Hawthorne Hill: Kale and Gladiola Thoughts Lead to Reflections on Humankind

Up On Hawthorne Hill by Richard DeRosa

Kale and Gladiola Thoughts
Lead to Reflections on Humankind

From my study window I can just make out the withered, bedraggled remains of one of our kale plants. Otherwise, all is snow-mantled and covered up and tucked in for the winter. Down in the barn, where I hung out for a few minutes yesterday staring at the bundled glad bulbs drooping from nails in the rafter, my thoughts turned to, well, the indescribably self-destructive instincts that humanity insists on turning upon itself. Not all that sure what dry glad bulbs and weather-beaten kale have to do with humankind’s worst inflictions upon itself, but there must be some sort of synaptic thing going on because I often find myself ruminating on things existential when in the company of produce.

It reminds me of the time quite a few years ago that I voiced an interest in attending a Buddhist retreat of some sort. My better half nixed that idea by reminding me, as if I did not know it, that I was strange enough already—no need to feed the beast.

So, what existential conundrums might I be thinking about? Frankly, nothing much about human behavior surprises me anymore. I remain optimistic about our chances of pulling out of the many quagmires in which we seem intent on drowning ourselves. But a hell of a tough road lies ahead if this species will, as Faulkner put it years ago, prevail.

Probably not in my lifetime. But like most parents and grandparents, the nature of the world our kids will inherit is worthy of concern.

In the normal course of our planetary lives, there are floods, fires, famines and a whole host of natural occurrences that plague us and often take many lives. This lovely globe of ours provides us with a wealth of natural disasters that test our survival skills. Through our collective ingenuity we manage to get by, even improve the state of things. Despite this array of normally occurring challenges, we insist on remaining our own worst enemies. We fight each other over religion. One country decides to take over another by destroying it. We devote money and resources not to finding ways of making sure that everyone has a chance to live a good life, but to build bombs and drones and tanks and missiles that kill indiscriminately. In this regard, Russia’s senseless invasion of Ukraine stands out as the most vivid example, but looking around the world, it is easy to find egregious examples of humankind’s propensity toward cruelty, even downright barbarism. It is easy to suggest that we get our collective act together, but that is not enough. The good news is that more good people are doing the work that needs to be done than the bad, who seem to crowd the newspaper headlines every morning. Of course, the press, especially the TV people, loves nothing more than glorifying the negative. News has become little more than self-serving drama.

Peace on earth is a noble goal for which to strive. One thing I know for sure is that workable, viable solutions rest not on the shoulders of egomaniacal politicians, but within the hearts and minds and actions of individuals, each one of us finding ways to contribute in some small way to our collective weal. It is possible to care deeply about one’s own life and family and friends while at the same time doing something to help others. I have no idea how to subdue the powers of evil that exist now and probably always will.

There is no question in my mind that there are just some people and groups for whom evil and the will to power are their only moral fuel. But drones and missiles and tanks will not win the day. Only individuals like you and me can bring about meaningful change by virtue of our actions and the ways in which we conduct our daily lives. Forget the Beltway.


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