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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wars

I re-inhabit my apartment on Mott Street, and feel like a child who has grown, trying to put on an old shoe.

New York is the only home possible at this time. So I've applied myself once more to cleaning walls and floor, making them mine even if only for a few months, before my life as wanderer and mercenary tears me away. Thankfully, I can write anywhere. Sometimes even the discomfort, noise, and dirt, of which this place has plenty, helps.

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A changing life accelerates the passage of time - I am nearly thirty! I look at letters friends wrote when I was in Paris working on "Quartet". That seems an age. Now when I revisit Boston, or New York, or Paris, I feel London, or Rome, or Calcutta sandwiched between them, like a pea between sheets.

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Where does time go? I roam the streets and wonder about the fates of the people I knew. Their lives are moving, changing, giving birth to new lives, ceasing, starting over.

MF and I saw Goddard's new film "Passion". We ate gumbo and cornbread at a place on Eighth Ave called "Barking Fish" and on the way home I walked past the old New York City Police Department building and thought of my grandfather's early years there cutting his teeth as a reporter.

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The world crackles with small wars.

Fires ignite in the heat of a crowded planet. Grenada, Lebanon, Pakistan, El Salvador. TOn the outcome of these vicious and bloody conflicts, ride the fates of millions of souls, powerless to affect the outcome. As giant nations, faculties too large, too clumsy to meddle with the destinies of small countries. Yet inevitably we get involved, and where our hand goes to assist, it crushes.

Our capability to sort out ideologies in the third world are paralyzed by our own overwhelming capacity to destroy. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R have turned mechanisms of global politics into a bomb, as if with a desperate threat to end all wars. Ironic because wars haven't ended, ironic if the only way to end all wars is to end the world.

History mythologizes victory as an achievement, as a passage, as progress, a release of surplus energy and a legitimate means of settling disputes between  rival ideologies.

So our collective consciousness excuses war as necessary evil. We are the species that kills itself, consumes what the other has built or made, and destroys everything in a flash of fire. Out of war we forge values that supposedly carry a stronger society into peacetime. Stories by old warriors, valor, bravery, courage, morph into hubris. Every larger piles of ego, to burn and lay waste.

Homo sapiens as a species needs to generate values from within, without testing them on the battlefield of mutual destruction. That's a naive idea to most historiographers. Progress would be a wholesale elevation of the human mind, bringing our species to a time when wars are not be necessary, when myths evolve through processes that are creative, not destructive.

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