Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Two Portholes in Our Stateroom

It's been a month or so since I posted on this blog, something neither planned nor easily explained. At first I thought of it as caused by a temporary numbing of the creative hemisphere in my brain. I think, however, a more accurate admission would attribute it to sloth. I can live with that, having suffered from that malady on other occasions.

A few of you have made gentle inquiries, hoping I wasn't giving up the blog. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, and no I haven't given it up. Apart from that concern, however, it does not appear that a dearth of my postings has caused any sustainable damage to Western civilization. Politicians, diplomats, and generals seem to have been filling the global destruction vacuum anyway.

However, the past two weeks of non-postings are more defensible than those preceding them. Over that time my wife and I went on our first cruise, sailing from Seattle up the Inside Passage to Alaska. I did not access the Internet at all during that time--something I found more tolerable than I thought would be the case. We've now returned, and there are fresh thoughts bouncing around in my head.

The cruise generated a lot of things to ponder, and I will probably do so here in the next few days. But today I want to lift up one image that plagued me throughout the week on the ship.

If you have ever cruised you know that the accommodations are fairly compact. Our "stateroom" was fine, located on the starboard side of the ship, with a fairly large porthole opening out to the sea. It was a room with a view.

But there was another porthole in our room, opening a different window to the world. That was a 20 inch flatscreen television that could be tuned to CNN, which provided 24 hour coverage of the war in the Middle East.

That created a jarring mixed message in a very graphic way. On the one hand, we looked through our porthole on a crisp northern morning and saw the massive glaciers that depict something of the longevity of our planet, its immense crust and its geological complexity. At the same time, the other "window" brought frightening images of the fragility of our world, its dependence on natural resources in a war-torn land, and the stunning speed with which hostilities can wrench us from our complacency and our illusions of peace.

I am not sure if the conflicting images left me hopeful or despairing. In one sense the glaciers have withstood the ravages of time and of human foolishness, giving reasons to hope. But in another way, the ferocity of weapons now available to our warring planet is frightening to behold, signaling that the earth's delicate balance is very much at a tipping point.

As I reflected on these disparate images I noticed one other thing. I was unable to open either window, thereby relegating me to observer status. I couldn't touch the world on the other side of the two portholes. I was left to either watch or close the drapes and/or turn off the television. Kind of a helpless feeling.

I'm off the boat now. Maybe I can do something on behalf of the Alaskan glacier, preferring as I do its majestic hope to the despairing wail of the air raid sirens in Lebanon and Israel.

Take a cruise sometime. It generates strange musings, but the food is great. And it's energizing for slothful bloggers.

Technorati Tags: