw them small and close, some draw them outward, one by one, farther and farther to reach the whole universe. And in so doing, take in much, and more than we will ever know.

  9. I really, really hope they ARE plotting the real revolution instead of playing games.

  10. I don't feel sadness so much as disgust at those in charge who look out only for themselves and those who allow it to happen by being willfully ignorant. Hope? all I know is that the only thing that never changes is that things will always change. I don't put much stock in the good side of humanity these days. it seems hugely overwhelmed by the selfish greedy fearful side, at least in this country. but doing good, being kind makes me feel better.

  11. There is so much to ponder in this post. Thank you most of all for that Howard Zinn quote, which amid indefinable sadness, makes me feel somehow vindicated in my determination to hope. Love to you, Sabine.

  12. Reading another one of your posts with gratitude, liebe Sabine! We had Frau Holle snowflakes here yesterday and the squirrels have finished up the pumpkins on the back stoops. I'm off this morning to buy birdseed.