Dorothy vandenHonert: Winter is coming


PITTSFIELD — From morning to night people make a zillion decisions between want and need without knowing that they are probably exercising the same area of their gray matter that Socrates and Plato did. And they are solving the problem with pretty much the same answer; money. But before people can solve a difficult problem they must recognize that the problem is serious enough to warrant time and money. Sometimes a problem gets so bad and its needs require so much money that people make up a zillion excuses for delay, and we are in such a situation right now with global warming.

It was recognized long ago that the earth was warming alarmingly, and that if it got too hot, agriculture would soon be damaged to the point that it wasn't possible to feed the population. The obvious solution was to find a method besides the sun for producing heat that could warm parts of the globe without being hot, itself. As it turned out, there were at least three common natural forms of heatless energy available and large enough for the job: gravity, momentum and pleasure.

Nature constantly evaporates water from rivers into heights that enable us to crash it back down in a waterfall with a measurable amount of energy. Similarly, we have regular tides whose gigantic motion can be altered, with the proper machinery, into usable energy.. Gravity will move things around from place to place and momentum can keep them going. As to mental energy, we translate ideas into words, paintings, or constructions better when we are in a particular frame of mind. Of course, for two of these mental activities, people must be bright enough to cook up equations to manipulate numbers effectively, and, at least in my mind, people have done the math with breathtaking skill.

So much for need. Want is something very different. It is, compared with need, as my mother used to say, like a gray horse of a different color. It starts with a squalling baby and never ends. Want is involved in virtually every activity on earth, and is neither measurable nor necessarily sensible. It has its dangerous side, too, pretty much changeless. as the deer that provided dinner for the lion could tell you, too. And the armies on both sides of the fight over a piece of land couldn't and yes the kindergarteners arguing over a tinker toy.So here we sit on a planet in the middle of a universe of virtually infinite size and possibilities with capabilities beyond anything imaginable.

If we want human beings to solve a big problem, we have to offer a big reward. A reward the size of the cost of climate control. And since it is obvious that we will never spend that kind of money, we might as well enjoy the frustration of Ezra Pound when he wrote the famous lines.

Winter is icumen in

Lhude sing goddamn.

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Skiddith bus and sloppeth us,

an ague hath my ham.

Freezeth river

Turneth liver

Damn you, sing Goddamm.

Tis why I am, Goddam so against the winter's balm.

Dorothy vandenHonert is an occasional Eagle contributor.


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