I can think of many interpretations for Proust’s words – and you, no doubt, could add some of your own – but, at this time when we are inundated with visual images of of the Egyptian Revolution, the Libyan Civil War, the uprisings in Syria, and the multitude of political conflicts in the Middle East and throughout Africa … it seems to me that it is incumbent upon us and upon our leaders to discover new ways of reacting and interacting, discovering new paradigms for new times.
Army Corps of Engineers Major General Michael J. Walsh Commander of the Mississippi Valley Divisions speaking to New Orleans District Commander Col. Ed Fleming by the Morganza Floodway that opened Saturday May 14, 2011 in Batchelor, Louisiana to lower the height of the Mississippi River and the potential flooding of Baton Rouge, and New Orleans
And if the international landscape of 2011 were not as overwhelming as it is, we only have to look at what’s happening with (1) the rippling effects of the current economic turmoil to (2) the most horrific scenes of the worst floods to hit the Central United States in more than seventy years.
We see the flood waters swallowing up homes, farms and roads as the Mississippi River swells to six times its normal width. We watch as people abandon their homes, their businesses, their earthly possessions destroyed.
The Associated Press quotes Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: “About 2,500 people and 2,000 structures are within the spillway and another 22,500 and 11,000 buildings are vulnerable to the rising water.” Yesterday, Louisiana’s Morganza Floodway was opened, sending torrents of brown water from the Mississippi River into the Atchafalaya River basin, a move designed to spare Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Once again, we are witnessing nature’s fury testing our ability to survive its wrath. For those of us who are out of harms way – at least for the moment – we must pray for those who are being dislocated and traumatized, not knowing what the next hour or the next day will bring, and, worse still, not knowing whether they will ever be able to return to a life that even resembles normalcy.
Is all the harm we are doing to our environment coming back to bite us? Whether or not we believe in the consequences of the much debated issue of “global warming,” it is true that increased moisture does cause natural disasters such as flooding. That being said, surely we must find ways – or in the Proustian sense – new eyes with which to deal with our various landscapes.
And the landscapes are not only geographic and political. They include the more private ones within each of our lives, within each of our families. For it is not just natural disasters that come back to bite us! We need new eyes to see the harm done to children today who are being denied the advantage of a proper education due to cuts in state budgets. We need new eyes, new ways of helping young parents who are struggling to figure out how best to succeed should they be experiencing the loss of income or are without health insurance should they or their children be confronted with illness.
As a society, we cannot allow the torrents of emotional and physical stress to destroy the spirit and courage needed for us to survive, walking our path with wisdom and dignity.
So, yes, in this voyage of discovery in our lives, we must find new eyes to help guide us.
*You can hear me talk about my memoir FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS in a 5-minute audio recording by Bookpad, “an audio series of interviews with writers of lasting value …” at http://www.bookpod.org/loving-mentally-ill-mother/