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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Claire Wolfe

Melancholy on a rainy evening

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought …. It took forever and then it took a night.”

Dr. Rudiger Dornbusch

The people who make wars, the people who reduce their fellows to slavery, the people who kill and torture and tell lies in the name of their sacred causes, the really evil people in a word – these are never the publicans and the sinners. No, they’re the virtuous, respectable men, who have the finest feelings, the best brains, the noblest ideals.

Aldous Huxley

My new-old house has a pleasant sun porch. Makes more sense hereabouts to call it a rain porch.

It’s not heated or insulated, but it’s small enough that five minutes with a portable heater makes it cozy. So the dogs and I sit out there a lot. Though the porch has big windows that face the street, I can relax in a bentwood rocker, sip coffee or wine, and gaze out onto the nearby hills in privacy. The house across the street, like many in the neighborhood, is a repo that’s been sitting empty for months. Nobody sees me as I gaze over its roof and watch the sun set or the storms roll in.

I love the way rain runs down the glass, rendering this rather unpretty neighborhood soft and impressionistic. The reflections of taillights on the rainslick pavement are like Christmas.

Tonight, with the aid of a glass of white Zinfandel, it looked so beautiful I could almost cry.

But tonight, too, I reflected on how unsafe it now feels to be in what I once thought of as my own country. Door-kicking cops. Unchecked surveillance. TSA VIPRs roaming the highways. Authorized assassinations. Infinite detentions. Plans to revoke U.S. citizenship without due process. Perpetual wars. Asset forfeiture and coerced plea bargains in place of justice. A government that considers every individual to be a criminal while considering itself to be above all law. So many things on the verge of chaos and collapse.

When I was a kid during the cold war, I had this image of the Soviet Union as a place that was always gloomy — perpetually leaden skies, perpetually leaden people, gray and brown garb, no joy. Even as a young adult I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that even in darkest Siberia they had sunny days. Or that Russians loved their country. Or wore bright colors. Or that they sometimes sang and laughed and danced and joked.

Even now, I have to make a conscious mental adjustment to picture unfree places having sunshine or joy. Or residents who burn with love for them. It’s hard to consider that unfree, threatening places have the same small joys and great beauties as freer ones, when you create a little haven from the politics. Beauties like rain softly blurring the view through big windows. Or lights glowing on the pavement like Christmas. Joys like eating cherries and chocolate and sipping wine in the company of sleeping dogs.

Of course, I’ve just conflated two different kinds of mental adjustment.

I knew the USSR was unfree; in my childish mind I just couldn’t picture it beautiful. I know this spot is beautiful; in my all-too-adult perception I’m just having a hard time reconciling its peaceful beauty to how unfree and dangerous the country that contains it has become.

21 Responses to “Melancholy on a rainy evening”

  1. Beth Says:

    “It’s hard to consider that unfree, threatening places have the same small joys and great beauties as freer ones, when you create a little haven from the politics. ”

    This is so lovely in such a sad way.

    And I think you’ve hit on something profound in it: it’s just those joys and beauties, and loves and havens, that keep so many from understanding what’s really going on around them — or taking action to change it if they do perceive it. Life can seem good, or good enough, and the world can shine brightly enough, if the little things fulfill us.

    But it’s also those same joys and havens that keep freedom-lovers going when the world *they* see grows darker by the day.

    Thank you for writing this. Enjoy your wine and chocolate. And please give those pooches a belly rub each from me.

  2. water lily Says:

    Beautiful post.

    Truth and beauty can be found anywhere, anytime. We will not let them make our world grey – inside or outside.

  3. Pat Says:

    Beth said, “And I think you’ve hit on something profound in it: it’s just those joys and beauties, and loves and havens, that keep so many from understanding what’s really going on around them——or taking action to change it if they do perceive it.”

    Beth, you’ve hit on it, too, why so many ignore the dangers emanating from “our glorious leaders”.

    As a kid I had seen prior photos of Japan and heard of the gentleness of the Japanese — and marveled at the discrepancy between their country and the actions of the Japs during WWII, much as Claire ponders these contrasts above.

    *This discrepancy is the difference between government and country, between people and their leaders — and it will always be so.*

    This is why anarchy is the only solution for those who wish to live in peace. People live at the gut level, on streets and farms; they want to be left alone, to live in harmony, to trade and socialize in the manner that works best for them. They have no time or energy to live beyond their goals, their dreams, their family and friends, their community. This is what life is.

    Leaders rule from above without any sense of reality — in how things work, or what people really need. This is death to a community, and death to a country. And why we will fall, as empires have always fallen.

    Have another glass, Claire — for the best of life. And know that you’re doing _your_ best.

  4. Leonard Says:

    The melancholy, what could have been and what is. I am there.

  5. EN Says:

    Amen, was the first thing that came to mind. I find myself unable to listen to the news, or radio or even read about politics at times. This is unusual. Reading in silence or staring at the rain have become a refuge of sorts. It’s my way to freedom. This weekend I had TV installed, something I haven’t had since 2005.

    Something a Russian woman told me in the mid 1990s has come back to me. She said that few Russians ever escaped that one moment where they find out who they are because of some terrible moral tragedy. It looks like I won’t escape. There will be much unpleasantness soon. We can feel it falling apart and this prepping biz never came easy to me. Food, good company, movies, the internet, and books above all, is my preference. That way of life looks to be fast coming to an end.

  6. naturegirl Says:

    That puts a whole new spin on “being in the moment”……..moments like these to remind us of what we appreciate and stand up for…….and how fleeting it all really is…..

  7. woody Says:

    That’s why I live in the woods, where I can look in any direction and see only trees. It’s quiet and pretty and I can almost imagine that I’m free. When I go to town I’m confronted with all of the ways that government is screwing me and it grates on me. I try not to go to town too much.

  8. Claire Says:

    “But it’s also those same joys and havens that keep freedom-lovers going when the world *they* see grows darker by the day.”

    Beth — thank you. Exactly.

    The phrase, “It won’t get that bad here” keeps echoing. And the little joys and havens — and the old traditions — are part of the happy delusion.

    When I wrote that I was still fuzzy headed from wine and unable to fully articulate or even understand what I was getting at. But you got it. Better than I did.

  9. Jake MacGregor Says:

    pure poetry Claire

  10. MamaLiberty Says:

    Beautiful, Claire… so true.

  11. Beth Says:

    The comments on this post are as stirring and shining as the post itself. What a wonderful gathering of souls here.

    Pat wrote, “People live at the gut level, on streets and farms; they want to be left alone, to live in harmony, to trade and socialize in the manner that works best for them. They have no time or energy to live beyond their goals, their dreams, their family and friends, their community. This is what life is.”

    Yes, yes! And all of this is especially true for freedom-lovers. From what I’ve seen, we often seem to have trouble communicating what we really feel and perceive with others who are of different mind. So they might call us “unfeeling” (and we might believe it, for a time) — might even leave us with little choice but to go it mostly alone, bereft of some (or many) of the comforts of (truly) human community.

    But I think that we who perceive the dark clouds on the horizon also often have the deepest capacity to appreciate the sweet everyday joys — with other cherished humans *and* in their absence. Maybe the reason is evolutionary, even: perhaps we *need* these solaces to help us keep going, even more deeply than most individuals do.

    Pat, what you wrote about anarchy and wishing to live in peace reminded me of a quote from Malcolm X: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

    Claire, thank you again for initiating a very powerful and meaningful discussion. :^)

  12. Scott Says:

    When I was in 6th grade, we had a guest speaker who had visited the Soviet Union(unheard of then),and had set up a slide show-I was surprised to see green fields, brightly colored busses,and so on. I’d assumed it was a sort of monochrome Dieselpunkish industrial wasteland,as did most everyone else.
    Everyone creates their own little bright spot in the Universe-you have to, or you’d wind up insane.

  13. Doug Says:

    Growing up, I also imagined a gray oppressive Soviet Union, East Germany, so on. Then later I came across the thought (pretty sure I read it, rather than dreamed it up on my own) that life “over there” probably felt pretty normal most days–if you ignored the occasional neighbor disappearing, and more material shortages than we experience so far.

    Your post and the replies feel so sadly beautiful, had me reading on the edge of tears for the truth and the sharing expressed.

  14. Claire Says:

    I’m relieved (in a sad way) to learn that so many other people had that same impression of the Soviet Union as being an all-gray place. It’s such a weird imagining that I thought I might be alone in that impression.

    Then, Doug, when you mentioned East Germany, I realize I still envision it in gray!

    Scott, when I was in high school, the whole school was called in to a surprise assembly where we were told we were going to hear a speaker from the Soviet Union. As you said — unheard of.

    We filed in, expecting some unprecedented cultural exchange, and instead we listened to this guy rant and rave in a Russian accent, saying all kinds of crazy, inflammatory things about the United States. (I remember he held up a copy of a U.S. newspaper that, for whatever reason, was always printed on pink paper and shouted that decadent Americans liked pink newspapers because they reminded us of women’s underwear.)

    This was a big school. There were 2,000+ kids in that auditorium, and eventually we were all worked into a fury of loathing for this “enemy.” Then, just when it began to look as if some of the more hot-headed boys were going to storm the stage and tear the presenter to pieces, the guy stopped, and in a perfectly normal U.S. accent said, “I’m not really a Soviet Russian. But that’s what they really think of us, and that’s why we have to be eternally vigilant …” blah blah blah.

  15. Beth Says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about what you all have said about Soviet Russia and East Germany being nothing but gloomy gray and drab, hopeless brown.

    And I remembered how I used to take middle-school students to a place called the Newseum (museum of the news, in D.C.) to see some segments of the Berlin Wall on permanent display there. First you see the Western face of the wall, covered in a rainbow of colorful graffiti — images and freedom slogans — painted over decades by free spirits expressing themselves right there on the concrete, within spitting distance of trapped human souls yearning to breathe free as well.

    Then you move around to the Eastern side, under a concrete-and-iron watchtower that’s also part of the exhibit. And there you find…nothing. Nothing but blank grayness. No life, no spirit, no humanity, no freedom to go right up to the wall and make a statement. Because no one ever got close enough to that wall alive to make even one such tiny expression of humanity.

    So yes…I think there’s something to be said for the desperate, drab, miserable grayness many of you associate with totalitarian regimes. Dystopian movies and TV series like V for Vendetta and Battlestar Galactica play on that association, too. Interesting…

  16. Bob Robertson Says:

    Claire, you’re not alone by a long shot. I also have that instant “bland, gray” image. Too common to be a coincidence, might that image have been planted deliberately?

    Recall the commercial from some decade ago, a “Russian Fashion Show”, with the same plain woman in the same gray, shapeless industrial clothing, “evening wear” had a flashlight, “swimwear” had a beach-ball.

    I do not have the links, somewhere on the Smithsonian web site is an archive of COLOR photographs from pre-Soviet Russia, made by exposing glass plates to red, green, blue colors then overlaying the images. What a beautiful country!

    Then recently on Russia Today, a Russian film maker took a good camera into one of the Ural wildlife preserves. I sad there staring at the YouTube video, it was wonderful.

    There was an email forward I received a few years ago with pictures of “Beautiful China” and those images existed even during the worst of Mao’s depredations.

    The affairs of man are small things. Would that we could reach beyond coercion and achieve peace, so that we could enjoy this wonderful world.

  17. Claire Says:

    OMG, Bob Robertson — I remember that commercial! And so does YouTube, of course:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CaMUfxVJVQ

    And it’s still funny after all these years.

    Like you, I had at least the fleeting thought that those gray images might have been planted deliberately. I don’t know. But I can’t recall a single Cold War media image from the Soviet Union or any communist country that wasn’t either in black-and-white or that showed endlessly gloomy weather, gray buildings, and drab people lined up outside of stores in hopes of getting bread or some other scarce essential.

  18. Claire Says:

    Beth —

    “Then you move around to the Eastern side, under a concrete-and-iron watchtower that’s also part of the exhibit. And there you find…nothing. Nothing but blank grayness. No life, no spirit, no humanity, no freedom to go right up to the wall and make a statement.”

    Excellent and moving observation. Yeah, having machine guns aimed at your back is definitely a gray-making factor.

  19. Pat Says:

    And this War on Terror — which has now become the state-terrorists war on us! — paints with the same gray palette that Russia used during the Cold War. The melancholy that Claire felt might as well BE a physical war for the effect it leaves on us. We’re not being rounded up — yet! — but when/if it comes, will anyone be surprised? We’re hanging around waiting for it, sren’t we?

    War is WAR, no matter how it presents itself. And the difference between restrictive laws and the Gulag is minimal where freedom is concerned. Our leaders are merely getting us used to our own Cold War by degrees; we are the frog in the pot.

    Personally I’d welcome an open war. I’ve never been patient waiting for the other shoe to drop… worrying in the doctor’s office for a possible verdict of cancer… stewing about “wait till your father gets home”. And all the while, feeling the noose tighten around my neck as our “leaders” close down the avenues of (physical, legal, and philosophical) escape.

  20. Beth Says:

    Hey, Claire — dunno if you’re still following this thread, but David Gross has quoted this post of yours on today’s The Picket Line (scroll down the page a ways) to bolster an interesting essay he writes about the “halo effect.”

    http://sniggle.net/Experiment/index5.php?entry=27Jan12

  21. Claire Says:

    Thanks, Beth! That was an interesting article and an honor to be quoted in it (even if the quote does show me expressing a woefully common human failing!).

    As comment moderator, I see new comments as they’re posted, no matter where they’re posted — except sometimes on heavy comment days or days I’m busy; then I may miss a new comment and never see it again. Glad I saw yours.

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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