What fun America is!
It has taken three months of frontier life here on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico for me to realize this. I have gained this insight because life on this desert-like peninsula surprisingly intersected with the written thoughts of a 17th century philosopher I had never read before: Spinoza.
This gentle, sophisticated, intellectually rebellious young man from a classical Jewish society broke out of the mold of his people in such a startling way in the 16 hundreds that the Synagogue fathers actually excommunicated him forever from Judaism.
How did this fact incline me to view America not so seriously as before, but to recognize its inherent humor? Quite simple, actually. Spinoza in the 1600’s was one of the first to burst the theological bubble of Judaism, Christianity, even Islam. He did this by proclaiming with great gusto and logic his philosophy that “God” means exactly the same thing as “Nature.” The terms became totally interchangeable in his view. I propose you read him if you never have. No dogma in his thinking.
He made so much sense to me that I realized life here on this sea, facing this desert landscape, was an immediate return from the chaos of U.S. city life to Nature. Yes to that underlying fact of the solid universe and our insignificant little earth, being (to us at least) the backbone of all existence. I’ve lived in cities all of my life. This re-contact with land, sea, air, stars, wind, sand, sun – all this let me look back on America with fresher eyes.
Our freedom of thought, our ability to say publicly before everyone almost anything we wish, no matter how insane it may seem, is our most liberating trait, and simultaneously projects an almost zoo-like circus of our society. When our country actually lets people say what they wish, it unloads a laugh a minute for a long time.
So, I don’t see us heading toward any doomsday, no matter who captures what nomination for the presidency on either side. I like what Kevin Spacey the actor said recently. He proclaimed in a TV interview he feels America’s history shows that finally, no matter who says what on the campaign trail, we Americans, one way or another, usually live through the many faults of our governments. That’s not a quote, just a paraphrase, by the way.
The result of this bizarre election, according to Spacey, is that we dummies down here in the trenches of daily life, through the process of our strange democracy, will end up OK again, as we always have. We’ll pick through all the goofball sayings of all the candidates, and one will make a little more probable sense than the others, and eventually we’ll elect one, and a hundred years from now will still be plugging along like Casey at the bat.
Objectively, I’m sure that’s a hard premise to prove, but emotionally it sounds alright. And, after all, what makes humans and governments and the whole ball game continue on and on if it’s not emotions. It sure doesn’t seem to run on intelligence or common sense.