I often find myself these days feeling like I should apologize to every child I meet. Although not a parent, if I were, I’d apologize for bringing him or her into this world that we have so badly screwed up on so many levels. Imagine offering a child an estate with the house falling into ruin, the well poisoned, and the land’s fertility stripped by petrochemical fertilizers. “Global collapse of human civilization seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society,” reported the Inter Press Service this February. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/01/experts-fear-collapse-of-global-civilisation/
But in order to avoid plunging myself—and anyone near me—into catatonic depression, let me offer an antidote. Recently Anne and I visited with our adoptive nephew Christopher McLachlan, who at eight years old is currently re-reading the entire Harry Potter series. This amazing little boy seems to have adopted his father’s capacity for memorizing. I’ll never forget the day Brian plunked him down on his sign shop work bench and said, “Recite Tyger, Tyger for Uncle Art, Christopher.” And sure enough, he recited word for word William Blake’s classic poem. Christopher was not quite four years old at the time. Maybe this is what they mean by an ‘indigo child’?
On this more recent occasion, Christopher brightened a very bad week for me when he said, “I know, let’s send Stephen Harper a dungbomb, and then an angry Hippogriff, and a Blast-Ended Screwt, and Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon, and then…” proceeding through the entire list of JK Rowling’s imaginary beasties. As he did so, his eyes flashed with delight and he giggled uncontrollably. He is at that age when magic is still a very real phenomenon.
Ironically, the late comedian George Carlin’s rant about the arrogance of humanity trying to save the planet also lightened my load considerably. “And the greatest arrogance of all—save the planet,” Carlin quips. “Are these fucking people kidding me? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet!” As an environmentalist I find myself cringing through some of this rant while at the same time getting some much-needed comic relief. After all, we’re in trouble when we can’t laugh at ourselves. Watch Carlin’s amazing performance for yourselves but it’s worth repeating the gist of his comedic argument:
“The planet is fine—the people are fucked. Big difference. Think about it: the planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here—what? A hundred thousand, maybe two hundred thousand years? And we have the conceit to think that somehow we’re a threat? The planet has been through a lot worse than us. The planet isn’t going anywhere—we are! We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks, we’re going away. Just another closed-end biological mistake, just another evolutionary cul-de-sac. I think we’re part of a greater wisdom than we’ll ever understand—a higher order, call it what you want. You know what I call it? The Big Electron. It doesn’t punish, it doesn’t reward, it just is, like us—for a little while.”
Well, okay that kind of brings us back full circle on my opening argument, but with some humour at least. And the innate ability of a child to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Christopher, this poem is for you—thank you.
Little Laughing Soul
with inspiration from George Carlin
O, little laughing soul of sunlit eyes,
joking that you’d unleash on Stephen Harper
all the nasties of Harry Potter,
starting with a dungbomb,
you are a ray of starlight slicing open
the dark that weighs me down.
Glaciers are calving stillborn
into oil-blue depths. When that crash
resounds no more, the silence
will ache through all time.
O mountain of snow and ice
that held back burning skies.
What sleek souls still crest the foam,
drift dreaming across ocean floor?
And how will they remember us?
A rain of stabbing lances
thrown from the sky, blind makers
of bloody water, cloud shadows
blotching the sun, a blink
of Earth’s eye, then gone.
O ship of ice cracking in the glare,
Titanic of generations.
O snow spirit, all rippling sinew
and hungry claw. O wise one—
empath and acrobat of the seas,
remember us with pity,
love us with deserved scorn,
for we are strangers in this realm,
our path across this world
jewelled and deadly.
©2013 Sean Arthur Joyce