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Sunday, July 21, 2013

These are the Voyages…

Happy belated Apollo Day! Yesterday was the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. I’m one of many who believe that July 20th should be a national holiday. For us, the space program, civil rights struggle, and the anti-war and environmental movements were of a piece. Humanity appeared to be growing up. We were cleaning up our act, seeing others with more compassion, and were willing to sacrifice for the hard jobs. With our sights on Justice, and the glorious adventure that the Universe presented, there was nothing that we couldn’t do together. The Treyvon Martin debacle is just one example of what we’ve lost since those days.

This song still makes me cry-
I’ve had two personal voyages centering here as well. One began a year ago today. I’ve been saying for years that no matter how bad things get, there will be people alive in a century- after all, if that isn’t true, what’s the use of trying? BUT, those people will only have the tools and stories that we send down to them to work with. So, I went on a long drive through several states and provinces to see what some of us are preparing to pass down. I took hundreds of pictures, got hours of interviews, and saw sights both hopeful and depressing. I slept in cheap motels, in cabins in the woods, and on couches in both remote farmhouses and inner-city apartments. I compiled a pretty decent little memoir/travelogue, but it’s lacking the “zing” to make it really work. I’d been wrestling with it for months before it dawned on me to cast it as a letter to those future people. That’s the massive rewrite that I’m working on now.

It occurs to me that those descendants may have trouble believing many of the things I write: “Do you seriously mean that you took off on a journey of thousands of miles, counting on having food, fuel, and places to sleep? Do you mean that you weren’t afraid of being waylaid by bandits, or picked up by some sheriff who needed another body on his chain gang? You must be kidding!” All of those things have been rare in history, and they can be lost again. If you’d told me that in 1969 I’d have laughed in your face.

Then there’s my current personal journey. Yes, I have colon cancer. I feel that I’m standing in the lobby of a big building marked “CANCER.” Tomorrow I go in for surgery, which will mean getting on the elevator over which I have no control. I may get off again on Level One, which will mean that the whole deal is over and done with this week. It could be Two, Three or even Four, which would mean all-out medical war and saying my goodbyes.

In practical terms, I’m in the second day of a two-day prep regime. That means that I’ve had no solid food since Friday afternoon, and must drink several glasses of a salty laxative solution every two hours. It wouldn’t be too bad, except that my guts feel like a nest of snakes half of the time. The “cuttlefish” responds to this by sending out little icy spiky pain balls every few minutes. My chemistry is way off, leading to grotesque mood swings. Anything remotely sentimental gets me crying.

I’m not much afraid of dying. I’ve done that before. What I’m afraid of is not finishing my work.


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