There’s something about watching natural disasters take place on a computer screen from the relative safety of another continent that feels voyeuristic if not downright ghoulish. I hope the worst of the storm is over for people in Manhattan. And that those on the East Coast stay safe.
How do we get our mojo back when we’re in the grip of fear? Putting one foot in the front of the other, keeping on keeping on. The housemate still ill, rain falling, the housebound dogs restless. Sleepless and stressed, taking a deep breath and hoping this too will pass.
Wrote to a friend asking about hurricanes and their increasing severity and he wrote back with that directness and clarity of the trained scientist:
In general,more moisture in the air and higher ocean temperatures, both of which help hurricanes be more damaging, result from global warming. The reason Sandy was able to maintain hurricane force winds all up and down the East Coast is that the ocean off the northeast coast is unusually warm. In turn, elevated sea surface temperatures are linked to climate change. Likewise, sea rises because of global warming are not uniform around the world, and the US east coast has experienced more rising than most places, making storm surges more deadly.
Analysing stuff is one thing. Solving the problem is another, and that brings us back to greed and Rebecca Solnit is so good on this. She’s good on anything to do with the heart of social failure and why we are afraid of one another, why we let one another down, how wonderful it is when we come together (her work on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a classic) and behave like caring, responsible human beings, not polarised nutcases.
And yes, the rest of us should do more, but what is the great obstacle those who have already tried to do so much invariably come up against? The oil corporations, the coal companies, the energy industry, its staggering financial clout, its swarms of lobbyists, and the politicians in its clutches. Those who benefit most from the status quo, I learned in studying disasters, are always the least willing to change.
Another writer who is much better than her press is Elizabeth Gilbert. Although I’d read her smart funny journalism for GQ and literary mags, I loathed Eat, Pray, Love. Not just because I thought of it as glib religiosity and self-centred chick-lit, but because her charm set my teeth on edge. She seemed to float through life charming everyone she met. But reading this revealing and honest interview, I’m now inclined to think the charm is real. And that makes all the difference. She’s humble too.
My work is incredibly important to me personally. It brings me joy and it brings me life and it brings me meaning. It doesn’t necessarily have to be important to the people who read it. It would be nice if it did bring them life and meaning, but it doesn’t have to. It’s not their fault that I wanted to be a writer. I just want to do it because I like doing it and it’s a pleasure. I always quote Tom Waits, because I had this amazing experience of getting to interview him and every single thing that he said was so Socratic—he’s just biblically wise about the arts—and he said something like, “You know, it’s not that important what I do. I’m just a guy that makes jewelry for the inside of people’s heads.”
And it’s lovely to have jewelry. It’s not food. It’s not difficult for me to come up with twenty careers right off the top of my head that are really much more important for the good of society than what I do. From kindergarten teacher to anyone who fixes a road or makes bridges or whatever. Anybody’s work is more important. I’m really lucky that I get to do this, and it’s a privilege to get to make jewelry for the inside of people’s heads. And it’s not a big deal. It’s just jewelry. That also helps you get through bad reviews or sort of critical artistic mental blocks because it’s like, we’re just playing. We’re just writing songs, we’re just writing poetry, it’s not that urgent. Just enjoy it.