Friday, October 19, 2012

So this is what I'm thinking about

I found this copy of M.C. Escher's "Humanity" here.
So, I haven't written in a long, long, long time, and when I have, it's been poetry that I was composing for another reason.  I couldn't honestly say why I haven't, except that I just haven't felt I had anything to say and there is plenty for folks to do rather than listen to me nattering on for the sake of nattering.

But if I pushed a little further, I could also say that I've been going through one of those periods ya go through where it's like you were, cognitively speaking, holding a neatly stacked little deck of cards and then tripped while walking and threw them all up in the air at once and they went every which-a-way.  So I suppose another explanation could be that I've been playing mental 52-card-pickup for the last, oh, year or so.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  Things have changed in my life.  I started seminary here, started teaching a citizenship class that I adore, became a vegetarian, finally found a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders and is really helping, and got into a serious relationship.  I also had a lot of issues with panic attacks early in the year, got a concussion in March and had a bunch of weird health problems this year. 

Other things didn't change, things that maybe should change.  I think about these things a lot.

The biggest thing I've thought about this year started with rediscovering the novels and short fiction of Wendell Berry.  I love the world St. Wendell (this is what I call him, only partly kidding) creates in his fiction, but after an attempt to read everything he'd ever written back in 2009, I'd kind of forgotten about him until I saw him speak at the Kennedy Center in April of this year (thanks to The Best Writer I Personally Know, whose BOOK WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE SPRING OF 2013  WOOOOOOOOT!!!!!).  When he spoke, I felt a nudgy-nudge at what he had to say about the environment and about U.S. agricultural policy, but more than that I felt that warm-blankety feeling I used to feel when I read his fiction... like this was a world I would love to inhabit, an agrarian world of close community and love of the land that I don't know but wish I did.

So I renewed my library card and started again with A World Lost... and it wasn't long before I was devouring his fiction again, 11 books in about 2 1/2 months.  I also read The Unsettling of America  and The Gift of Good Land, and then moved on to The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Landa collection of essays edited by Norman Wirzba that build on the agrarian writings of Wendell Berry. While I read that, I picked up Omnivore's Dilemma again, and this time I finished it.

I haven't read that much in a long time, and I'm not done.  I have a stack of books behind the chair I'm sitting in that are also on the same theme... the failure of agricultural policy in the U.S.... the unhealthy, unethical, and unsustainable ways in which we've come to produce and consume food, and how this is wrecking our land and our bodies and our brains.  A lot of these books have suggestions on what we can do better, things we can change.  These things will help us and help our country, and it can be argued that the expense to the consumer in radically changing our food system would be evened out by the decrease in expenses we have for all of the health issues related to our consumption of poisonous food and our poisoning of land and water in the production of that food.

It's really amazing how much consensus there is on this point.  You don't have to be a tree-hugging liberal to know that McDonald's isn't a good thing to put in your body.  You also don't have to be a vegetarian Buddhist to be nauseated at the thought that the chicken you're eating for dinner spent its life crammed in a tiny wire cage, unable to move, with feces from the chickens above it raining on its head, possibly with its beak cut off so it'd stop pecking itself in a nervous fit.   There are folks on both sides of the partisan aisle who think Monsanto needs to be taken down to Chinatown in the back of one of those vans without windows for shoving genetically modified foods into our gullets and then trying to duck their culpability for what is now known about what some of those foods do to our bodies... not to mention what they've done to farmers by forcing them to use seeds they have to buy every year because they're "engineered" not to do what seeds are *supposed* to do, i.e. reproduce.

But it doesn't change.  Why doesn't it change?

No seriously, why doesn't it change??

I've watched two presidential debates now and a vice-presidential debate and this wasn't brought up.  Not once.  Yes, we're all worried about The Economy.  But why aren't we worried about Our Food??  What about Our Land?  Our Water?  Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?  Anybody out there willing to take a hit to The Economy in order for us to have healthy food to eat?  Because I personally don't think I could subsist on eating debit cards, credit card statements or my retirement portfolio.

So another reason I haven't written all year is that I've spent months now reading about this and thinking about it and it's very hard for me to figure out how this is going to end well.  For some stupid reason, the issues around pollution of our food sources and our land have become associated with "liberalism", which is a bunch of bullshit.  I really couldn't care less what your political stance is, you still have to eat, and you still would really prefer what you eat not be full of carcinogens and antibiotics, right?

Seriously, if anyone is actually reading this (not sure that'll be the case since I've not written in a while and you good people have other things to do), do you care about this?  Have you given it thought?  If you have, what have you thought about it?  What have you changed about how you approach food, what you buy, what you eat, etc.?  Has it affected how you vote?