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Dr. Grauer's Column - A Small Calm Thing of Terrifying Beauty

A Small Calm Thing of Terrifying Beauty

Sometimes I act as though my computer screen were an actual window. Yes, it is tempting to stay in my filter bubble and to fix my vision on the view from my computer: half the world is out of their minds! And yet, and yet, I know almost nothing about that half. 

I know almost nothing about way more than I know a lot about. “And so we find ourselves immersed, once again, in the terrifying beauty of a world that exceeds all our knowing,” says the cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram. 

From this screen, I understand we are cutting, clearing, burning, trashing, plasticizing and polluting a whole lot of the world, and that our human activity is contrary to the needs of practically all other species. I can see this right in my bubble, locally. I can read the news of the meaner, more reckless, angrier, druggier people punching flight attendants and school board members and buying 2 million more guns. 

Grauer Middle School Girls Soccer team members listening to a lesson from Coach Paulina Davis-Fisher during practice - January 7, 2022

Sometimes it seems we don’t we like much, including one another, and not much likes us back. One species of life absolutely attracted to human activity is SARS-CoV-2, which causes what we call COVID-19. This has taken 800,000 human lives in the US, 10% of those here in California. One of every 100 senior citizens has perished from COVID since it came to town.

What COVID does to us, so we do to butterflies, coyotes, and sand hill cranes, who are losing ground. I don’t know why all humans can’t agree with me on this. From my filter bubble, COVID is the force of nature that is finally standing up to us, and I in my bubble have a kind of poetic admiration. 

Apollo isn’t always drawing his bow;
There are times when he takes up his lyre and plays,
And awakens the music sleeping upon the strings.
—Horace, Odes II, 10

In his book “Politics Is For Power”, Eitan Hersh notes that a third of Americans say they spend two or more hours a day on politics, and four out of five get their political information completely by reading or watching the news on TV, social media, radio, etc. 

Hey, Hersh: that’s not politics. Politics is who gets what. Politics is providing lunch for teachers or nurses and doctors. Politics is helping out at the lagoon. Okay, maybe it is punching school board members.

Sam Yarabek teaching his 8th grade English class outdoors in the gazebo - January 4, 2022

Walking through the San Elijo Lagoon last weekend, I noticed that a striking number of donors who preserved that pristine beach view southwest parcel, the Harbaugh Corridor, from development are also Grauer Foundation donors. Preserving ecosystems is politics. If you watch a congressional hearing for two hours and complain to your family about it, that is not politics. Watching is not politics, it is just going deeper into your filter bubble. Politics is doing and relating.

Being in my filter bubble seems like a trap. We may think we are trapped in here, but there is a way out of this bubble. The way out is here: perspective.

I am done saving the world, done worrying about how insane Marjory Taylor Green is, done trying to persuade anyone rather than trying to understand them. The way out is in our community, and on our campus. I might never explain this better than this: 

“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one should can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Grauer Geometry students measuring out the distances between planets while learning about scaling objects and distances - January 7, 2022

I don’t have to be a pundit—there are too many pundits. Who are these pundits in my screen, anyway?

What I need is within my reach. What is within my reach is what I need. I think small. The answers are in my community. 

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Grauer Middle School Girls Soccer team members listening to a lesson from Coach Paulina Davis-Fisher during practice - January 7, 2022

Sam Yarabek teaching his 8th grade English class outdoors in the gazebo - January 4, 2022

Grauer Geometry students measuring out the distances between planets while learning about scaling objects and distances - January 7, 2022

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