Suburbanization in Reverse

Last week’s Economist cover featured the death of the internal combustion engine via the electric car. The magazine contemplates a bright future where the air is clean, oil grabs become irrelevant, and people nap during their private commutes. Then, reverse suburbanisation as cities contract, converting now useless parking into homes, parks, offices. Efficient destinations everywhere.

The magazine does not mention the inventors of this great future, but that is whom the article left me thinking about: the few individuals who propelled electric cars forward. These incredible beings basically prevented planetary devastation by ending human dependence on dirty fuel.

Sadly, on the other side of the equation, you have the Zumas, Trumps, and Maduros of the world. Individuals who set entire nations back one year each time they open their traps. See the excerpt from the article below on Jacob Zuma’s reelection, which immediately followed the article on electric cars.

Thus, the equation keeps equal. Or as Fitzgerald might say, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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Post Partum

For months I’ve considered embarking on my third book of poems. And for months I have not. 

I finally know why: the emptiness that “one feels when one has finished a piece of work that was important to one.”

This is not a small emptiness; it is a big one. Sure, one can decide to promote the hell out of the book and keep it alive. But book parties and book planning are not the same as book writing. They are the opposite, rather, the antithesis. 

What I enjoy is the book writing. But book writing is a self-eliminating process. The more you write a book, the closer you are to finishing it. And once there are no more words to sculpt, the book is gone. 

At first the emptiness was bigger. What Herman Hesse writes in his book, “Narcissus and Goldmund” is true. The emptiness passes, is passing. Perhaps it is time for another bellyful of book. 

Once a Shipwreck, Always a Shipwreck

So I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Relato de un Náufrago” (“The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor”) in one sitting. I had my doubts when buying it beacuse I tend to find that all shipwreck stories are the same. Sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. 

Indeed, my favorite part of the tale was Marquez’s introduction, which included the stupendous description above of the Colombian historical context at the time the story was published (apologies to non-Spanish readers).

And, while no one can say that Marquez’s shipwreck tale is bad, it’s a story of sun, thirst, hunger, dead fish. It does interweave an interesting message, however, of the difference between the fear of dying and the fear of death. 

Death, actually being dead, does not scare the narrator. Death is a form of salvation, the end of water hell. But the act of dying is immediate, terrifying hell. The options are not good: sharks, imagined carnivorous turtles, burnt lungs. 

Fear of going through such terrible experiences keeps the narrator from letting himself die, no matter how much he claims to want the out of death. As a result, he stays alive. 

With this story Marquez confirms that our extreme cowardice when faced with gore, pain, any form of death by dying  is so effective that it finally makes us brave.