Monday, March 14, 2011

Apocalyptic Hope

On Saturday, I wrote a long, rambling post about the earthquake and tsunami, and about my forays into the art world, and about creating in the face of tragedy. On my Facebook page, where I linked to the post, my friend wrote that "every act of apocalypse must be balanced with creation."

It's beginning to look like we'll need lots of acts of creation to balance the apocalypse under way in the Pacific.

I continue to vacillate between hope and despair. Yesterday, as my spouse and I fixed dinner and listened to the news, I said, "You know, I really didn't expect to be hearing about nuclear reactor meltdowns again in our lifetimes." I foolishly thought that after Chernobyl, more stringent safety regulations had been put into effect. And if those regulations fail in Japan, a nation that is more careful about nuclear issues than any other, none of us are safe.

My Apocalypse Gal side has enjoyed Martha Silano's posts about reactor meltdowns and linkages with other things she's been reading. Jeannine Hall Gailey has been contemplating the connections between Japan, anime, and apocalypse in this post. And Kathleen Kirk has interesting thoughts on her form of prayer.

I've spent the last few mornings waking up and thinking, yup, I'm still here. It reminds me of when I took classes in college that explored nuclear war and other environmental hazards, and I'd be almost too afraid to sleep. And yet, the sun still rose in the morning.

I've told my students that I majored in English and Sociology because I fully expected Ronald Reagan to start a nuclear war, so I didn't think it really mattered what I majored in, so I might as well study what I loved. They always look at me as if I'm psychotic, yet I know that we were awfully close to nuclear war during most of my college years.

I've written before about how my parents got married right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Perhaps I come from people who are apocalyptically hopeful, apocalyptic hope as genetic trait?

But I do believe that most of humanity tends towards optimism. If we didn't, we'd just go ahead and end it, wouldn't we?

We may be needing that apocalyptic hope now more than ever. As if melting reactors and chaos in the Middle East weren't bad enough, many of us here at home are living in municipalities and states that are running out of money. Those of us who had clawed our way to a middle-class existence now find ourselves having to justify our existence to legislators who don't think we're worth the money.

Those of us who are in the education field may need to gird ourselves with more apocalyptic hope than we've ever had before. Dean Dad offers this post about efforts in various states to undercut higher education. Those of us lucky enough to still have our full-time higher ed teaching jobs may find ourselves asked to do more (with ever less resources) and make more sacrifices. I remember when I got my first job at a community college during the depths of a severe recession (1992), and I got looks/comments of sympathy and horror. But I was happy to have that job. And now, I know lots of folks with PhDs and MFAs who would be deliriously happy to have that kind of job.

And yet, even if we get those jobs, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with a full-time teaching load. Dr. Crazy offers a post that's full of good advice, and not just for folks in English departments. She talks about how to balance teaching and research interests, but her insights are applicable to those of us who struggle with how to teach and write poems (or paint or write novels or quilt or create multimedia spectaculars . . .)--for those of us who struggle with questions of balance and prioritizing of any kind, I think, but particularly for those of us with demanding jobs.

As I bounced from optimism to despair this week-end, I worked on finishing my book trailer. I'll reveal it here tomorrow--you'll see it first, so that if you have suggestions, you can let me know before I upload it to YouTube (I've never uploaded to YouTube before, so I feel a bit fretful about that--but surely it can't be hard, given how many people upload their videos, right?). Tune in tomorrow--more apocalyptic hope underway!


Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

Yes, I think the more you know about nuclear reactions, the more nervous for Japan you feel right now.
It does seem like a pile of trouble this year, worries apocalytpic and petty both. How to go on and do something positive to help the world in these times - that is the struggle.

Sandy Longhorn said...

I love your reasoning for choosing your major; it makes perfect sense to me. And isn't this how we should all live, as if the apocalypse were tomorrow? Otherwise, aren't we just wasting time?

Kathleen said...

Appreciating your apocalyptic hope. I remember urging complete world disarmament when I was in high school...and then watching what we did next. And some years later realizing that my college students expected the world to explode in their lifetimes. They smoked and were without apocalyptic hope. Some of them. And then there was more change.