From the Microcosm


Photo Credit: AP—Frank Langella as King Lear

Oh, let me kiss his hand!
Let me wipe it first. It smells of mortality.


We are at the mercy of the elements. They are raging all around us. For some they are raging right where they are.

It is not so much that the elements are out of control as that we are not in control.

The stormy heath reflected the storm in King Lear’s soul. This is my stormy heath: Hurricanes. Floods. Wildfires. Earthquakes.

It reflects the storm that has been raging in my soul for lo these past few months. I woke in despair pretty much every day. Woke being a relative term since my sleep was something less than—well sleep. Night and day merged into one endless unsettling dream state.

And then, rather suddenly over these past two weeks, a calm came over me. I slept. And then I woke. And then I went about my daily life.

I became the eye of the hurricane.

I started each morning writing in my journal. I wrote two blog posts, which meant I had something to say again. Or perhaps more, that I could articulate what was swirling in my head and heart.

A darkness descended on the world with the election and inauguration of Donald Trump. I’m not going to apologize for that statement or even qualify it as an opinion. I think one can observe the world and see it is just the truth.

Religious opinion trumps (you will pardon the expression) science. Mansplaining is getting institutionalized in law. Women are told to shut up and know their place (she was warned, yet she persisted). The very narrow world of white, male privilege is being venerated (Charlottesville, repeal of DACA, Joe Arpaio).

I think these fools thought they could build an impenetrable wall around a very small universe that once was. The Jim Crow, father-knows-best, you’re-such-a-pretty-girl-why-can’t-you-make-a-good-cup-of-coffee, god-hates-anyone-who-isn’t-like-me, climate-change-is-a-hoax universe. A wall that would keep life out.

And then came the hurricanes, the floods, the wildfires, the earthquake. Not to mention nuclear weapons in the hands of two infants in men’s bodies.

I learned about the philosophy of the microcosm and macrocosm from my high school English teacher Ed Brush—aka, Mr. Shakespeare. And that’s what I thought of when the chaos and destruction began.

The microcosm is the world of the mortal. We live in our own microcosm as well as a collective one. The collective one right now is particularly micro because the “leader” of the free world has, as Bill Moyers says, an open sore in place of a soul. He has no respect or compassion for mortality.

The macrocosm is the land of the immortal. That which will continue with or without us. It encompasses life and death and ambiguity. Earth is steady and has earthquakes. Wind is gentle, and it wrecks havoc. And, in its absence, keeps sailing ships in the doldrums. Fire warms us and consumes us. Water sustains us and overwhelms us.

We are rarely in control. Not being in control is the essence what it is to be mortal, to live in a microcosm.

Feeling that lack of control is what brought me to a place of calm. Not the calm of the doldrums, but the calm of the eye of the hurricane. Mortality gives us definition. We have a beginning and an end parenthesis.

Faulkner said that writers should banish fear, the fear of being blown up by nuclear weapons, from their workshop, for only then can we write about the human heart in conflict with itself—only that is worth writing about. I learned that from Bert Fraser, another high school English teacher.

It feels good to not be afraid. It feels good not being in control. It feels good to ride out my own life, my private microcosm, to have faith that my life matters regardless of where the parenthesis ends.

To know that being human is to have a heart in conflict with itself is to have compassion for what it means to be human—to embrace our microcosm as part of the gigantic macrocosm that existed long, long before we did, and will go on for a long, long time, with or without us.

3 thoughts on “From the Microcosm

  1. Karen:

    Thank God… you found the eye of the storm. I am still seeking my own haven of calm and striving to find my voice… I am listening for that small still inner voice amid the tumult of the storm, flood and quake. I know it is there, and it is reassuring to know others whom I care-about are finding their voice amidst this global evidence of insanity.


    Liked by 1 person

      • Hot… Carolyn had her hip replaced in early July & is already getting booked-out again in arts events. I have been painting in gouache lately. we both painted down the coast to San Diego, earlier this year, I travelled on my own for 3 weeks on east coast, including 1-week painting in the Adirondacks right before Carolyn’s surgery. We just got back from a week of painting in Mendocino & return for another week painting up there later this month.

        If I only spent 1/2 the time I have been painting at the task of writing…I’d make some progress on my little “project”. That might change if I could post my chapters & build a tiny “following”… so that may be in the works. Maybe I should set-up a free WordPress account … and start posting…

        Our Town (not Thornton Wilder’s) still suffers from the psychosis of “we do not measure-up…unless we have…” (now that the 2000-seat theater is off the agenda)… the cry among the “tontine” is for a large Hotel complex in either the Lucky Center (empty-lot) or where the Speedy-Oil is next to the BankHEAD. Of-course, this would align Other People’s Money (OPM) to raise the property-value of the Bank of Italy Building (how convenient for the “quiet lady in the shadows” who runs the “tontine” and owns the only newspaper in town, and happens to own that same building). Speaking of “heads” Carolyn and I tend to keep ours down (politically) there is no point in arguing with mesmerized dilettantes, and making unneeded enemies over silly stuff.

        Speaking of “silly” I sent a link to a skit that Jimmy Kimmel put out recently which used a train-set that “goes off the rails” to mock our current President (you can probably google it on youtube) to a buddy of mine from college, who is also an architect & used to run his own model train store in Provo, UT. Boy…oh boy… that was a MISTAKE … he informed me that he voted for Trump, hated “everything” about Obama, took offense at the skit, yet still loves me & will pray for me… (you get the scenario of patronizing Mormon moralizing and cluelessness). It really threw me… yet I managed to send a semi-apologetic (not really…but at least Diplomatic) reply, and mentioned that his conservatism is “in the right place” (I am really not-so-sure about that, TBH) & it is OK to differ… in-fact it is necessary for us to ALL be different, and wise leaders (including many in organized Churches) teach us to love and care for those who are “different than us”. By the way… as persecuted as the Mormons were, I am stupefied that they are so intolerant of others who are different. I did NOT mention different genders, gender preferences, skin-colors, socio-economic stratas, political leanings… but the “big-picture” is to tolerate and respect each other because of our differences (but I had all of that in-mind).

        I then proceeded to explicitly say that Trump is whipping-up hatred of “others who are different” and that his amorality and comportment is where Fascism comes from. I then mentioned that many of my conservative friends in the National Security Community share MY concern that Trump is gullible and has made himself vulnerable to pressure by Putin, due to his reliance on Russian Oligarchic investments in his failed businesses, and that this is “classic” Russian espionage elicitation techniques… and that I had extensive training in how to recognize these techniques, since I worked at an NNSA-DOE-funded R&D Laboratory, where our collective efforts helped “win” the Cold War. So I summed-up that as as fellow Americans, we can at least share the desire that we want America (and the rest of the world) SAFE, and while we may disagree, our nation is stronger through DIVERSITY and those differences I had alluded -to earlier, including differences of opinion.

        But, really…PHEW…I was shocked, yet should NOT have been… that my friend in UTAH would feel so strongly, and take offense at my attempt to share a little humor. Boy, am I naive.


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