God created chilies. What better proof of a divine sense of humor?
1. Waiting for Sriracha.
Climate change affects us globally and locally, and our local genius David Tran, the refugee from Vietnam, whose giant Huy Fong factory a few miles west of us produces the internationally loved condiment. World supplies of Sriracha Sauce dwindled and then went dry last year. The major cause was drought in Mexico where the tons of jalapenos are grown. Before COVID, we visited the factory with the Sue and Hyun Hur family and watched as giant trucks emptied tons of red chilies into a hopper and grinder. We wept with joy from the intense aroma therapy, while our tongues were wet with anticipation. Come back Sriracha, come back great chili crop, bring back the taste no other, like none of its many imitations and competitors.
2. Burning Man Festival mired in mud.
The Los Angeles Times opened our eyes to the obvious, “The fuss over the Burning Man disaster reeks of white privilege,” wrote Erika Smith. The public is mired in sympathy for 75,000 rich white revelers stuck in a pasty Nevada lakebed, but turn a less than sympathetic eye for the unhoused slogging through the unendurable summer of dashing rain, exhausting heat. At Burning Man the array of well-fitted campers or mobile homes was startling. What if we actually believed “that all are created equal” that “human life is precious” and set to work to honor those beliefs?
3. Learning from suffering.
All bad things do not happen for a reason, my grad students always decide, as we discuss pain, loss and grief. As I (David) am dealing with serious health issues, I remember those wonderful discussions, and ask myself, “What meaning is hidden in suffering?” The answer, I find, is “What can I learn from this experience? How can I grow in the midst of pain and angst?” It nudges one to go beneath symptom, to get at the core of our human experience of the frailty of existence and meditate on the final two lines of the disciple’s prayer in the Sermon on the Mount.
4. Topics very few want to talk about.
Reparations for slavery tops the list. Bring it up (“embarrassing”) and it falls flat (“turn the page”) like one doesn’t know enough (“are you dreaming?”) not to mention the unmentionable in polite society. Then the list of unwelcome topics grows: concern for the refugee at the border; houses for the unhoused; care for the mentally challenged; flying only in emergency; a politics of plutocracy (electing the billionaires); and what of the Doctrine of Discovery and our massacre of Native people to satisfy our greed for land; straight people stigmatizing LGBTQ+ even when they are our own children. Can we talk? Dare we not? What is on your list with the warning, “do not go there”?
5). Does history repeat itself or does it mirror, or echo the past?
Why do past blunders reappear and reassert themselves? Mark Twain concluded, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.” Like our frequent failings, or the terrors of wildfires, or the multiple returns of COVID, the inane repetitiousness of political races, the recurring climate disasters — storms, floods, droughts, fires year after year. Like the stubborn insistence of people whose trust is in their weapons (from rifles to handguns, then concealed carry, then open carry, then assault magazines. Like the passion to keep trying the same foolish thing expecting different results (a favorite definition of insanity). Contemporary poet Seamus Heaney wrote the warning, “History says, don’t hope on this side of the grave.” Then he concludes “Once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.” Dare we hope for justice? The transformative kind that changes the way things are?