I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
December 09, 2016 - 12:16 p.m.
This is going to be interesting; I spent yesterday blogging about the day before. I wrote over 3600 words in two separate entries. You probably want to read those, especially Magical Musical Tour. I heard some amazing music you need to know about. But you probably don't want to read about me writing. Maybe you do and perhaps one day I'll do that, but not today. It's just like death. That's a Game of Thrones reference, I'm not being morbid. This is going to be an upbeat, positive edition of Wise Madness even though it's inspired by a death.
John Glenn died yesterday. It's not sad, he was 95, he wasn't cheated. He lived as full a life as you can hope for; The first American in orbit, a war hero, a record setting jet pilot, a US Senator, and a game show champ. You didn't know that?
You might have heard of one of his wingmen when he flew in the Korean War, Theodore Samuel Williams, better known as Ted. Where John Glenn went, history followed. But the thing that matters, the thing that made people post about his death on Facebook, the reason his death makes the headlines, is those three orbits he made around the earth. In five hours, he changed the mood of America and the world. He wasn't the first man in orbit, that was Yuri Gagarin but he was the first American. At a time when the Soviet Union posed a truly existential threat and America's confidence was shaken; Launching John Glenn into space, changed all that. He became a member of the pantheon.
I wrote of the Soviet threat but this was also about science and achievement. I love that his response to Sputnik on "Name that Tune" was not of fear of Russian but joy in the achievement. Glenn's mission was the same. It was above geopolitics, he was literally above earthly concerns. It was about promise. It was about what people can accomplish when they put their mind to it.
We could use that feeling now. I look on Facebook and see negativity, even despair. People are countering that with funny/cute animal video, and other distractions. This is not the same country that sent John Glenn into space; it's a better one. That's right, I'm not blind to what's going on. I'm as disgusted about the president-elect and the appointments he's already made as you are. I'm disgusted by the rise in hate crimes and the depths that discourse have sunk to. How can I say that the country is better now? The country that sent John Glenn into space drew almost totally on the talents of white men. Now women and people of color can contribute. There are still barriers, things aren't equal. They are pushing against glass walls and ceilings, but in 1962 they couldn't get close enough to push.
It's not just that. People haven't gotten worse since 1962. I look around and see remarkable people. I see intelligent, kind, creative, caring people. It's not just my friends. Somebody stumbles on the subway and people flock to help. A woman struggles carrying a stroller up the stairs and someone helps her. The reasons people are despairing now is not so much for themselves but because they fear for the country. That they have things to fear is bad, but that they are concerned for others is good and in the end more important.
We have a challenge to meet. It's not an external threat like the Soviet Union, it's within us. But are the same people that got John Glenn in orbit. It's not hopeless. Watch this and see what we can do. It still gives me a thrill. It still inspires me. There are no guarantees any more than there were for John Glenn. As Tom Wolff said, "Our rockets always blow up." But the Atlas rocket carrying Friendship 7 didn't and Glenn, and all of us, escaped the bonds of gravity. We can do it again. Godspeed America.
Sunday Was Not a Day of Rest - December 19, 2016
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