When I was a teacher, one of my students’ favourite outdoor chase/tag games was based on the food chain. Carnivores ran after herbivores who ran after the plants who had to wait within the boundary marked by a Hula hoop. A game for every personality type in a classroom. I never liked the predator/prey aspect to the activity but at least it started a discussion later in the classroom on the weblike nature of the environment.
The way that all species interact in a complex manner of energy transfer is becoming evident to all of us as we share information about climate change consequences. We are becoming educated to terms like keystone species. We are learning through shocking experience of the close knit connections along the web of life. We are not the top of some theoretical pyramid. All creatures, great and small, are important to sustaining a healthy planet. We have for too long viewed out earthly presence as if we were entitled to be lord and master of all we survey. We have tricked ourselves and lied to others about the interconnectedness of our existence.
“Oh what a what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” Was a quote from a poem by Sir Walter Scott that my mom used on me whenever she suspected I was lying to her, then I had to be careful not ‘to protest too much’ hence she would definitely know I was lying about something. I remember having a guilty conscience a lot of the time. My mother had a stout heart yet she was deathly afraid of bugs in general and ‘creepy crawly’ spiders in particular. If webbing ever contacted her face she would shriek for mercy. My mom was not alone; Arachnophobia is on many people’s fear list. Me? I’m an Athazagoraphobe.
In my early adulthood I related to the existential wanderer, Silver Surfer, but my childhood comic book favourite was Spiderman. I liked the way he didn’t use a weapon that hurt, just an unbreakable passive/aggressive net. As a teen I was drawn to the cartoon Spidey, from the popular television series by Grantray-Lawrence Animation. The catchy theme song; “Spins a web, any size/catches thieves, just like flies” was by Paul Francis Webster and Bob Harris.
What’s not to like about the World Wide Web (best invention in my lifetime). I depend on it for communication and researching, I spend a lot of time crawling/scrolling through digital threads. It can be a time suck but mostly it works like a mental butler. I definitely see the benefits to the hammock-like inner world of pixillated Web Design. I might volunteer to be a test subject for the first WWW cranial implant.That way I wouldn’t be bound to my computer, I’d become one! I can see the ads for the procedure: “Enhance your memory! Win Debates! Be a trivia Titan! Get a prothesis to pontificate!”
Cyber Humans? Seems like a natural evolution.
A park is a lovely place to go on a summer’s day. In Canada we are blessed with policies that require governments to recognize the need for natural spaces and recreational parks where citizens can go to revitalize their tired urban spirits. Some neighbourhood parks are so small they are called parkettes. When I was raising a family my young boys would pace by the door asking to go to a small patch of grass containing one small climbing apparatus, directly across the street. It’s freeing to go to a park.
Now, finding a parking spot is a whole different scenario. How one word can carry two very different connotations is an example of the confusion found by some in the intricacies of the English language. And getting a parking ticket is the height of insult to me. My sister used to just stuff her parking tickets into her glovebox, avoiding paying until they came with additional fines. When I walk by a parked car with a ticket under its windshield wiper I always feel sorry for the owner. I’ve had so few I remember the circumstances in detail, but I’ll keep it short: One was in Toronto where I had parked on a street that was signed ambiguously (I almost got towed that time), another time in Toronto was on a quiet residential street where I had parked a large moving van, once in Vancouver’s Stanley Park I parked unknowingly in front of the ticketing agent sitting in his unmarked vehicle and lastly in Victoria B.C. I had parked my tiny moped in what turned out to be a construction zone (I found the ticket neatly rolled and taped around my handlebar). Have a nice day!
Even when I am sure I am parked legally I am anxious until I can get back to my vehicle and gaze at the clear windshield. On street parking comes with the additional risk of being broken into. A city parkade with its multiple levels is also a source of stress for me. Even though I like the security and the friendly gate keeper the tight spaces make me fear scratches. And finding the car on return is easier than when you park at those huge Box Store parking lots. My wife is a whiz at navigating the tight corners of the ramps in downtown parkades and doesn’t seem at all concerned that the traffic control bar might come crashing down on the car’s hood before she has made it safely back onto the street. I find it best to close my eyes when I’m her passenger.
Once I tried to fight a parking ticket at city hall. I had to make an appointment with the mayor’s assistant. I came early and parked outside, near a municipal park, feeling calmed by three Garry Oak and a memorial fountain. I presented my evidence and supporting documentation, but the parking authority bureaucrats politely disagreed with my assessment of the situation. I drove home listening to Joni Mitchell. It helped.
What one considers a crisis is subjective. I write this knowing that the troubles in my life can’t be ranked on the scale of dilemmas others in the world have now, or will experience. For example, on tonight’s news, I just watched horrified as hundreds gathered at the Kandahar airstrip clambering onto the fuselage of a taxiing aircraft. That was a scene of crisis on an unforgiving and unforgivable scale.
One could say that our thoughts on crises are all relative. Yet that is so dismissive. I’ve known people who would not admit their troubles just because they thought others suffered more. That would be like not talking about love because you feel outclassed by romantic stories you have heard others share. Shakespeare, Byron or Browning would advise you to proclaim your love in words relatable. Every person’s feeling has value, from woe to whimsy. Judgements on the quality or quantity of your experience will only send you into a crisis of confidence.
I’ve had momentary crises; like locking my keys inside my car, forgetting important papers for a meeting, or getting stuck in traffic. I’ve had prolonged crises that have required persistence and courage. Recently my hot water tank burst moments before I came downstairs to make my morning coffee. I stepped into a puddle of water and immediately panicked but then sprang into action, took off my terry towel bathrobe with a Sir Frances Drake flourish, dropping it on the water so I wouldn’t slip. I turned off main valve and clicked the power switch to the unit. I called the plumber to arrange repair, mopped and prepped the area. Within 30 hours from start to finish it was all sorted. I felt gratitude that I had been there to catch the situation before it became the crisis that it wasn’t.
We can’t always be so lucky. And yet our imaginations can lead us into crisis mode so quickly. A problem that is hard to solve at first glance may be deemed a crisis, that’s when you need help and you need to work toward a solution. I’m learning to be more critical while in the throes of a crisis. Even a moment, for prayer or meditation, can give me the time gap needed to act more efficiently, prudently, safely. I worked with a school principal who told me he handled a crisis by giving it to someone else. Others I’ve known have been able to just let things be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TGg7cGQRlg
As far as the climate crisis goes we can’t just let it be. Neither can we turn it over to someone else to fix. Regular maintenance of our selves, our institutions or our systems will minimize problems. The evidence of our neglect of the planet has been around for many years and yet we continue to fail to act. We ignore all warning signs of a crisis at our peril. Now we find ourselves in a perilous planetary situation. Our Earth is calling for a common collective critical response.
We must answer.