[by Charles Cameron — the difficulty of difference, plus a poem for M ]
When you have a worldview, it all fits together pretty seamlessly. You see a map of record high temperatures such as the one above, swiped from emptywheel today, and it’s either global warming, and maybe:
this is getting to a point where the terror industry and the homeland security industry, generally, needs to come to grips with the fact that the biggest immediate threat to the “homeland” is not terrorism or drugs or even hackers, but climate change…
or it’s the hot face of an angry God:
And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.
– Revelation 16.8
I read the Book of Revelation in much the same spirit in which I read William Blake or WB Yeats — as figurative, imaginative thinking rather than future history. Record high temperatures, rising sea levels, dazzling storms, wildfires and the like I tend to view as natural phenomena belonging to the realm of science as far as causation is concerned, and to first responders and FEMA in terms of crisis response.
But they’re still awesome, the poet in me still stirs…
What concerns me here, though, is not to explain my own position nor to refute or approve either the prophetic or scientific explanations, but to emphasize that when you have a worldview, you have explanations ready-made in place for (almost) whatever happens.
And that goes for the Taliban, for Al Qaida, for the Brotherhood, for Christians of the Dominionist or Soon Coming or Episcopalian varieties, for Buddhists, for Scientists, and for many who are braiding their own, picking up different strands in different places as they go along.
If someone else’s worldview is not your worldview, it may very well be as different as the world in which God is blasting His displeasure at Washington DC is different from the world in which Washington DC needs to do something about global warming before nature re-balances our ecosystem in a manner we find decidedly inhospitable.
In a shared worldview, you can talk face to face. Across worldviews, you can only talk worldview to worldview — and the “other” worldview may well be unable to make sense of what you say or do, or take a meaning from it that has serious negative consequences for you in your world.
Just yesterday, Gulliver tweeted:
I know this sounds crazy for a defense analyst, but sometimes I put myself in another country’s place and think about how it must see U.S.
— Gulliver (@InkSptsGulliver) June 29, 2012
But it’s true, as Paul Van Riper said and I know, I’ve quoted him before, but this is good:
What we tend to do is look toward the enemy. We’re only looking one way: from us to them. But the good commanders take two other views. They mentally move forward and look back to themselves. They look from the enemy back to the friendly, and they try to imagine how the enemy might attack them. The third is to get a bird’s-eye view, a top-down view, where you take the whole scene in. The amateur looks one way; the professional looks at least three different ways.
The thing is: how do you get inside a magical head with a rational mind?
It’s not impossible, mind you — but it takes great strength of imagination.
That’s the point I’m trying to make here. Done. Finished.
And this is for Madhu, who encourages me to post my poems:
There are no words for the stride of thunder –
pounding stride of clouds across a drumhead of plains,
the traveling downpour, drenching
the dry gullies and passing, words cannot
see nor show what the eye sees, the great lights
thrown, the target trees scorched and left —
but for man who lives in the path of thunder,
wrestling a little grass for soup from the parched land,
feeling thrum of a god’s advance under bare feet,
seeing the lowering god with his bright arms striding,
sensing the god’s strong coming, longing
for the fresh grasses after the storm’s passing,
the calm that follows the god: fearing
the god’s blasting, scorching, man’s words are prayer.