Dark side of the sun: A fate that never turns aside

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

Henry David Thoreau, who saw the need a century and a half ago for creating power from tides and wind and sun, wrote: “We have constructed a Fate that never turns aside.” Thoreau’s omnivorous Fate perfectly foreshadows the current crisis of worldwide species and habitat destruction, and the scientific certainty of calamitous climate change.

So, why do we have so much trouble turning aside? From its beginnings, it's been one mistake after another for America. Nobody could see the land whole, and, wilderness or garden or however they looked at it, everybody wanted it all for themselves anyway. Before they were the Russians, the Russians discovered America; but those aboriginal groups mistakenly thought they were just out for a walk. More than 10,000 years ago, the proto-Russkies crossed the Bering Strait land bridge — and the rest isn’t history, it's a tragedy of errors. Whoever they were, they weren’t Indians, but when Columbus bumped into the Arawaks on the barren Caribbean islands, that’s what he called them, and he died thinking he was right, as so many after him would die in complete ignorance of the real if unofficial facts.

The Spanish came and found gold, lots of it, but it wasn’t enough to just steal it from the Aztecs and Incas, they had to go wandering around America for centuries too, mistaken in their belief that El Dorado was forever another range or two farther on, just past the Fountain of Youth. The French thought they could live peaceably with the Russians or whoever these woodland tribes were, and teach them God’s truths and correct their errancies, but they were wrong. The Dutch, the British, the French, and the Italians flying under other flags thought that Hudson Bay or the Hudson River or the insufficiently mighty James River undoubtedly led onward to the Northwest Passage, but they were so wrong it's almost hilarious. The tribes of original inhabitants thought their Great Spirit would protect their land and their way of life, but they were also wrong, and their trust was more tragic. Englishmen thought they had a right to claim all of the land and measure it and grant it to other Englishmen, and the Colonists and new Americans thought they had a right to break their optimistic maps up into lots and ranges and sections, but they were wrong — but that didn’t stop them from measuring Ohio and Nebraska and Oregon and calling it all their own, even after they had previously deeded away giant parcels of everything in between to those post-Columbian Indians. And then Americans decided that it was the nation’s manifest destiny to claim and exploit all the land between the oceans, because it was the young country’s favorite thing to take whatever it wanted and call it freedom. But they were wrong. And they thought a million other strange things: that slaves would be a nifty idea, say, or that a rising tide would lift all boats, or that what their pets needed next was, I don’t know, what? — a nuclear-powered dog collar or some other godawful waste of natural resources and human ingenuity? But, they were wrong, they were wrong, they were wrong.

Not only wrong, but stubborn, vain, greedy and willful. Why listen, when you’re always right? Even though the “Indians” taught that the land is everyone’s and no one’s, part and parcel, mirror and body of a Great Spirit connecting everything. The Navaho chanted, “The Sun its life am I; White corn, its life am I; Yellow corn, its life am I; The corn beetle its life am I.” The Sage of Concord, R.W. Emerson, replied, “I am moved by strange sympathies.” And Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.” And Chief Seattle said, “The Earth is precious to the Great Spirit, and to harm the Earth is to heap contempt on its Creator.”

And, Chief Seattle was right, and Emerson was moving in the right direction, and Catherine of Siena had open eyes throughout her journey and the Navaho chanted the truth, and still do, if anyone would listen. But not us, no, not the people who constructed the Fate that never turns aside. And even had it ears, money still would not listen. And had they souls, corporations still would sell them for 30 pieces of silver and a sheet of paper upon which attorneys had written certain portentous incantations. And had they wisdom, Americans would see all this, all of this error and errancy, and — turn aside themselves.

So, what are you waiting for? Start with Thoreau’s understanding that way more than enough is too much, a quantity multiplied by the billions that has by now been certifiably proven unnecessary and unsustainable. Know that you are already incredibly rich and lucky, even at your poorest. Remember that Gandhi owned only a loincloth and a rice bowl, and he did all right. Work your way toward the truth from there.

Mike is planning a trip to all 21 Concords in the country this summer, from where he has promised to report back on some of those Americans who have turned aside, or whose simplifying technologies may allow the world to do so soon.



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