Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wheel of Fortune

We were coming back from the Indianapolis blogfest and all night car wash, and since driving I-71 north from Columbus is mostly “hit cruise control and settle in behind a truck” driving, I had some time to chew over some of the conversation.

Specifically, I was thinking about some of the things James Rummel was telling me about his experiences helping people who have been brutally victimized by some of society’s worst predators. It’s humbling when you meet someone who does good things and refuses to despair over the wickedness he sees every day. Me, I tend to fall into moping if my shoelace breaks.

But talking to James was enlightening, and it helped me gain a deeper realization of something I knew intellectually, but never seriously internalized – I am incredibly lucky. I exist in the middle of the American middle class – the graviest of the gravy trains in the history of the planet. Hell, if I had a blindfold, a million darts, and a map of the world, nine-hundred-thousand throws would land me in a place worse off than here and now, and a lot of those would be traumatically worse.

Coming out of my reverie, I look up to check the rear view mirror and I can see someone driving shiny new Audi and working up to pass me. Nope, the left hand lane traffic is too fast, they’re going to have to wait, and I can see the black car shudder as the driver’s impatience gets transmitted through the steering wheel. Sorry friend, I’m not going to move up and crowd a tractor trailer just so you can get your autobahn on – you can wait.

The Audi driver found a solution – pass on the right, eighty miles an hour past me and my eighteen-wheeled friend in heavy traffic and the devil take the hindmost.

I glanced over to see the car and driver – blond, young, pretty, Maryland plates (what she’s doing in flyover county, I don’t know), and to top it all off a matched pair of “Obama!” signs in the rear window, all heading to the glitzmall just outside of Columbus.

Which brings me to the title of today’s post, wheel of fortune, not the game show, the original thing.

Our medieval forbears had had no microscopes, telescopes, or scientific apparatus with which to view their world. Their means of putting order to reality consisted of their senses and some well-developed metaphors.

We like to flatter ourselves for our sophistication, and tend to think of the people of previous centuries as dim-witted step children to the greatness which is us. But we came from them, and much of their thought lives on in us unchanged and the wheel of fortune is a powerful representative of that.

What goes up must come down, here today, gone tomorrow, and what goes around comes around. The world works that way, they knew it a thousand years ago, and in our cells we know it today.

So what is going in the mind of my “too cute to care, too blond to die” roadmate, that makes her believe the change part of “Hope and Change” is going to benefit her? What possible adjustment in her cushy upper berth of life is going to make it better? When luck and genes have put you in a place where your biggest worry is missing the exit to the mall, would you roll the dice to see if something better will come along? Does she not know she is at the top of the wheel with nowhere to go but down?

After Mr. Rummel gave just a small glimpse of just how bad some people can be, I shook my head an said, “Sometimes I just don’t understand my species.”

Now more than ever.


Carteach said...

You are back!

I enjoyed chatting with you at Indy... and I hope you get into blogging your thoughts.

As for people..... I have given up waiting for them to make sense. Used to get headaches trying to figure them out. Not any more...
Now I reserve effort and spend it on my students, who need it, and it uses up all my time doing so.

No... people are for the most part irrational and thoughtless (literally) like the Maryland blond sharing your road.

Kevin said...

“Sometimes I just don’t understand my species.”

Me either, brother. Me either.

BobG said...

I gave up trying to fully understand people; I just take it for granted that at least half of them are probably people I wouldn't want to know or be around, that is why I tend to value those who are on the other half when I meet them.

Willorith said...

For the first time in the history of man on Earth, a nation is so wealthy that the average citizen can get fat. We wring our hands and sob that our children are fat. The problem of fat children will be replaced by the problem of "what are we going to eat today?" in short order, if the problem of how are we going to keep the people that hate us from destroying the gift our fathers left for us, is not dealt with.

Home on the Range said...

We were left a remarkable legacy in the flag our founding fathers raised and it seems we've interwoven it with shortsighted thinking and greed. We give billions to countries that hate us, and wonder why they hate us even more.

Capitalism is now almost considered a crime. And those that work hard to make that effort to make something of their lives are swindled to cover the lazy.

I go on, do my job, clean my guns while I'm still allowed to have them, and treasure the few folks I know that still have that courage and spark that made America what it was and can be.

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