There are bare winter days when the sea is kin
to mountain country, crouching in grey plumage,
a brief minute blue, long hours with waves like pale
lynxes vainly seeking hold in the beach gravel.
On such a day wrecks might come from the sea searching
for their owners, settling in the town’s din, and drowned
crews blow landward, thinner than pipe smoke.
(The real lynxes are in the north, with sharpened claws
and dreaming eyes. In the north, where day
lives in a mine both day and night.
Where the sole survivor may sit
at the borealis stove and listen
to the music of those frozen to death.)
But I think there are limits to how safe a progressive society can be when its conception of the individual seems to be shrinking and shrinking. It’s very hard to respect the rights of someone you do not respect. I think that we have almost taught ourselves to have a cynical view of other people. So much of the scientism that I complain about is this reductionist notion that people are really very small and simple. That their motives, if you were truly aware of them, would not bring them any credit. That’s so ugly. And so inimical to the best of everything we’ve tried to do as a civilization and so consistent with the worst of everything we’ve ever done as a civilization.
[…] To the extent that conservatives still defend the drug war (and there are fewer and fewer willing to do so), this is usually the way they go about it. Their argument is that drug use enslaves drug users with addiction, and that were drugs to be made legal, we’d all be robbed of the benefits of living in a populace of responsible citizens. Use and addiction would be common, thus shredding the moral fabric (or some other vague metaphor) that binds us all together. These arguments have been rehashed again since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. (See also Davids Brooks and Frum.)
I think there’s good evidence that this is wrong on its face. Jacob Sullum’s book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, for example, presents compelling empirical evidence that the vast, vast majority of people who use drugs—even hard drugs—do so recreationally, don’t become addicts, and inflict little to no harm on those around them. But even if we accept the argument that legalization could lead to widespread use, significantly more addiction, and whatever itinerant harm comes with both, these arguments almost always fail to acknowledge the catastrophic harm inflicted by drug prohibition itself. If we’re truly concerned about policies that “degrade human nature,” “damage and undermine families,” and “deprive the nation of competent, self-governing citizens,” it seems like we should consider not only the effects of illicit drugs themselves, but also the effects of prohibiting them.
I remember there was that series of catastrophic - that catastrophic time of 9/11, and then going to war and then Katrina, and these things that kept happening. And at that same time, I started to lose - I have several friends that died all at once. And I found myself compelled, like this weird, shameful compulsion to draw cute animals. That was all I could stand to draw. You know, just cry and draw cute animals.
And I’m drawing dancing dogs with crowns on, you know? And, like, really friendly ducks. But I found this monkey, this meditating monkey, and I found that once - when I drew that monkey, it’s not that it fixed the problem. But it did shift it a little bit, or provide me some kind of relief. And that’s when I started to think, maybe that’s what images do, because I believe in all my - with all my heart they have an absolute biological function, that they’re not decoration. They are not an elective, that they have a function.
And when I saw that just making these lines for this monkey over and over again, it reminded me very much of being 12 - about 12 and falling in love with the song that you couldn’t stop playing over and over and over again because it fixed something or it made the difficult time more bearable. So I am starting to look for places in the ways that people do that. And one of the ways people do that is in doodling. You’ll see people do it all the time. And I think what they’re doing is making a very boring meeting, for example, more bearable.
Even just by - just by - it’s just a micro shift, but it’s enough so that it can make it so they - you know, you don’t - you can stand to stay there and you won’t lose your job.
My gift for the child:
No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –
The workshy, women, wogs,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.
Right, said the baby. That was roughly
What we had in mind.
There are books in which the footnotes or comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin are more interesting than the text. The world is one of these books.
Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it? … Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm.