Sunday, July 14, 2013

Happiness Is a Deep Lake

SOMEWHERE SOUTH OF A REDWOOD TREE, Oregon--I love it! There's The Gas Station (also sells firewood). The Resort (The Post Office is behind the registration desk). The Pizza Shop (also sells 16 flavors of ice cream). The Campground (National Forest Service; fire ring and table at every site, pit toilets).  The RV Park (across the road from The Campground, privately owned and operated.  No propane; you get that at The Gas Station).

And there's The Park.  That would be Crater Lake National Park surrounding the deepest lake in the United States, 30-some miles in circumference and nearly 2,000 feet at its deepest point. Although it has at least as many Spectacular Things per square mile as Yosemite or Yellowstone, only about 500,000 people a year navigate south central Oregon's narrow, twisting Cascade range roads to visit it. For miles around it, there is, as Dorothy Parker put it, "no There there."

The Gas Station is open 7 days a week from 7 to 7. But there's a hot line telephone that rings up the night watchman at The Resort, who will hustle down there and fill your tank when the station is closed.

The nearest real grocery store is 35 miles away but there's a small store inThe Resort that sells the necessities of life -- fishing tackle, snowmobile route maps, sleeping bags, mosquito repellant, lots of mosquito repellant, bread, milk and coffee.  Plus Dave's amazing organic bread and Sin Dawgs. "Dave" is actually a small corporation far away in Salem, but, hey!, they're people, aren't they?  Dave bakes up the best-tasting loaf of healthy, whole-grain organic bread between the Atlantic and Pacific. And the Sin Dawg? It's a whole-grain baguette with a cinnamon-raisin filling that is so sublime it drove two generations of French pastry chefs out of business. A Sin Dawg breakfast sends you to heaven despite its name.

The Restaurant (part of The Resort) occasionally features Pan Seared Rainbow Trout. A patron might imagine he's devouring an animal that swam that very morning in Muir creek, but he'd be wrong.  It's a farm-raised fish from Idaho. The patron can content himself as he consumes the import with the knowledge that Muir creek indeed teems with the real thing.  The waterway, a thing of great beauty, is an appropriate tribute to John Muir, the great American naturalist who campaigned so articulately for the preservation of just such places as these. To sit beside it, hearing only its babble and the songs of birds, is to know at last what serenity is.

Absent the crowds attendant to other national park neighborhoods, Crater Lake is host to countless other serene places. Knowing this, one is prone to condemn the more harshly the crimes mankind, most especially corporate mankind, commits against too many of the planet's finest places. Imagine a mine pumping toxic tailings into Crater Lake near Wizard Island; behemoth thumper trucks pounding Pumice Desert seeking pockets of oil to drill into; a field of natural gas pumps where now stand the redwoods that tower over worshipful pines in the Rogue-Umpqua National Forest. Such sacrilege has been committed elsewhere on our public lands, and the profiteering overlords are pounding on the doors at this very moment of Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Otero Mesa and more.

Almost 8,000 years ago, Mount Mazama erupted in what may have been the greatest volcanic episode ever to take place on this continent. It made the crater that Nature filled with rain and snowfall alone (no river or stream flows into the lake carrying sediment; that's why its waters are so deep, deep blue) . For a long time native Americans were the custodians of this special lake and held it sacred. Sandals worn by their distant ancestors have been found buried under volcanic ash in a cave deep in the surrounding forests.

In 1853, a European-American Caucasian looking for gold found something far better: today we call it Crater Lake. We've only had 160 years In which to spoil it.  Give us time.

The Cuckoo's Nest

Insanity, Einstein remarked, is repeating the same action and expecting a different result. United States foreign policy of endless war, by this measure, is incurably insane.

Ah, but it's profitable for the powerful few corporations and indivuals who form the American ruling class. If by magic all military spending ceased tomorrow and forever, most of the country's economy would vanish just as magically.  Poof!

This is the corner into which unfettered capitalism has painted us.  Even if we could agree (althought not even the most powerful magic could accomplish this)  that fossil fuel energy must be replaced by renewable energy, the Exxons and BPs and their ilk are so powerful and so profitable that we could not do so, even though we know we are literally killing our planet by degrees.

Vietnam should have taught us that hegemonic war is disastrous, too, and if not Vietnam then Iraq, but here we are, in an Afghan quagmire, trying our damnedest to follow Israel into war against Iran, being prodded into making the Syrian civil war our war while a legion of "national security" experts plot the scenarios for their successors in our chain of endless war. Never mind the fact that each new war in fact diminishes our national security. Each new president, regardless of party, boards the war-making roller coaster the moment he steps into the Oval Office. When he leaves office he steps into one or another of highly compensated places within the hierarchy of the miIlitary-industrial complex. The policies   of endless war, of unfettered profiteering, of planetary  destruction are self-perpetuating.

We subsidize the companies that fuel the machines of war and spew the carbon that is killing the planet.  Their margins of profit make Midas look like a pauper.

Once in a discussion about climate change I remarked to a friend that technology is at hand today to transport goods and people in vast areas of the country with just the energy of the sun.  He replied that when it can be done profitably it will become reality.

Aye, there's the rub.  In this land of unregulated capitalism, it is unthinkable that we should make things happen for the immediate health and welfare of the populace, and the long term improvement of the health of the  planet. We act only on that which will further enrich the oligarchs of the ruling class. As long as they toss a few orts to the rest of us every now and then -- say, a few thousand minimum wage jobs -- the people remain anesthetized and sedate.

Poor fools think they're living in a state of democracy.  Actually it's a state of insanity. The kind Einstein warned about.