The use of the word “hopping” (no not the Easter bunny just yet) for me conjures up the term used for tourist buses for which you buy a ticket to see different tourist destinations in a given city, and then can hop on or off where you like. It has the connotation of fluidity, changeability and in this case also change of mood. And while often this does have the appeal of being able to go on and off at will, right now the direction that I would choose would be off.
I was one of the people not only overjoyed that Biden won the Election (he really did win, right?) but I was so relieved as well. It would finally be a break from the hate cycles and the he said she said blasts of our news cycles. Boy was that ever mistaken. I got that as soon as I received my first request from the Democratic Party for money. What money I cried into my email response which I have a sense that nobody read. I had just given and given and given and wasn’t that enough?
I’m not naïve enough to think that Election over means all is well. However, I do want to get off of the addictive tendency so many of us have had to think, breathe, inhale to the point of terrible toxicity, the every move of Donald Trump and his associates, or the every action or inaction of his ex-associates who won’t stand up against his tyranny.
Perhaps the wonderfully popular Netflix extravaganza, “The Queen’s Gambit” brought to mind a memory having do to with another chess master, Reuben Fine, who also was later on a psychoanalyst and head of an analytic institute. heard Fine in a particular class talk about what he thought of as a “hate affair”. This was decades ago, before a gazillion titles for everything seemed normal, and as such it seemed unique, or at least a unique way to consider one aspect of an addiction: an affair was more usually considered a love affair or one predicated on sexuality.
My direction most lately has been a rambling one, but I’ve tended to be looking more to history, in my case the history of Fascism and Nazism, followed by history of the Iron Curtain and now I may shift to the Roman Empire. It is not particularly comforting to concentrate on history but it does take the drama away from the present only and it punctures the impassioned energy of a hate affair or a hate addiction, with its reminder that what is happening today is not new. Of course, this doesn’t mean that what is happening today is unimportant, not at all. But putting facts and details in perspective can be a good alternative to seducing and becoming seduced to act out a tragedy rather than facing facts in ways that include reason, intention, and the potential to unite (a Biden word, I know) to face troubles together.
An opinion piece in the New York Times on February 15, 2021 (you know, the Presidents Day where two Presidents are celebrated for the price of one) is entitled “Ancient Rome Has an Urgent Warning for Us(https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/15/opinion/ancient-rome-covid.html).
The article is by Kyle Harper, a classics professor who has researched the world of ancient Rome and the influence on it of slavery, climate change and more. It is a very rich and worth piece. And what strikes me most in the context of this moment are his lines having to do with history being what he calls “humanistic”. He writes in the last paragraph: “History’s role is humanistic. Its purpose is to help us see those patterns and take them to heart because they are human. History is powerful because we can identify with the hopes, follies and sorrows of those who have come before us. In recognizing the limits of their power in the face of nature, we can also acknowledge our own.”
I know how we have repeated over and again the adage of the importance of learning from history. And I know how hard it is not to repeat the past, and actually it seems to me to be all but impossible unless we are open to be interrupted in our assumptions. Assumptions also tend to involve prejudice and not infrequently combinations of hate and fear.
Oddly I have been feeling less likely than usual to sport anything close to a soap box. Facing it, it may be just a tough time, Covid and the November Elections. But perhaps I’m getting and giving my own signals that often enough are struggling to get through to us. This one says it may be time to get off the band wagon of hate and blame, not because I think we’re in any kind of easygoing harmonious glow of a mood. This is not necessarily about optimism per se but rather about taking the time to learn rather than to shout. And to hope that the learning, the act not just of coming to know or think, but the act of curiosity, can make a difference in levels of awareness.
It actually makes sense to me to see history’s role as humanistic, almost as it were a living thing equipped to provide us with lessons and learning and stories that might help us. Meanwhile, climate change is with us and terribly dangerous. It’s just that it can’t help us to inhale and exhale the toxins of unending bursts of hatred. It can be tempting, exciting, even lurid. It can’t help the external climate if the human one is full of its own poisonous gases.
So, I’ll be hopping off, at least for a while. I’m smart enough to know there are no guarantees in any of this. I have the ticket up my sleeve so I know I can get back on at any time, even if most probably it would be only to go around and around again, despite any illusion that tonight’s headlines are likely to be all that new.