Thursday, July 15, 2004

July 15, 2004

We live in history and in our social settings, but are conscious
of it only rarely. That is to say, we follow the news more
or less, and when some great event happens to our nation
or our race, we are moved, or we are manipulated to be moved,
and we feel some hint of our relationship to the rest. We
are more aware of ourselves as part of something larger
when we are, say, members of a PTA or Board of a nonprofit.
In these things we have some satisfaction, some sense of
empowerment. But the things on television, the great public
events and disasters (disputed elections, the collapse of
the world trade center, a bombing, an earthquake), we feel
overcome with our smallness in the face of that thing. Spiritual
people take comfort by plugging themselves into the greatness,
and political activists take action that they see as confronting
evil. For each of us personally, though, history is a mystery--
how a particular tree did not fall on a particular farmer
clearing the land, and how a particular woman in childbirth
had enough antibodies to bacteria to fight off the infection
from the hands of the country doctor or midwife trying to
help her. These survivors whose genetic packets came to
be me were buffeted by chance, by the big events, the wars:
my father's eyes too weak when he tried to volunteer for
the second world war, even though they would have been allowed
under the draft: thus my father working in a warplane factory
in Akron Ohio instead of dying on the beach at Normandy.

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