Affairs of the World

by Norman Fischer | January 25, 2005 at 7:43 PM

January 25, 2005 Muir Beach (from Zen Abbot's Journal Vol. 47)

Rain this morning: I'd just awakened when the rain began, so pleasant to hear this, a cool whispering wash on the earth. (But it's been raining on and off for weeks so this isn't fresh and needed rain: everything's already soaked, and everything gets tedious after a while for people, with memory and desire). Rain clouds moving quickly across the hills. Whole sky gray.

Elections are to take place this weekend in Iraq. Is it possible that this Iraq fiasco will turn out to be a positive thing? Possible for there to be a decent (for the Middle East) state in Iraq in the wake of the American invasion/occupation and that in the long run at least in this limited case Bush will be proved to have been right to invade though at the time there was no way to have seen it as right, apart from the sort of political tunnel vision that Bush seems to be so powerfully given to. He lives in a bubble; then again, so do I. The press and nearly everyone I know condemn the occupation and the whole proposition of the war and, seeing all the terrorism and insurgency, assume that things can't work out. To be sure, there will be social chaos and violence for a long time in Iraq. But possibly the people will crave a certain amount of stability, and so might support any half way decent government if it promised stability. The alternative of civil war and complete social break down seems actually less likely, particularly as long as American troops remain. Then again, what will happen if the new Iraqi state is a repressive Islamic fundamentalist republic, allied with Iran? This prospect is probably closest to the "will of the people." Democracy and goodness are not synonymous.

Now, according to Seymour Hersh, writing in New Yorker, there are American plan to move on Iran and to skirmish with many other terrorist groups in other Middle Eastern nations. This seems almost insane, given the huge costs of Iraq adventure to American economy and reputation, and the fact that Iraq will surely be costly and consuming for America for many years to come. Yet it seems that despite the almost universal condemnation of this further aggression by U.S. press as well as press and governments abroad, Bush people are determined to go ahead. Irrational, dangerous. Or, if you prefer, wildly courageous. Bush did win the election. This is taken as — and actually it may be — proof that somehow, in their guts, Americans do support this effort, despite the many acknowledged problems. People are confused, ill-informed, stupid and at the same time — is this possible? — do know what they want and vote for it. As Bush posits: God is guiding America on the right path, difficult though it may be. Wouldn't it be swell if this were so? 

January 20 as I exercised before going to airport I watched Bush's Inaugural Address on television. I found it inspiring. If you could have excised it from Bush's person and actions and imagined it in someone else's mouth (context, context! Emptiness, emptiness!) you'd've loved it. It spoke repeatedly of "freedom, liberty," an unfortunately ill-defined and yet inspiring notion. That oppression anywhere in the world — he mentioned specifically, I suppose in veiled reference to Islam, oppression of women - affects us all, that "freedom's" survival here depends on freedom existing elsewhere, everywhere. A good bodhisattva sentiment. He also had a phrase about "self government depending on governing the self," a pitch for a sense of discipline, morality, and personal responsibility as the basis of political life. I'll go for that! He vowed to go forward taking America into the world to promote this kind of goodness everywhere, beginning at home with compassion for people through social programs — reformed of course — to give everyone a chance at "ownership." The man has a grand vision, is truly inspired. We will see what all this really means. 

February 1, 2005 Muir Beach (from Zen Abbots' Journal Vol. 47)

We ran out of propane yesterday. Which means no heat in the study, no hot water there or in the house, no stove and so no cooking. It's always something! Somehow living monastically for so many years I escaped the details of living within enclosures, having utilities etc. If something went wrong the maintenance crew took care of it and I never worried nor was I inconvenienced. My recollection is that nothing ever did go wrong though of course this couldn't be true. Now it seems not a day goes by without something here breaking, needing to be fixed or replaced. And I have to make sure this gets done and pay for it! Very troublesome. The Buddhist noble truth of entropy: all things are in a constant state of falling apart. "A leaky boat out in the middle of the ocean, then it sinks." Heard a guy on the radio talking about the universe: is it like a clock running down? Or does it implode at the end of time, collapsing into a single point, then disappearing, but with an itch, so that the pressure builds up, leading to a new "big bang?" The Jewish Kabbalistic cosmologies make more sense all the time, as do the Buddhist ones. Things fall apart that they might be reconstituted. 

So many are experiencing depression, literally painful hearts over the current situations in their lives — which I believe is related to the political and social climate. Everything is now more or less quiet following the Bush re-election. The anti-Bush forces perhaps too exhausted to go on being contrarian, which takes so much effort, and can seem so futile. (Some exceptions to this: Boxer and others voting against Condy Rice's appointment as Secretary of State, and criticizing her for promoting public untruth in regard to Iraq situation; also Kennedy for the first time calling for a pull out from Iraq; so Dems are not just lying down and taking it). Among the people I know, and among progressive forces all across the country there is, I suspect, a lot of fear and dread. Bush's program really is bold and radical. There seems to be no lively alternative to it. So: a fascist state seems possible; economic collapse ahead seems possible; World War III to be fought against proliferating bands of terrorists all over the world seems possible; environmental catastrophe seems not only possible but likely. I think knowledge of all this is deeply unconscious in many people; is actually lodged in their hearts as an almost physical pain. 

I see all this but remain optimistic. Not for any particular reason — possibly because my sense of identity goes beyond anything in particular all the way to nothing. And nothing usually wins in the end anyhow, and is always more fundamental than something. Anyhow, there's no something without nothing and in the middle of every something's nothing. So why not go on in a tough situation, with a good spirit? And there is always the possibility that Bush's actions might lead to good results, that the goodness and faith that he seems actually to believe in, might, in the end, despite the rational appearance of disaster ahead, lead to unforeseen positive consequences. The future always defies prediction.


Norman Fischer