I used to move around a lot (life of a carny—different blog post), and what would help me get settled each time was to immediately seek the highest point around. Whether it was a mountain peak, a skyscraper or, as was the case in Woodland, California, the roof of a shopping center, wasn’t important. What was important was that I got a view, from some distance, of my new home and where it rested in relationship to the world—natural and manmade—around it. I’ve had to trespass into farmer’s fields and bluff my way past security guards, but I’ve managed to gain this “up and away” vantage point time and again. This effort brings me a sense of place and security. When I close my eyes at night, I know where I am. I think this sense of place is critically important for all of us. And in a world that spins far faster than it revolves, this sense can be harder to develop than a crush on Karl Rove.
In the USA, a fundamental perspective shift is underway. Just as it was a slow, painful process for Roman Catholicism to give up on the earth as the center of the universe, it has been very hard for many in the United States to see their country as something other than the guiding beacon for all human endeavors. Where once we led the world in literacy, health, scientific knowledge, income and a raft of other quality of life and culture indexes, we now most often rank in the middle of the second tier nations. We’re witnessing what may be the death throes of an empire as the very richest gobble what little is left of the country’s resources and do their best to blame the poor for…well, for being poor. We should expect increased polarization, more warfare, a spike in suffering. Beware the spasmodic kicks of the dying beast. But, if we can learn from history and embrace our new perspective quickly, perhaps this descent can be a rich experience. Perhaps we can find a new, slower, more fulfilling quality of life while the rest of the world can enjoy the sight of rare blue skies free from our shadow. Beauty, after all, can be found in the unraveling of things.