Dizziness and Confusion

My father was raised as a Christian Scientist, and, although I wasn’t raised in that religion, I have been influenced by many of his beliefs.

More specifically,I tend to believe that illness is the result of an imbalance in an individual’s life. I can trace almost all illnesses in my life to periods of high stress. Little wonder that the longest single period of illness in my life came right after I returned from Vietnam.

Perhaps then, it is not surprising that I spend yesterday suffering from some sort of vertigo. When I woke up and tried to cross the room, I was unable to walk the short distance to the bathroom without balancing against the walls. This dizziness continued throughout the morning. I was so frightened by these episodes that for the first time in my life I called my wife at work to take me to the doctor’s office. At the doctor’s office I was told that they didn’t know what caused this kind of episode but that it would probably clear up after taking an over-the-counter medication used to treat air sickness. Relieved, but somewhat chagrinned by my panic, I told my wife it would be safe for her to return to work.

Looking back, how appropriate it seems that the utter confusion I have felt over the chain of events in the last few weeks should manifest itself in a physical form of dizziness.

My fear that President Bush was a figurative Captain Ahab leading the USA into a disastrous attempt to destroy the forces of evil was soon replaced by a fear that perhaps we weren’t going to go far enough in solving our long-term problems there. Perhaps, as in Iraq, we would settle for killing a few thousand relatively-innocent Arabs and stop short of solving the real problem by getting rid of the leader who was the source of the problem. Even worse, perhaps we would create several new bin Laden’s in our attempts to overthrow the one we had created in an earlier attempt to overthrow the "Evil Empire."

Trying to understand the roots of our problems in this area and the solutions to these problems seems to lead to confusion rather than to enlightenment. How do we explain the ideas and attitudes of the Arab common people? How can we change these perceptions of America? Can we ever change them? Is this problem the proverbial Gordian knot that can only be solved by the sword?

Little wonder,then, that my body, as well as my mind, is beset by dizziness and confusion.

War Looms

Despite my attempts to keep on the move the whole weekend and today, I am unable to keep the looming war in Afghanistan out of my mind.

I spent today hiking 15 miles at the 6,000 to 8,000 foot level on Mt Hood in Oregon. Above 6,000 feet there are few trees to be seen. Some would call the landscape rugged and barren. Most would admit, though, that there are majestic views of the of the many mountains that dominate the Northwestern landscape.

We, however, hike this area for the sense of sheer, awesome power that the mountain manifests. The landscape is littered with huge boulders thrown from the volcano centuries ago. More recent glaciers carve their own signature on the mountainscape, pushing whole fields or rocks ahead of them. Fast flowing streams carve grand canyons through the volcanic soil, canyons so tall and so steep that they are impossible to safely climb.

Usually these hikes are the highlight of my week, a peaceful, meditative way to get in touch with myself and with nature. Today, though, I was unable to get in touch with nature or myself.

Instead, I spent the day haunted by how much this barren landscape resembled the recent pictures I have seen of Afghanistan. How could anyone exist in this kind of landscape? How could you scrape out a living from these fields that only seemed suited to growing rocks?

The chipmunks that scrambled from rock to rock to escape our invasion into their land made me think of Afghani soldiers who would scramble away from the jets flying overhead. Would they be as helpless as these squirrels were?

As I struggled to keep up with my hiking partner, I wondered how American soldiers would react to this kind of altitude, and whether their inability to react or move as quickly as usual would result in increased casualties.

Swearing off television and keeping on the move have done little to help me escape the depression that has haunted me since last September 11. Maybe I just need to accept the fact that everyone should be at least a little depressed at the news.

Destroying Evil

Now I am terrified at the Earth! it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas’d corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.

…………………………………………… Walt Whitman “This Compost”

Perhaps if we, too, are calm and patient, if we can analyze the situation accurately, and if we can act accordingly, then we will be able to go beyond mere righteous anger and make a better world, or at least a safer one, than the one that existed before this despicable act.

If not, then we may well be doomed to live the cycle of violence that is the heritage of most wars, wars that are never really won or lost , but that continue to this day to be played out in the minds of the warring parties.
Let’s at least hope that America has learned the dangers of creating a fanatic like Osama bin Laden to fight our enemies only to learn that we are his true enemy. Let’s not create new “bin Ladens” in our effort to destroy this Frankenstein monster that we created through our own ignorance. How fittingly ironic that this man we used to destroy the “Evil Empire” should come back to haunt us “evil incarnate.”

And if we do invade Afghanistan in order to punish the terrorists, let’s hope that our leaders can at least show the wisdom of Truman and Marshall and provide the kind of aid to the country that will transform it into a future ally rather than a charred battlefield waiting for the winds of change to create a new firestorm to sweep across the west.

At least Secretary of State Powell, a veteran of United States’ s failed attempt to create a Viet Nam in our own image, seems to understand the need to handle this campaign with restraint and with limited objectiives. Having fought in Viet Nam it is unlikely that he believes it is really possible to “destroy evil,” because in order to do so you would have to destroy those who become “evil”; trying to carry out the so-called noble aims of their own country.

In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,

I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood …

Theodore Roethke

If I ever needed this belief I certainly need it now.

And I have needed it many times in my life. I constantly needed it when I served in Viet Nam, I usually needed it when I worked as a caseworker, I sometimes needed it when I taught, and I desperately needed it when I got divorced and lost custody of my two precious children.

And I firmly believe that we need this belief as a society if we are going to transcend the events that now threaten to overwhelm and transform our society.

For unless we begin to see the truth about ourselves and the effect that we have on the world, I fear that we are going to transform our world into a place where few of us will want to live.