Jun 2 • 12M

common ground

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So I’m having this big long Facebook conversation about the evils and virtues of the vaccine. And he says Is it my right to choose not to vaccinate myself and my family? And I say Yeah it’s absolutely your right but then what is your responsibility to society knowing that you’re most infectious before you even have symptoms? And back and forth we go searching for common ground and not finding any.

San Pedro Springs Park in San Antonio, Texas. Common ground since 1729.

We’re friends actually and respect each other and I make the point that a worse disease than the virus is the divisiveness that has beset us. Abortion? Gun rights? The direction our nation is taking? There is no common ground in sight, it’s all a battle ground. It’s a war actually. We might take prisoners but we won’t give an inch of ground.

How is it that the United States of America, the most successful country the world has ever known, the admiration of nations far and wide, the arbiter of popular culture, has come to this?

That could probably start another endless conversation. People have their opinions and beliefs, about everything, and will not be deterred. Facts are only facts if they support your perspective after all and my perspective is that it doesn’t look good.

The obvious common ground that we do have is being alive. This is a condition we share, blue and red, green and white, black and . . . whatever color you like; maybe we should focus on that.

It is a big deal. I mean think of the alternative. Also a big deal. Is it not the most important thing in our lives, being alive? More important than money and political issues?

Yes. The answer is yes. And a resounding and emphatic yes. A common ground yes. As in everybody knows this yes.

So maybe we’re just focused on the wrong thing. Maybe we’re distracted by the glitz and glitter of a material world and all the marketing scams and all the stupid TV shows until we’ve entirely forgotten what’s important. Until someone dies. Oh My God.

That’s the purpose of the sacrificial ritual right? In the Old Testament they would sacrifice a bull or a lamb to bring blessings to the tribe. Then there was Jesus - he was the sacrificial lamb to bring salvation.

Then there’s ‘The Lottery’, Shirley Jackson’s short story about a quiet little 19th century New England town where they have the lottery every year. Read it here https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1948/06/26/the-lottery. I dare you.

A still from the graphic novel version of The Lottery by Miles Hyman.

But it seems to me we ought to be able to remember we’re alive without a lottery. Take a breath. Did you notice that? Then you’re alive. In fact you have been taking breaths since the day you were born and that’s why you are alive. That and a bunch of other stuff humming along because they’ve got oxygen to burn. Muscles and a brain and the endocrine system and the immune system. The whole metabolic process is based on breathing.

Try stopping for a few minutes. I think you’ll get my point.

When I lived in Mexico on the beach I could free dive for up to 3 minutes but I was always eager to get back to the surface. One time I went back in the jungle to Maco’s cenote with some friends to see if it ‘goes’. In cave diving parlance that means does it connect to any of the underground rivers that course thru the limestone in that area. If so we could bring scuba tanks and cave diving gear back there and explore it. So I nonchalantly put on flippers and a mask, grabbed my light and went down to check it out.

There was an opening big enough to swim thru, a zig and a zag and whoops a restriction, can’t go any farther so I turned around to retrace my route and at that instant my light went out.

I immediately knew that I had an approximately 50/50 chance of making it back to the surface before I died down there in a side tunnel so I started feeling my way thru the opening hoping I was making the right choice when my light came back on.

I did make it back as you may have surmised but even today I hold that memory in awe, or maybe terror is the better word, the terror of dying panic stricken in an underwater cenote for lack of air.

Now I sit comfortably in a chair with my salad and a Dos XX at the Central Market Cafe looking out over the parking lot writing in my notebook and considering these things.

Everything is lovely. There is no one to argue with and I am breathing gently in and out. I appreciate maybe one in ten on average but that’s a start. I could be dead or I could be oblivious to being alive which is kinda like being dead.

Imagine if our whole society was focused on reminding each other that we are alive. Not just when Grandma dies (or 19 kids and 2 teachers in Uvalde) but every day; if every logo on every highway sign, every TV show in it’s own unique way cued the memory, the knowing that hey I’m alive. Cool.

And why not? We have all this media to remind us of something. Usually that we need something that we don’t have but never to remind us that we need something that we do have. It seems unbalanced, incomplete. Because it is.

So we argue about abortion rights and vaccine mandates and background checks and what’s happening to our world.

What’s happening to your world? I’ll tell you. It’s passing by and you’ll die. ‘Not dead yet’ should be a bumper sticker, a news show, the name of a store that sells . . . I dunno, croissants maybe? The Not Dead Yet Cafe. Come on in and be alive. Or don’t come in and be alive.

That’s what being alive is all about. Being alive.

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