(Not) Running at the Speed of Light

I opened the door this morning to let Leonard out and heard cows lowing. On still mornings, when we run at the lake, it’s possible to hear sheep. But we’ve never heard cows here.

After I got myself a cup of coffee, I told E., who opened the door for a minute and heard nothing. He doesn’t quite believe me.

It is an odd way to begin the day. Phantom farm animals.

Well, there’s that, and the fact that I looked at my phone and read the headlines.

Yesterday they mobilized the guard here in this area. All evening E. was checking text messages and I was trying to decipher his facial expressions. I can’t help wondering if the current “exercises” are something different than they were a year ago. I regretted watching the new Norwegian war film on Sunday night. Sometimes I wonder if ignorance is fine under the circumstances of helplessness.

It’s interesting that the term “helpless” so often carries an overtone of judgment. Unless you’re an infant or a puppy, it’s something of an insult. I wonder if this is a culturally-specific thing. Shame on you if you can’t straighten out what’s twisted in your world – can’t protect yourself. So, you “got caught”: got caught in the rain, got caught up in the war… It seems to imply a reflexive pronoun. You got yourself caught up in the mess. Why didn’t you run faster? Predict the future?

I am learning to recognize my helplessness without self-recrimination. In fact, with a kind of pride. I would think anyone who has grown children feels helpless in the face of their choices. I think we grow peaceful from sitting back and acknowledging that not only are we powerless, we are not omniscient. We can’t direct the flow of the metaphorical river – that is a weird delusion that in the long run brings no comfort at all.

It’s at the heart of the Tao, isn’t it? A kind of radical realism maybe.

So I take a deep breath, drink the last swig of cold coffee, and call Leonard. We’ll go for a slow walk: maybe the cows are still lowing.

5 Replies to “(Not) Running at the Speed of Light”

  1. I like your cows. Sometimes sounds can be refracted/reflected in unexpected ways and you’ll hear things you’d not have thought to hear. Maybe that. And we are more fragile than we really want to know – but we are. But can we live our lives any differently for knowing that? Not much I suspect.

  2. Thanks for reminding me why it’s so important to keep reading blogs, especially by poets in my own age cohort… the things we realize as we age (and that you always capture so well).
    I remember getting intensely irritated with my older brother when he first read the Daodejing and completely misunderstood it, in my view, as a work of mysticism. Radical realism is much closer to the mark, I think. (Especially with Zhuangzi.)

  3. Such a good observation about the inherent (self-)blame in “allowing” oneself to “get caught.” As if the majority of situations and circumstances aren’t largely if not wholly random…


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