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The Row Boat
"Had we but world enough, and time..." *
Are You Ready To Change the Way You Live11/17/2006 01:21:33
I read today in Heidegger that the optimistic essence of the modern age is the ascendence of the self-evident. We will see.
Finally tonight I got around to seeing An Inconvenient Truth, the film about Al Gore's crusade to tell people about global warning. I was tremendously moved by it, as many people have been. His charts are terrifying and the human story is both cheesy and totally necessary. With it, he realizes that the critical problem of this issue is for us to understand how it touches our life stories. For Gore it is not just global warming but his son's brush with death (who I once played baseball with as a kid) and his father's 4-month-a-year farm (he was being a senator in Washington the rest of the year). We need these things! Like Iraq and the rest, this is another warWar at a Distance that we need to bring much, much closer to our hearts.
I should note of course that some religious folks are getting involved, particularly under the leadership of the NAE's Richard Cizik. But with us theologists, it always feels like a trick. You have to frame the problem in funny language to get us to care. Here we see the need for a secularized theology, one that is capable of apprehending the self-evident when necessary. We can't wait for a revaluation of end-time prophecy to know that something needs to be done.
Perhaps the thing that struck me most of all though was the sentence that went up at the beginning of the credits: "Are you ready to change the way you live?" In the United States today this is a truly radical statement. Everything about our politics prioritizes the way things are in a depressing and dangerous way. Freedom is understood with the worst theology possible: to do whatever the hell you want. The only restriction, bizarrely enough, has to do with sex: the least of our worries. Destroy the earth all you like as long as you don't (you dare) challenge the lonely suburban family paradigm of social life.
What I mean is this: our leaders tell us that we are at war but look around in this country. There is no evidence! War is a time of suffering and sacrifice (for others) but this war is false because it leeches on prosperity. Bush told us to go shopping after 9/11 when he should have been telling us to turn our thermostats down and drive more efficient cars to reduce oil dependency. We would do it. We want to do it! We only have to be asked. We all want a better world for our children.
I'm still not sure how I feel about Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, but I do like the theology of his vision of interconnectedness, and there is this one article of his that captures the challenge that the film makes beautifully. An audio file of Friedman reading it is available through The Center for the Study of Social Structures.
One interesting subtext of the film is a comment on the mechanism of American political power. Gore talks about how he had expected Congress to act immediately once they saw the troubling figures on global warming long ago, but of course they didn't. Things that are not heavy on their constituents' lips, he says, are easy for politicians to ignore. So then after losing the 2000 election he dusted off the old slides and went to the people.
Which is to say, all we need to do is care.
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the urge to care - 11/18/2006 22:15:37
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