Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back

Pruning the apple trees is good for spurring more fruit production, they say. You cut back the branches leaving a sparser, leaner tree that lets in light and allows fewer diseases. So far I only have about ten trees that are big enough to require major cutting. I let trees under about three years just grow the way they want to. It's one of the seasonal farm chores that lets me feel like I am having a hand in the natural world's healing while I attempt to provide healthy food for my family. Meanwhile it's kind of ironic that the girls have both had gastroenteritis the last couple of days and are laid up sick and Michael looks like he's coming down with it this evening. So the mid-winter pruning is about manipulating nature to ensure health, and at the same time nature is manipulating right back at us. One step forward and two steps back, isn't that life? Lately it seems to me that the whole of civilization, if not evolution itself, is like a dance on the edge of a precipice and we never know when the stage will collapse below us. Meanwhile we keep our shoulder to the wheel, most of us struggling to avoid calamity from day to day and a few of us shooting to the top and flaming out with an extravagant, self-destructive arc like Whitney Houston - God bless her wherever she is tonight! All part of the same whirling, delusional ballet.

I just read an article by Robert Kagan in the Wall Street Journal, Why the World Needs America. His premise is that preparing and accomodating for a post American world order is a foolish thing to do and that instead we should be aiming to maintain our military predominance in order to ensure the global democratic order. In a way it is like pruning the apple trees. We just can't abandon the orchard and expect the trees to keep producing good fruit. I know it's a vision of benign interventionism that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama seem to be listening to, but to me it's all about keeping the soil healthy. If we don't improve our educational outcomes and jobs infrastructure, then we are going to have a top-heavy, over-extended military presence that will eventually topple like a dead tree.
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