Reflection 245: Forbidden Middle

March 23, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin

Yesterday, driving to Ellsworth, I realized I was driving with two kinds of vision. One focal where I could read bumper stickers and license plates; the other panoramic that had trees and tree shadows in the road whizzing by without me really noticing. In the first kind of vision I wasn’t really moving; in the second, I was racing through space. I saw both ways at the same time, but didn’t pay attention to the big picture until something unusual happened, like a car pulling in front of me, or someone going unusually fast or slow.

What I pay attention to is either something that pleases or displeases me. I ignore things in-between as unremarkable or just blah, like shadows of passing trees. That middle zone is the “so what else is new” range of routine, everyday experience. What I notice—what rouses me to an alert state of consciousness—is the novel, surprising, salient, and unexpected event that requires special attention so I deem it important. Not rationally so much as intuitively.

Some of us arrange our lives to be so predictable that we sleepwalk through the day, hardly noticing anything. TV, for instance, as a steady diet so we laugh and cry on cue, is so predictable as to be unworthy of notice. Spot news, however, keeps us posted on traffic deaths, celebrity faux pas, brutality, abuse, overt hostility, earthquakes, etc., not so much for our benefit as to draw an audience that hangs on its every word in order to get money out of advertisers who profit from unsettled or fearful customers.

I notice a sea change in postings to Facebook from the cuteness of puppies, kitties, and babies to real social issues that require our best thinking in order to repair them. I see now that the public is paying attention—not to the blah muddle of a secure life—but to the outrage of one sector of the population deriving a profit from other people going into debt to afford a new house, car, washing machine, education, or smattering of dignity.

The so-called American dream is dead in its tracks. The people have caught on to the hidden truth behind “business as usual.” Occupy Wall Street has drawn attention to the prideful collusion between banks, investment firms, insurance companies, rating agencies, government deregulators, political election campaigns, judges who are merely human, and lobbyists funded by corporations with supreme wealth. The scales have fallen from our eyes. Suddenly, we see the truth we have been lulled into avoiding all these years since the end of World War II.

Prosperity and security turn out to be myths. If you don’t battle for your personal survival, you take things for granted and actually believe you deserve an easy life at others’ expense.

Two ways of seeing: barely noticing and being fully awake and alert to what’s going on. America is losing its innocence—as it periodically does—once again. Consciousness comes upon us in waves, much as tsunamis get people’s attention. I see this coming election season as an occasion for America’s Spring to flower from the seeds planted by Occupy Wall Street last year.

Stay tuned for future bulletins. As ever, yours, –Steve

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