Smoke and Mirrors

Can we just take a collective moment out of the chaos of our world to…breathe?

I know, we are breathing in more than 500 ash particles or whatever that will damage our lungs and lurk in our bloodstreams, and I know that’s awful, in the full sense of the word, but I want to say something before we submerge ourselves indoors, alone, with our windows sealed and our air conditioners humming in tune to our terror.

I really resent this continuous drumbeat of fear the media, the politicians, the meteorologists, the epistemologists, all the powers that be, continue to play as background music to our lives. Worry is a wasteful emotion. Moreover, it distracts us from the problems at hand. And, not to be too cynical, or maybe because I am cynical, I think that is exactly its purpose. To rev up our adrenaline, to kick in a survival instinct that puts me and mine first and forgets the rest of the world, to fill the world with smoke to choke our ability to think, blind our ability to see.

My friend told me in a rush yesterday that she’d read somewhere that being outdoors for an hour in the current conditions was the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes. She was made frantic by this information. I was becalmed. I am old. I know a whole lot of people who’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes and lived to tell about it. And though I am not one of them, I did survive intact eighteen years of living in the same house, breathing the same air, as two pack-a-day smokers, neither of whom died from lung ailments. So.

I am not meaning to downplay the smoke.

We’ve known since childhood—where there’s smoke there’s fire. And these are forests burning. The cause of which and the loss of which are going to be, in the long run, a whole lot more damaging to the human race’s survival potential than our current portion of pollution headaches, burning eyes, and coughs.

If you are tired of getting smoke blown in your face (those of you who grew up without the constant cigarette may not know that that was code for, do you want to get fucked) or up your ass (which meant, yep, I’m lying to you), follow that trail of spent carbon back to its source.

Inform yourself about climate change, what caused it, how it’s gone too far to be reversed (but not too far to maybe be abated.) Then do something. Use this time indoors to read Bill McKibben’s Falter ($3 at Thriftbooks, which, I think Amazon does not own) for the bigger picture. Go on-line to and contribute to the solution.

Exchange worry for hope, however weak and small a breath of it you can muster.

We were given Eden. And we befouled it beyond recognition. (Our bigger brains not for a minute focusing on what the merest animals innately know: you do not to shit where you eat.) And now we have to live with the consequences. Whining about them won’t help. But there’s a remote chance we could still save the planet for our grandchildren. If it’s too smoky for you to care beyond your own next breath, take a step back, or forward, or take a knee, and try to care about theirs. Stop beating the panic-mode drums and listen for the different drummers who may know the way out.