Thoughts on social diversity / An extreme distortion of values

Woke up to snow this morning; not the brief shower I had expected, but “real” snow. An accumulation of 1-2″ and it’s still falling with deep silence – no wind – but that “shurring sound” falling snow makes when there are no competing sounds in the vicinity.

Just yesterday, a friend and I drove up to the “plateau” which is the floor of a high altitude basin between three mountain ranges, relatively flat, vast and highly eroded; town sits in a big gash where the river chokes and turns, about 500-700′ lower in elevation than the “plateau”.  So, nowhere on a map will you see the description ‘plateau’ – that’s my designation, based simply on a spatial relationship. It seems silly to call the surrounding high country a “basin” in relation to town, when getting there involves driving up a canyon road to a nearly 1000′ higher world of it’s own, with weather of it’s own. Unlike me, she rarely goes north or south of town into the countryside, but travels east or west on the interstate to destinations in the “outer world” to visit relatives or to take a vacation. She and her husband both grew up here and stayed; it’s not uncommon, but a mystery, which we talked about while trying to encompass the visual expanse of “our world” – mysterious because the landscape  seems to capture certain people and never lets go.

One hears reports from long time residents of brief forays into the outer world; about the disruption to their sense of self caused by being trapped in an undifferentiated “green” prison of trees and endless vegetation. I used joke about this phenomena, but have grown to understand that it’s significant: it’s not just a foreign landscape that  unsettles “lifers” addicted to our wide open vistas, it’s a difference in basic behavior and attitudes between our population and those in the “outer world” –

It is apparent now that our piece of real estate is “highly selective” in that only people of a certain disposition remain; the rest come and go – peace and quiet and loyal friends who are present without being intrusive, judgmental, or in-your-face constitute civilization; these rare qualities underpin “social” life and form a basis not for conformity to beliefs, ideologies, and status, but for common ground that will not be shaken by “petty differences”.

It may seem odd to consider religion, politics and human idiosyncrasies, “petty” but that’s exactly how such annoyances are viewed. The physical environment works to demonstrate that nature is in control, and we are oriented to its dominance and challenges; humility in the presence of such overwhelming power and space is  enforced.

My friend is highly religious; I am atheist. This has led to very confrontational episodes, but we are “joined” by much more important things; a desire for justice, fair dealings and the intolerance of “puritanical” aggression by “those people” – who certainly are not welcome in our world. We each concede our need for personal expression of our values, whatever they may be. In brief, we trust in personal choice (and facing the consequences) to be the best solution to life’s complex challenges. In this, it seems obvious to me, a caring and loving state of mind lies in an attitude of tolerance and acceptance, and not in the violent aggression of people obsessed with their self-appointed mission to “reform” humanity. These “urges” are an insult to nature and its products and reveal an arrogance founded in self-loathing and infantile power fantasies.

It was a “heavy” day for me in terms of social interaction: A very important friend of 40+ years, called in a state of near-hysteria over the election. He rattled off the dire state of pending “activity” by Republicans, all of which were extremely inflated and non-factual. I found myself once again, defending a “rational” approach; something he has denigrated in the past as somehow naïve, passive and uncaring. Well – here we go again: he wanted to fight over a long-dead issue for me. I just can’t tolerate destroying or abandoning my day to day productivity and enjoyment of what is important to me, to an illusion that the world must be, or can be, saved, especially by any one person. What exactly did he think he could do about the forces presently at work in the U.S.?

Symbolic gestures of protest (which he admitted would be totally ineffectual) would at least make him feel better, he said, and he reprimanded me for not sanctioning and following this path. I reiterated my refusal to let the chaos and stupidity of a “normal” state of chaos in human affairs ruin my day, or any day. I broke off the “disturbance” in our conversation with the truth: our long history of friendship is more important than the “crap” of social expectations; the human world is always falling apart (which is the normal consequence of hierarchical societies) and to waste the time that one is given to be a slave to the ups and downs of social warfare, is a foolish choice; that we share a deep need for justice, fairness and personal expression, and that this type of person is not “normal” in general society.

When confronted with “irrational” people and events, people like us take the disappointment very personally, as an affront to our sensibilities, and somewhere along my path, after too many pointless (negative, hurtful and devastating intersections with social aggressors) I had simply chosen to let my “rational and analytical” point of view guide my behavior. This decision did not reflect denial or passivity (as he claimed) but is the result of developing skills native to my personality, and the recognition that my values need to be protected from assault by a crazy  majority of socially-warped people.

Case in point from the New York Times this morning: I am an artist and I value art as a heritage of extreme importance, left to us by remarkable individuals, but also a living tradition that belongs to all people. When a young person growing up in “Chicagoland” I had access this heritage at the Chicago Institute of Art, a collection that contains Monet paintings. This access enriched my comprehension of human abilities that make possible contributions to the excellence of human endeavor – a counterpoint to what we witness far too often; brutality, hatred, destruction, cruelty.

But this – is disturbing: How do we dare lie to our children that they “have value” to our society when the reality is this:17auction-master768

“After a 14-minute battle involving five bidders — four on the phone and one in the room — a new auction high was set for the French Impressionist Claude Monet on Wednesday evening when the artist’s radiant 1891 canvas “Meule,” or “Grainstack,” fetched $81.4 million with fees at Christie’s in Manhattan.

“The Impressionist market is alive and well,” said Brooke Lampley, head of the Impressionist and Modern Art department at the auction house. No shit!

Works from the grainstack series — the first of Monet’s formal series paintings — rarely come to market. The last painting from this group at auction sold for $14.3 million in 2001. The painting auctioned on Wednesday, which had been estimated at $45 million, ultimately sold to Margot Rosenberg, a director in Christie’s client advisory department, on behalf of an anonymous buyer on the phone during the Impressionist and Modern sale.

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