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One of the live oaks that bless my home

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why such a long silence?

I am guilty of not writing for almost five months, and I feel bad.  Teaching, being a department chair, a fundraiser in chief, getting major research contracts started, trying to write those papers, appear in public, etc., while remodeling my home and trying to spend some time with my family and friends did this to me.

And then I had to remind myself that I must think positively, so that I would not scare my readers and listeners more than necessary.  There has been enough bad news and failures around us, people are stunned and scared, and the last thing they need is more scaremongering.  Let's leave it to Newt.

On the opposite extreme, I was really unnerved by the sunshine forecasts of ever-increasing hydrocarbon production and prosperity in the U.S.  - with no extra effort. These forecasts are based on self-serving delusions, denial and ignorance, and are incredibly dangerous to the well-being of our great country. 

So how do I become a reassuring guide, who at the same time does not avoid  exposing the guided to difficult and very scary truths?

My problem is not new. Here is the end of Canto II of Inferno by Dante Alighieri, written in the year 1300, or so.  Dante is willing himself to learn about Hell first hand and losing his courage at the very beginning.   He is rescued, and he has this to say about regaining courage and power of will:

Such I became with my exhausted strength,
  And such good courage to my heart there coursed,
  That I began, like an intrepid person:
"O she compassionate, who succoured me,
  And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon
  The words of truth which she addressed to thee!
Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed
  To the adventure, with these words of thine,
  That to my first intent I have returned.
Now go, for one sole will is in us both,
  Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou."
  Thus said I to him; and when he had moved,
I entered on the deep and savage way.

(Succoured means helped or aided.)

Trying to be a Dante's student, this is what I said in an interview for The Nation.  I think that's a good start.