Can’t contain my glee! Gotta tell someone – wanted to tell my family, my friends, everybody – I was walking across that same broad stretch of prefab concrete I always talk about, that city-centre bathed bridge, and I was looking as usual at The Odd Couple. (Better explain I guess – there’s a broken pipe that’s just above water level, and for some reason there’s always two mangy pigeons squatting in it, hiding from the seagulls; don’t know if they’re ever the same ones, but they’re the odd couple.)
Anyway, then I noticed they were watching something in the water, a big stick. Then I look away for a second, and there’s ripples spreading out from the stick, so I look back, and it’s an otter! A genuine otter, that’s just rolled over, and is looking at me not twenty feet away. He’s got a fish clutched in his front paws, and as I watch he bites into it, and then rolls back under the water. I watch and I think I’ve lost him, and the he’s back, still with the fish!
So I stand there for ten minutes watching, and now I’m the happiest man alive, click-heels, air-jump ecstatic. I’ve seen an otter; it feels like I’ve swum with a blue whale, or wrassled a moose.
There’s a oak tree somewhere, in distant memory. It’s not an old oak, it’s not even a royal oak. It’s just an oak, and it stands just beneath the crest of a hill spreading its branches. It’s roots go deep, not because the water-level’s low, but because there’s grass on the ground and shallow roots would choke it. Instead of bare earth a green carpet stretches right up to the base of the tree, mingling with the moss that’s starting to climb its flanks.
Now I’m a lover of comic books and of computer games; I experience the same bloody pleasure from each; yet I’m a pacifist, and I have qualms about my loves. I’ve seen pictures of the effects of war, real faces in real deaths, and it disturbs me when I play games that replicate this so easily. Under that tree’s kin I’ll have read books where my kin are torn and mutilated, and my enjoyment of this make-believe is ebbing, not with guilt but with moral repugnance.
Now Dubya and his kin would have us go to a war. Knowing the death this would involved I cannot agree, not unless more lives were lost in the inaction than in the action. Granted I value happiness too, but the fact that we all have but one life to live and that life would end in 500,000 cases in terrible pain and misery under Bush’s plan seems a horrendous weight against his argument from the start. The argument has not been made with great care anyway, and with his WASP/harvard/business/religious background every move he makes is suspect. Saddam is not a nice man; but there is a feeling that George would be worse if he could be. For this reason the world’s boisterous stand against the man fills my heart like bubbled molasses, and I thank the obstinate types of this world dearly, like they care.
I used to have odd fancies when I was younger about how the world worked. Because I decided early on, probably too early if truth be told, that value systems are arbitrary and that you make your own point in life, I would concoct various ways of living that I’d think the ultimate and fall whole-heartedly into for a couple of motnths.
One of these was a questioning one, y’know, a dull everyday event would happen, in which I’d change a single person’s day by an iota, and I’d find myself thinknig “Was that it? Was that what I’m here for?” Not in a religious way, because that’s just a dull overworked idea, but more in a “being an element in another’s dream” way.
Similarly, after reading a little too much of the end of A Tale of Two Cities and The Trial of Charles I I found myself falling again into the martyring (but purposeful) track of Sidney Carlton, thinking to myself which of my friends, family and acquaintances I’d be willing to die for. Odd chain of thought, as it leads to distinctly disturbing conclusions about the value of lives with regard to age, intelligence, and unquantifiable things like compassion; but then again we all develop our own private value systems, just that we refuse to admit them to ourselves. Or is that the fallacy of the universalised self again, am I thinking because I think this everybody thinks this, therefore this is right. Ah, it’s too late, port has made me weary, and philosophy befuddles my aging brain. I’ll bid you a jew, and raise you a shia.