Like Kermit says, it’s not easy being green. It’s not easy building green, either. My son has a degree in Construction Management and is interested in green design. He’s having a hard time finding an entry-level job in this field, but it seems like a very useful career in the long run. 7 billion human beings generate a lot of construction; we need to be wiser about how and what and where and when we build because it makes a huge impact on our environment. That’s common sense. What does it look like when that is taken into consideration? It takes time. It takes money. It takes intelligence and skill. So, “forget it” is the conclusion many construction companies take. Fast, cheap and easy…up goes another WalMart with a parking lot the size of an inland lake.
I’ve visited two LEED certified buildings here in Wisconsin. (click on the links to read about their energy-saving and environmentally responsible features) The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center was certified on the Gold level. It houses a pre-school, among other facilities. The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center was certified on the Platinum level. Built where Leopold died while fighting a brush fire, it houses office and meeting spaces, an interpretive hall, an archive, and a workshop organized around a central courtyard. I took some pictures for my son at the Aldo Leopold Center, and this prompt is the perfect opportunity to post them and share!
The temperature drops 30 degrees overnight. Oh, but we were warned, so we went out to embrace the front, the wind howling from the south, still warm. The clouds gathered in the valley, the sky darkened, the weeds shuddered…very gradually, drops began to fall. It rained all night. This morning, I went through the house pulling the glass panes down over the screens in all the windows. The furnace rumbled to life every few minutes. The trees are mostly bare. It is late fall at last and winter is just around the corner. I dearly wish I had a fireplace or woodstove…
Veterans’ Day. A very forgettable holiday for me. If it weren’t for the bloggers who have mentioned it, I might have been altogether oblivious of its passing. I am unemployed at the moment, so no schedule change would have reminded me — except for the fact that the Post Office is closed tomorrow, so we won’t be preparing packages for Steve’ book business. The truth is, I don’t really know what to do with Veterans’ Day. I don’t know any vets. I don’t have any family members who have been in the service. And I am absolutely opposed to war. It seems like we should have figured out an alternative long ago. I’m truly puzzled that we have computers relaying information from Mars right now while we have yet to find an effective way to live together down here. Learning should lead to understanding, which ought to lead to compassion. At least that’s the trajectory I’m hoping for in my life.
It does occur to me, though, that I have been acquainted with a veteran whom I admire very much. I have read two of his books and have now embarked on a third. I’ve also seen a DVD documentary about his journey home from Auschwitz. His name is Primo Levi. I was attracted to him first because he’s Italian. In high school, I was the Vice President of the Italian Club. I was learning to speak Italian because I love opera, and I wanted to meet Italian guys…or at least Italian-American guys. I finally married a Galasso. Now that I’m (ahem!) more mature, my love of the Italian culture is much more broad-minded. Primo Levi’s writing is truly astounding. He was a chemist by trade, not a writer, but his experiences during and after WWII compelled him to share the intimate details, disturbing observations, and profound insights he hoped would prevent similar events from ever happening again. He could not let his story go unrecorded, even though its horrors caused recurring bouts of depression. I think that makes him a very brave soldier and a heroic humanitarian.
Here is an example of his extraordinary insight:
“Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite. Our ever-insufficient knowledge of the future opposes it: and this is called, in the one instance, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of the following day. The certainty of death opposes it: for it places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief. The inevitable material cares oppose it: for as they poison every lasting happiness, they equally assiduously distract us from our misfortunes and make our consciousness of them intermittent and hence supportable. It was the very discomfort, the blows, the cold, the thirst that kept us aloft in the void of bottomless despair, both during the journey and after. It was not the will to live, nor a conscious resignation: for few are the men capable of such resolution, and we were but a common sample of humanity.” – from Survival in Auschwitz
Thank you, Signore Levi, for your service to all of us through the horrific war you survived and the work of writing your story.
The 2012 presidential election is over, swept up like confetti in the parade of change and movement. The conservative, religious, wealthy White male was defeated…for the second time. This seems to be frightening a lot of people. Our nation was founded and shaped by those types. Isn’t that what America is supposed to be? Or is America “The Melting Pot”? Is evolution, change and movement something to resist, or something to embrace? Why?
Fear is a powerful agent. Safety is a motivator. Primal survival instincts are very active in our social species. However, the history of the planet shows that species evolve, they change, they adapt to the environment, and they die out. It’s natural. Is it acceptable? Can you accept that your country, your “club” and your family will change? Elements that may threaten you WILL be introduced. How do you respond? How do you want to respond? Who do you want to be? The “fighter”? The “opposer”? The peacemaker? The tolerater? Do you change along with the rest of the Universe…or do you go down stubborn as plastic into the landfill?
You can probably guess my preference. I want to be mulch. I believe something beautiful will always grow.
All the best, America! Be joyful and courageous in change and movement!
Placido Domingo. Quiet, tranquil Sunday. Ah, me.
Last night, we saw our first Lyric Opera of Chicago performance of the season: Simon Boccanegra by Verdi. An appropriate story for an election month, dramatic and political. Two opera megastars were featured in the leading roles: Thomas Hampson and Ferruccio Furlanetto. The story and the music are captivating. (This performance was rather a disappointment, stiff and unimaginative. I much prefer the La Scala production starring Placido Domingo in the title role, even if his voice is not as resonant as a baritone.) The point is that Simon Boccanegra is a man who spends his life and loses his life in the pursuit of peace. The Italian political scene is characterized by vendetta, family feuds, curses, treason, and rebellion and peopled with villains. The story shows, though, that everyone is a villain. We all harm each other in one way or another. Forgiveness and reconciliation is the only way to make a difference. How many people must the Doge pardon by the end of Act III in order to die peacefully in his daughter’s arms?
This morning, I logged on to the internet and began a conversation with my blogger friend, Helen, of 1500 Saturdays. Her post was about brutal killings in Nigeria, titled “How did humanity get so lost?”. How do we respond to suffering, to the villainy that surrounds each of us? Which stories do we listen to; which do we tell? How do we make a peaceful Sunday in our world? Please click here to read her post, the links, the comments and spend some time considering your own response. “May all beings be happy; may all beings be free from suffering.”