What lived on-in me- was the discomfort of how completely I'd outgrown the novel I'd once been so happy to live in
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What lived on-in me- was the discomfort of how completely I’d outgrown the novel I’d once been so happy to live in

-Jonathan Franzen

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How Do I Live,

-Trisha Yearwood

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When we came out of the cookhouse, we found the boy's father, the Indian man who had been grazing the horses in the pasture, waiting for us. He wanted someone to tell his troubles to. He looked about guardedly, afraid that the Señora might overhear him.'Take a look at me' he said. I don't even know how old I am. When I was young, the Señor brought me here. He promised to pay me and give me a plot of my own. 'Look at my clothes' he said, pointing to the patches covering his body. 'I can't remember how many years I've been wearing them. I have no others. I live in a mud hut with my wife and sons. They all work for the Señor like me. They don't go to school. They don't know how to read or write; they don't even speak Spanish. We work for the master, raise his cattle and work his fields. We only get rice and plantains to eat. Nobody takes care of us when we are sick. The women here have their babies in these filthy huts.''Why don't you eat meat or at least milk the cows?' I asked.'We aren't allowed to slaughter a cow. And the milk goes to the calves. We can't even have chicken or pork - only if an animal gets sick and dies. Once I raised a pig in my yard' he went on. 'She had a litter of three. When the Señor came back he told the foreman to shoot them. That's the only time we ever had good meat.''I don't mind working for the Señor but I want him to keep his promise. I want a piece of land of my own so I can grow rice and yucca and raise a few chickens and pigs. That's all.' 'Doesn't he pay you anything?' Kevin asked. 'He says he pays us but he uses our money to buy our food. We never get any cash. Kind sirs, maybe you can help me to persuade the master . Just one little plot is all I want. The master has land, much land.'We were shocked by his tale. Marcus took out a notebook and pen. 'What's his name?'. He wrote down the name. The man didn't know the address. He only knew that the Señor lived in La Paz.Marcus was infuriated. 'When I find the owner of the ranch, I'll spit right in his eye. What a lousy bastard! I mean, it's really incredible'. 'That's just the way things are,' Karl said. 'It's sad but there's nothing we can do about it.

-Yossi Ghinsberg

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I have no idea how long Quisser was gone from the table. My attention became fully absorbed by the other faces in the club and the deep anxiety they betrayed to me, an anxiety that was not of the natural, existential sort but one that was caused by peculiar concerns of an uncanny nature. What a season is upon us, these faces seemed to say. And no doubt their voices would have spoken directly of certain peculiar concerns had they not been intimidated into weird equivocations and double entendres by the fear of falling victim to the same kind of unnatural affliction that had made so much trouble in the mind of the art critic Stuart Quisser. Who would be next? What could a person say these days, or even think, without feeling the dread of repercussion from powerfully connected groups and individuals? I could almost hear their voices asking, "Why here, why now?" But of course they could have just as easily been asking, "Why not here, why not now?" It would not occur to this crowd that there were no special rules involved; it would not occur to them, even though they were a crowd of imaginative artists, that the whole thing was simply a matter of random, purposeless terror that converged upon a particular place at a particular time for no particular reason. On the other hand, it would also not have occurred to them that they might have wished it all upon themselves, that they might have had a hand in bringing certain powerful forces and connections into our district simply by wishing them to come. They might have wished and wished for an unnatural evil to fall upon them but, for a while at least, nothing happened. Then the wishing stopped, the old wishes were forgotten yet at the same time gathered in strength, distilling themselves into a potent formula (who can say!), until one day the terrible season began. Because had they really told the truth, this artistic crowd might also have expressed what a sense of meaning (although of a negative sort), not to mention the vigorous thrill (although of an excruciating type), this season of unnatural evil had brought to their lives.("Gas Station Carnivals")

-Thomas Ligotti

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Let me outline briefly as I can what seem to me the characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind. I conceive a strip-miner to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer. The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter's goal is money, profit; the nurturer's goal is health -- his land's health, his own, his family's, his community's, his country's. Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for an indefinite time?) The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible. The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order -- a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to other order and to mystery. The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, "hard facts"; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.

-Wendell Berry

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We are dealing, then, with an absurdity that is not a quirk or an accident, but is fundamental to our character as people. The split between what we think and what we do is profound. It is not just possible, it is altogether to be expected, that our society would produce conservationists who invest in strip-mining companies, just as it must inevitably produce asthmatic executives whose industries pollute the air and vice-presidents of pesticide corporations whose children are dying of cancer. And these people will tell you that this is the way the "real world" works. The will pride themselves on their sacrifices for "our standard of living." They will call themselves "practical men" and "hardheaded realists." And they will have their justifications in abundance from intellectuals, college professors, clergymen, politicians. The viciousness of a mentality that can look complacently upon disease as "part of the cost" would be obvious to any child. But this is the "realism" of millions of modern adults.There is no use pretending that the contradiction between what we think or say and what we do is a limited phenomenon. There is no group of the extra-intelligent or extra-concerned or extra-virtuous that is exempt. I cannot think of any American whom I know or have heard of, who is not contributing in some way to destruction. The reason is simple: to live undestructively in an economy that is overwhelmingly destructive would require of any one of us, or of any small group of us, a great deal more work than we have yet been able to do. How could we divorce ourselves completely and yet responsibly from the technologies and powers that are destroying our planet? The answer is not yet thinkable, and it will not be thinkable for some time -- even though there are now groups and families and persons everywhere in the country who have begun the labor of thinking it.And so we are by no means divided, or readily divisible, into environmental saints and sinners. But there are legitimate distinctions that need to be made. These are distinctions of degree and of consciousness. Some people are less destructive than others, and some are more conscious of their destructiveness than others. For some, their involvement in pollution, soil depletion, strip-mining, deforestation, industrial and commercial waste is simply a "practical" compromise, a necessary "reality," the price of modern comfort and convenience. For others, this list of involvements is an agenda for thought and work that will produce remedies.People who thus set their lives against destruction have necessarily confronted in themselves the absurdity that they have recognized in their society. They have first observed the tendency of modern organizations to perform in opposition to their stated purposes. They have seen governments that exploit and oppress the people they are sworn to serve and protect, medical procedures that produce ill health, schools that preserve ignorance, methods of transportation that, as Ivan Illich says, have 'created more distances than they... bridge.' And they have seen that these public absurdities are, and can be, no more than the aggregate result of private absurdities; the corruption of community has its source in the corruption of character. This realization has become the typical moral crisis of our time. Once our personal connection to what is wrong becomes clear, then we have to choose: we can go on as before, recognizing our dishonesty and living with it the best we can, or we can begin the effort to change the way we think and live.

-Wendell Berry

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So what's your doll's name?" Boo asked me."Barbie," I said. "All their names are Barbie.""I see," she said. "Well, I'd think that would get boring, everyone having the samename."I thought about this, then said, "Okay, then her name is Sabrina.""Well, that's a very nice name," Boo said. I remember she was baking bread,kneading the doughbetween her thick fingers. "What does she do?""Do?" I said."Yes." She flipped the dough over and started in on it from the other side. "Whatdoes she do?""She goes out with Ken," I said."And what else?""She goes to parties," I said slowly. "And shopping.""Oh," Boo said, nodding."She can't work?""She doesn't have to work," I said."Why not?""Because she's Barbie.""I hate to tell you, Caitlin, but somebody has to make payments on that town houseand the Corvette,"Boo said cheerfully. "Unless Barbie has a lot of family money."I considered this while I put on Ken's pants.Boo started pushing the dough into a pan, smoothing it with her hand over the top."You know what Ithink, Caitlin?" Her voice was soft and nice, the way she always spoke to me."What?""I think your Barbie can go shopping, and go out with Ken, and also have aproductive and satisfyingcareer of her own." She opened the oven and slid in the bread pan, adjusting itsposition on the rack."But what can she do?" My mother didn't work and spent her time cleaning thehouse and going to PTA.I couldn't imagine Barbie, whose most casual outfit had sequins and go-go boots,doing s.uch things.Boo came over and plopped right down beside me. I always rememberher being on my level; she'd siton the edge of the sandbox, or lie across her bed with me and Cass as we listened tothe radio."Well," she said thoughtfully, picking up Ken and examining his perfect physique."What do you want todo when you grow up?"I remember this moment so well; I can still see Boo sitting there on the floor, cross-legged, holding myKen and watching my face as she tried to make me see that between my mother'sPTA and Boo'sstrange ways there was a middle ground that began here with my Barbie, Sab-rina,and led right to me."Well," I said abruptly, "I want to be in advertising." I have no idea where this camefrom."Advertising," Boo repeated, nodding. "Okay. Advertising it is. So Sabrina has to goto work every day,coming up with ideas for commercialsand things like that.""She works in an office," I went on. "Sometimes she has to work late.""Sure she does," Boo said. "It's hard to get ahead. Even if you're Barbie.""Because she wants to get promoted," I added. "So she can pay off the town house.And the Corvette.""Very responsible of her," Boo said."Can she be divorced?" I asked. "And famous for her commercialsand ideas?""She can be anything," Boo told me, and this is what I remember most, her freckledface so solemn, as ifshe knew she was the first to tell me. "And so can you.

-Sarah Dessen

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