15 April 2011

Dread and Circuses

At 10:56 p.m. last night, a goose flew low over my house.  As it passed by, it honked softly as if to say hello without wanting to overly disturb me.  In my tired mind I fancied it was indeed talking to me.  I wanted to say "Bon voyage" and wish it it a safe trip on its journey but it was here and gone so fast I had no chance.

I assume it was heading north.  Migrations are picking up now that spring is here.  I longed to join the goose in flight to the subpolar regions.  Having recently re-read Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, the intricate and "desolate" beauty of the far north holds a particular attraction for me.  I do not kid myself that I could outrun the world; life in the arctic can be hard and harsh, especially if one is not diligent and careful.  However, the idea of open country and few people is something that keeps calling to me.

Especially now.  The Year of the Tiger was over in February, supposedly, but doesn't it seem like the Tiger has lingered?  In this constant media flow of mayhem (tsunamis, civil war) and absurdity (celebrities run amok) I have struggled to find some peace and quiet.  Equilibrium is a skittish creature.  Sudden moves make it take flight.

The parade of sorrow and irritation on the television, too, does nothing to help.  It seems like if the talking heads aren't explicating on the latest casualties in Japan or Libya or (insert country in turmoil here), they are stealing oxygen by relating the latest asinine implosions of some one famous or semi-famous.  I watch the news, sometimes, because I find it hard to not want to know the latest...but when I see a news piece about radiation leaks or collateral damage followed by puff pieces on drunks with fame...something inside of me recoils, and finds it all hard to stomach.

Its as if the news organizations have lost the ability, or the desire, to discern between what is truly important and what really has no true effect on the audience at large.  Or maybe it is that we as a society have lost the ability to want to discern those things for ourselves.  The 24/7 news cycle has distorted, if not wrecked, the general ability to prioritize.  Everything has become important, it has to be, to feed the maw of the Information Machines to which many of us seem to be addicted.  And I resent it.

For the Romans, it was bread and circuses.  For us, it doesn't seem to be that much different, except nowadays, the colosseum is electronic, feeding us Dread and Circuses.

I think it speaks volumes that lately when I come home from work, and on the occasions when I do decide to watch television, I've been watching less and less of the news.  Instead, my recent favorites have been "America's Funniest Videos" and  Spongebob Squarepants.  For some reason, the utter banality of the former and the deep, delightful absurdity of the latter have been just the thing to set my head on straight.  I suppose a lot of that has to do with the fact that, when I have my daughter with me, we tend to watch shows like that together, and have a good laugh.  That is all the excuse I need to indulge.


  1. I love it when you ramble...
    I feel the same way about the new
    it's shameful and vulgar

  2. My son relies on a steady dose of Spongebob as an antidote to this crazy world.

  3. I watch news still but have to say that my tolerance for what is going on in Congress and politics is pretty short. Is anything ever going to be resolved or are we destined to endless petty bickering?

  4. Oooh...defect #2. Spongebob? Oy.

  5. Also...this certainly caught my fancy: "the idea of open country and few people is something that keeps calling to me"


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

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