Sunday, November 7, 2010

Picking Up The Pieces

The Hive is a mess.  Tunnels caved in, major flooding in the basement, manuscripts in the basement torn and water-logged.  Conversations lost.  We fell apart.

I kept thinking, if we stayed with it long enough, we could improvise our way to something important, some clear statement of what it is to be human. Some reader, years from now, might find that theme in our notes. People were here. They had jobs. They had lovers. Husbands and wives. Some of them had kids. Their world was changing fast. Sometimes, it seemed to be coming down around their ears. But they went to movies, danced, listened to music, watched TV, made it to the grocery store. They read books. They talked about the things they saw and heard. Like you, Reader. They tried to be direct, unmediated and genuinely human in what they thought and said, to keep things and people in perspective. They hung out. And they all had porn star names. But the women didn't like to give head.

Maybe that's why the Hive collapsed.  Or maybe it was politics.  It's easy to have an opinion about politics, but it's mainly a waste of time.  Or maybe there is something about creative people that makes collaboration difficult for them, even impossible.  Whatever the reason, the Hive collapsed, the victim of some kind of colony collapse disorder.  We hardly understood what was happening to us.

When I drained the basement, I found ideas flopping around like fish out of water, and not a single one of them was of any use in finding a way to live better or even to survive in this upside-down, inside-out world of America circa 2010.  Not one article or idea as useful as the articles in The Whole Earth Catalog of the Sixties. 

What we needed badly a couple of years ago were tools for survival. Do we need them still? I'm not sure we do.

Maybe what we need now are better ways to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we survived the social upheaval that destroyed millions of other lives. Maybe we need to turn our thoughts inward and celebrate the personal life in this time of collective discontent, to adopt the attitude that someone has to keep living, as though we have been selected for that task.


quinn esq said...

One word rebuttal: Komogator.

Billy Glad said...

Zhivago has been on my mind lately. A couple of years back, I still had a romantic view of the character, saw him as a celebration of the individual amid the brutal and drab totalitarianism of communism. Lately, I see him as an overprivileged slacker, cheating on his wife and skating by on his reputation as a poet and a dreamer. He serves when he's drafted, hides out when he can, and ends up dying in the streets, an old, wasted man, chasing his lost love. I don't doubt we had fun, and some of us exercised our minds and imaginations and even put something in this space that might be useful someday. Right now, I'm leaning toward figuring out how to prosper in America I. If I fall through the cracks and end up in America II, I'll deal with that when the time comes.

quinn esq said...

For me, from Feb '08 it's been personal survival to the fore. Health esp. But as the economy broke, stresses rose and people & families buckled. And so... all hands on deck. Steady rolling crises for 2-3 years, and fairly exhausting as family marriages went, mental health, finances, the lot.

My main piece of practical, cash-on-barrelhead survival advice turned out to be bang on. Housing. Our society wants us to focus on fab new jobs or quick new incomes or fancy doodads. None of which are as important, in straight up survival terms, as housing.

We're overbuilt as a society, and many are over-housed. We doubled the square feet of homes since WW2, while household size fell. So now we pay 30%+ of our income on housing.

Which means, when the shit hits, you need to downsize housing... or get more people under each roof. It's that simple. It makes for some awkward conversations and blows to the pride, but there's nothing that salvages finances - AND provides support - like sorting out housing.

My sibs used the old family farmhouse as a base to fall back to, which was great for my 82 year old Mum, and now... they're moving out again, as things turn round. So I'm glad I fought to keep it all these years. With the nieces/nephews, we started a loud, family-wide conversation on the do's and don'ts of this, and that helped open the doors for them with family and friends, to conserve cash and make job hunting easier. And for me, I found a way to sell, M & I moved in together - which is great in 100 ways, but the halving of housing costs is unbelievably freeing.

For what it's worth, I don't think the social upheaval is over yet. Each month that things continues, more people buckle from the strain. And if we have an idiotic political situation for the next 2 years, that means at least 4 years before things recover. I doubt people are gonna handle this extended strain very well.

That said, I almost can't write about politics, or economics, these days. So a bit of personal salvation and celebration might not go awry.

Life and the living. I could do with a bit of that.

Billy Glad said...

Hear him.

Tom Manoff said...

I don't think it's a political comment to report that the guy across the street from us just stopped paying his mortgage. He has a job, though he's worried he may lose it. He bought a RV while he still had credit, put it in an RV park (where lots of people live these days) and just stopped paying his mortgage. He was under water with the house. He often didn't have enough to pay all his bills --though he was one of those people who couldn't say no to cars, boats, whatever. His kid is now in college. He's maybe ten years from retirement. He has two lawsuits from an accident. Already denied disability on the job.

He's just moving on. What I don't figure is how they'll mange an old dog in a 25 ft. RV. I felt like telling him to put the poor thing down before his new life. But maybe that would have been too much disconnection.

Well. As he says. Everyone is doing it. He went to a lawyer. The guy said don't worry about it. Just stop paying. The bank will take it back. They're too busy to come after him.

Talk about the Hive collapsing. Well, yeah. Perhaps it's just a refinancing after all.

Old dogs, and such.

Billy Glad said...

Noticing and caring is a habit that's hard to break. At the same time, I guess there's a tendency to protect our sanity by not noticing that we're still well off compared to the people in America II. We're hanging on in America I for the time being at least, and the temptation is to concentrate on holding what you've got. It's a mindset that gets stubborn and resentful about being ripped off by rich folks or by poor folks. After a while you start to cultivate the art of self-defense.

Tom Manoff said...

It's tough to come back from Europe, especially Germany. Politics aside, the continued existence of symphonies, operas, ballet companies isn't in question--even with cutbacks they remain state/city supported. Politics aside.