Note to Readers: A bit of arrogance here; this is a "golden oldie" from last year. Of course, everyone to their own taste, but I believe this is the best blog I ever wrote. So I'm sharing it again.
Sometimes I am so touched by a new discovery, some shiny new dime in the pockets of an old pair of pants, some re-newed awareness of our human evolvement that I must talk about it.
To wit; I just finished re-reading "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers. This lovely 40's era novel is about a deaf-mute who touches the lives of four people, each with a desperate need to make a human connection, to drive away the darkness, to help them achieve some manner of salvation.
The writing is beautiful and elegant and truthful. Two quotes if I might:
"The heart is a lonely hunter with only one desire! To find some lasting comfort in the arms of another's fire...driven by a desperate hunger to the arms of a neon light, the heart is a lonely hunter when there's no sign of love in sight!"
"The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone"
McCullers' novel provides plenty of food for thought but the theme primarily focuses on the extent to which we humans alienate both ourselves and others....and with that alienation comes the death of the soul.
After finishing the book I just could not help projecting that idea to the larger stage, to where we are as a society in the 21st century. We Americans are being poisoned by our own technology. We are alienating ourselves from others at a record pace. Hop on my train, the "Golden Past Express". Let me take you back 50 years to show you what life was like back then:
One got up in the morning, plugged in the coffee percolator, then walked out on the front porch and picked up your morning newspaper and a little metal cart that held two chilled bottles of milk and a pound of butter, both delivered fresh to you that very morning.
You cracked a couple of eggs, fried them, grabbed your toast as it popped up, poured yourself a cup of coffee and sat down at the breakfast table. You opened the paper and digested both news and eggs and pondered the state of your world. You were confident that the news itself was reported accurately and, if you wanted someone else's opinion about it, you turned to the editorial page and read well stated opinions from both sides of the political spectrum.
In that short early morning hour, you have been touched in meaningful ways by a small army of people. Your local newspaper will employ a staff of dozens of people, reporters, type setters, printers, editors and distribution manager. Your ten cents for that paper kept a hundred people employed. That fresh milk and butter kept a farm family supported, kept a delivery man employed and kept a gas station that provided the gas in relative prosperity.
Speaking of gas stations, you will wash up after breakfast, get dressed and perhaps stop at your local gas station for gas. While an attendant is pumping your gas, checking your oil and washing your windshield you will speak with the station manager and make an appointment for an oil change and tuneup. Any parts needed will be provided right there at the gas station. Walmart, a huge global corporation, will not have run the station out of business by providing oil changes and parts at a cheaper price. As you leave, you thank the manager for sponsoring your son's little league team and promise to see each other at this week's PTA meeting.
You arrive at work at 8 o'clock where you are a line supervisor at a clothing factory that makes Arrow Shirts. You and the other company employees take great pride in making a high quality shirt that's been in high demand for decades. Since American products are much desired around the world you are flush with job security and are looking forward to a comfortable retirement under the company pension plan.
At lunch time you run down to the local diner. You'll order a hamburger and fries and, after a fifteen minute wait, you'll be served both burger and fries hot off the grill. Your lunch purchased contributed to the employment of twenty cooks, dishwashers and waitresses at that diner. You will know both the manager and waitresses by name and you'll exchange weather or sports news pleasantries before returning to work.
After work you'll drive home from work, weaving carefully through armies of kids playing hop scotch or football or baseball under giant elms providing huge blankets of shade to cool the brow. At home you're greeted by a stay-at-home wife, who was home when the kids returned from school, who commanded the completion of homework, who provided milk and cookies and a friendly ear to accommodate hearing the woes of kids while at school.
After changing clothes you'll call the kids to dinner, made from scratch since no frozen meals are available in sufficient volume to feed a family. The family will assign someone for a quick, likely childish prayer, then enjoy the meal, all the while discussing the events of the day. The dinner together is a ritual that binds together the family; a chance for all to get to know one another, to learn what bothers and pleases, to solicit desires for birthday or Christmas giving. After dinner, the kids gather up the dishes and wash and dry and put them away. If the season is summer they'll have the chance for another hour of outside play before coming in for bath and bed. All of this familial ritual forms bonds that will hold this family together in good times and bad...and each one of these families contribute to the larger chain of community...a community made strong by the solid foundation of every single family. In essence, the bonds you establish with your own family affects the hundreds and thousands of others in your community. The children learn the value of getting an education, the rules of society, the honoring of tradition, the obedience of laws, respect for their elders, and, in that learning, are rewarded by living in a safe and secure community.
All through the year, these families will go to church, they'll attend church suppers, they'll hold neighborhood block parties, setting up road blocks on each end of a block and enjoying a block long pot luck and games and contests...and further strengthening community ties. They'll jointly attend little league games, join their kids at Boy Scout camp outs, attend Scout award ceremonies, attend PTA meetings, and school carnivals and the school Christmas play and Easter egg hunts. And when someone in a family dies or loses a job, there'll be kids clothes and shoes and bags of groceries and meat loaf casseroles left at the front door....and no one need feel shame as the givers donate to the need with pride, knowing that no one is "gaming" them.
When TV viewing is allowed the family is assured by FCC decency codes that nudity, violence or vulgarity will not be shown. Family shows will present, if not reality, at least an acceptable model of behavior that we would do well to emulate. The same is true for movies so that everything a child is exposed to will not encourage fear, or lust, or illegal behavior. Bad behavior is not rewarded and the crusade for "good" is reward in itself.
Fadeout to today:
Those hundred people at the newspaper are unemployed. If a paper does exist it is owned by a huge publishing conglomerate that doesn't know your community and prints what they want you to read. News and editorial opinion are mated so that truth and opinion are indecipherable. Most people get their news on Yahoo or Google and the latest doings of the current diva rule the headlines. There are no more foreign news agencies so little is known about how the rest of the world is faring.
The family dairy farm has been bought out by a huge conglomerate. The milk is available in paper or plastic cartons with a picture of a kidnapped child on the side. The milk is full of additives to extend shelf life and antibiotic hormones passed down from the cow. No milk or egg or butter delivery because Walmart can provide a cheaper version, pocket the profit and send it off to Arkansas, that money never to be circulated again in the community. The same for the neighborhood gas station which went out of business, to be replaced by a large oil company franchise where you pump your own gas, check your own oil, wash your own windshield but can get something that resembles a hot dog for .59 cents and a two dollar cup of coffee that the old station manager used to provide free while you jabbered with him about last Friday night's high school football game.
The local diner has been closed down and the twenty adult employees fired. It's been replaced by a Burger King that hires teens at minimum wage, teens who may or may not spit in your hamburger in a fit of hormonal angst, and if all goes well, will shovel out a microwaved soy-beef patty that tastes like cardboard.
When you arrive home you try to beat the wife home from work, giving you favored position at the curb because all of the treasured possessions have filled up the garage. The wife arrives home from work shortly after work and you begin to hunt for the latch key kids, kids adept at the "delete" key to turn off the porno when either parent enters the room. They've been cruising between Facebook and porno and a violent gaming site since they got home from school. You have medical appointments for both Johnny and Joanie this week; Johnny to deal with his obesity and adult onset childhood diabetes, all cause by the banning of recess at school and a computer chair supplanting out door play. Joanie needs to go the OB-GYN to begin her use of birth control pills because she's that close to being twelve years old.
Either mom or dad pops a Stouffers Family Size frozen lasagna meal into the oven and cracks open a bag of Dole's salad. When dinner is ready it will be announced with sufficient volume for everyone in the house to hear it, then it will be consumed at computer station, gaming station or in front of TV while CSI is running an autopsy of a corpse.
Then everyone will retreat to their respective bedrooms, stick an IPOD ear phone in their ears and it's off to dreamland.
There will be no block parties or little league games or church suppers or PTA meetings or Christmas plays (because Christmas is now verbotten in the public schools). If someone in the neighborhood runs into hard times, well they know damn well how to reap a whole host of government bennies; welfare, WIC, housing vouchers, food stamps and food banks...no need to get involved..hell, isn't it enough that you pay the taxes that fund all that stuff!
And, as everyone goes to sleep, the nocturnal army of criminals begin their work. They infest city center, long dead from the Walmart phenomenon; the now common practice of corporate negligence. Exxon and Johnson and Johnson and Coca Cola and Pepsico and Kraft and dozens of other "world corporations" who suck the profits from a community, and the jobs, and the community pride, and salve the wounds by handing out free back packs to needy children; children who would not have been needy if the "world corp" had not farmed out Daddy and Mommy's jobs to India and China.
So now the schools suck because mom and dad no longer pay attention, the kids are illiterate and fill the void with airplane glue and bath salts and crystal meth. Property crime soars, driving up insurance costs and property taxes and illiterate adults fill the fast food jobs that were meant for teenagers that once had a work ethic, and the only winners are those who've surrendered and boarded the government gravy train, or the filthy rich who have lost all sense of a social conscience...who feel rich, sated and secure behind the iron security of gated communities.
And as our society crumbles around us, as we alienate ourselves more and more with the toys bred of technology, we try to sate the hungers with the lotus gurgitations of IPod's and Iphones and Video games and the superficial pretensions of "human connection" with social media....where we all lived happily, alone, ever after.
The heart is indeed a lonely hunter...never more lonely than today.