Archive for November, 2008

Grandparents and Community

© Jim Korpi

After losing a grandmother, I’ve been thinking often about what indeed is lost in death and what may not be there in the distant relationships we seem to have with our grandparents, families and communities in modern times. As often is the case, I’ve found answers in the words of Wendell Berry. During an interview with Bruce Williamson in 1973 Berry talks about some of this.
Williamson: In your work you emphasize that the inhabitants of a region thrive on the daily interchange between old and young…yet many of these new communities are made up primarily of young people.
Berry:Yes, and that’s one of the worst possible kinds of segregation. This is probably the first generation not to have a history. They have their own immediate history but not one that comes from having older people around them. They’re coming up to adult life without the awareness that anyone has ever gone through their experiences before, much less learned anything from them. But I know people who as children had their grandparents’ memories in their memories, so that in a sense, as young people they had old minds. They had a kind of seasoning.
Williamson:You certainly talk about your own childhood in that way.
Berry:That’s right, although I can’t say that I’ve always agreed with all the older people I’ve grown up around. I’ve had the same struggles with them as most people who grow up. Nevertheless I owe a great debt to my elders and I agree with all of them on something or other. I think that my knowledge of them and my association with them has given me a sense of what is possible. There’s a sort of gift to humanity that each generation of young people renews. They feel in their bones that’s desirable. “It would be great if we could be free.” And the function of older people in society is not to oppose that, but to qualify it. To say, it would be great to be free…but there are certain ways to get free that are going to surprise you and make stern demands on you. The man who is most able usually turns out to be the man who’s most free, not the one who’s the most reckless. The old are the ones who will put their hands on you and say, “Well, be a little steady now,” or “No, you can’t quit, you’re not finished yet.”

Ticket Out

© Jim Korpi

At a Fourth of July cookout once in the backyard of a friend’s friend’s house, we were eating hamburgers in the grass and someone was talking about an idea they had for future financial freedom. He said it was his “ticket out.” I’ll always remember this phrase. It’s as if some ingenious idea, something found in a fleeting moment of brilliance, will be the a passport into the pearly gates of… of what or where? Out of the pressures of the world? Out of work? Out of the suburbs? What would you want a ticket out of? This particular guy had a nice place in Boston with a lovely wife. Where the ticket would admit him that is more fulfilling I’m not sure.

Rest in Peace

© Jim Korpi

Grammy Zina used to make macaroni and cheese just about every night she would watch us. I can remember her baby sitting Paul and I one night and watching Doctor Who in the living room. For some reason the show scared me so bad that I started screaming and crying. I can remember Grammy come running in and telling me it’s only a TV show and that the monsters were just fake. It’s comforting to have a Grammy who tells you monsters are fake.
Grammy passed away a few weeks ago and I drove home for the funeral. Funerals are always hard, especially when you haven’t seen the person who has passed away in quite some time. They look different than you remember them. The last time I saw Grammy she was happy to see us, even though she didn’t know who most of us were. Aging often takes the mind before the body. But Grammy was still sweet and offering of a drink. She will be missed but always remembered. Rest in peace, Grammy.

Comical Gas Prices

© Jim Korpi

It’s easy to laugh now that gas is the same price it was in 2004. It’s like buying a car yesterday for $20,000 and then today it’s on sale for $10,000. If you’re buying a car today you’re laughing about the sucker who bought yesterday. The cost of making the car hasn’t changed much in a day, so either someone was making a huge profit yesterday and less today, or someone is losing their job at the dealership today. Something tells me no one is losing their job due to the sale price.
If we carry the analogy over to gas, we can see no one is losing at Exxon/Mobil.
In August the New York Times reported a quarterly profit of $11.68 BILLION. Yes, that’s billion, and, yes, that’s profit! After all the employees and Iraqi guards are paid and tax incentives collected this one company made $11.68 BILLION in one quarter. Just as there are four quarters in a dollar, there are four in the financial year.
With all this said, gas prices depress me. Not only do I have few options for transportation (no trains, one bus a day, and my bike), but I’m left rolling the dice every time I cruise by the nearest oil dealer. This means innovation and incentive to change for both you, me and the people making the profits is on hold. I’m not saying this because I love to see social security recipients suffering with thicker blankets this winter, but more because I’ve realized the self-interest behind progress. By progress I don’t mean GDP, I mean GDH, Gross Domestic Happiness. This is a list of measurements to determine GDH or GNH (Gross National Happiness). How happy are we?

1. Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution
2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic
3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses
4. Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients
5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits
6. Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates
7. Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.

Walden’s Trash

“I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and threw them out the window in disgust.” – 1. Economy, Walden, Henry David Thoreau