My parents were deeply in love. For 25 years the sun of each revolved around the other. Through wars and depressions, births and deaths, fasts and feasts, they were each other's center of gravity.
When it came time to reproduce they were faithful to their heritage. First cousins should marry first cousins, the wise old greybeards said, and they complied.
This is the point at which the Wailers of Why step in. Why me? Why now? Those that are exceptionally vocal flood the media with complaints: why Obama? Why health care reform? Why no confederate flag? Why did Eve feed Adam a poisoned apple? Why can't we find Eden? There has to be someone to blame: it must be women, the essential Y-nots, that have driven us out of paradise. And weaker XY's who can't stand up for the glory of jocks everywhere. And African Americans, wherever they are born.
I know of no matriarch who wrote the story of the Garden. If she had, we might still be in Eden, plucking apples of knowledge from the trees of wisdom. There's no way of knowing, just as there is no way of satisfying the depths of despair of those who feel they're on the outside looking in. For the despair is fueled by fear, and until we address that fear head-on there can be no resolution. That fear, of the unfamiliar, of loss of control, of change, brooks no logic and supports no reasoning.
David Foster Wallace has written that it's “all about a kind of door. To envision us approaching and pounding on this door, increasingly hard pounding and pounding, not just wanting admission but needing it; we don't know what it is but we can feel it, this total desperation to enter, pounding and ramming and kicking. That, finally, the door opens, and it opens outward....We've been inside what we wanted all along.” John Daido Loori, Abbott of the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York, expresses it as, "Buried beneath countless layers of delusion, the truth of the universe is present. It is just that it needs to be discovered."*
What we can do, and must, is to ask instead “Why not?” There must be a leader out there who can think straight and speak charismatically, can inspire the mainstream of conservatism to join the way forward. Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and others are not the only voices of the Republican Party. But they will continue to be if we let them. Who out there can "just let go of the reference system"?*
Historically, when the voices of unreason prevail, when the fringes of insanity overtake the center, we have had reason to regret. Witchcraft trials, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Jim Crow laws – the list is far too long. When we say that homo sapiens is the only creature to ask why (Does the acorn ask why it falls? The lily why it wilts?) it is important to add that we also ask why not.
Why not a future brighter than the past? Why not freshen our inner spaces while we pursue the possibility of other intelligent creatures in the cosmos? Why not dinner with Michelle and leave Helen of Wasilla to her own devices?
I have spent the better part of three months obsessing over a new way of creating, without knowing why. These are bumpy images: can I straighten them out? Can I find a higher resolution? Suddenly it is clear that why not works better: why not leave the bumps and the grain and see what lies beyond? Why not discard old maps of vision and adopt a new vocabulary, a new way of thinking and being? Why not change the words of the dialog between us? Tom Stoppard said, “Words...They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos.... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect.”
Are there bumps on the doorstep of your life? Why not invite them in? Why not, as a recent Juicy Couture ad suggested, "Do the Don'ts"? Hey listen! I'll try. What about you?
c. Corinne Whitaker 2009