Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Peel some Spuds

“I just think it’s important to be fair – “ the man began. 
“Yeah, Reg. I understand. But there’s a time and a place, you know? Maybe the best way to build a bright new world is to peel some spuds in this one?”
                                            Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

I was happy to read this little part of the novel. Night Watch is one of the darker, less going-for-laughs Discworld novels. Copyrighted 2002, I suspect that, like most Westerners, Pratchett was in a somber mood, wondering what would become of our world. Dave Barry's first column after 9/11/2001 began "No humor here today. I can't write it, and you couldn't read it." I've heard depressingly few "good news" things since then. Like Vietnam, Afghanistan has become an unwinnable quagmire. Also like Vietnam, changing the political party in control didn't really change anything.

So often I wish that I could take control of this screwed-up world and straighten out all the dysfunctions, confusions and cross-purposes. But as the poet (Friedrich Schiller) said, "against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." And I'm a good Catholic boy; I understand about Original Sin and its consequences. Still, I feel like one of the characters in Jack London's The Sea Wolf who says "...God is noddin' and not doin' His duty, though it's me as shouldn't be sayin' it." Why do we have to sort things out ourselves? We’re no good at it.

But this bit of Sam Vimes' wisdom helps calm me down. Like Reg Shoe (the “man” in the quote, later the first zombie constable in the City Watch,) I want to save the whole world. Also like Reg, I can't save very much. I have joined movements that I hoped would improve life, maybe perfect it. As a hippie I tried to revolutionize our culture so that everyone would be happy. Later I wanted the Charismatic Renewal to revolutionize the Church and through it the world. The second failure hurt worse; I really thought we were God's agents in our world. I withdrew a little too far after that. It was good to concentrate on raising my kids and supporting my wife, but I felt too hopeless even to try anything much bigger.

I’m still hopeless, as you can probably tell from this blog. But I need to light the proverbial one candle. It won’t illuminate the whole world, but maybe somebody won’t stumble.

(“Peeling spuds” is a bit ironic, though. I’m one of those folks that think tater skins are good for you.)