Monday, January 28, 2008

Ah, for an evergreen

In journalism, an "evergreen" is a work product--article, column, audio, whatever one normally produces--that is unrelated to any current events, so that (in principle) it will be as good, or bad, in a year as it is today. Journalists who produce on a set periodic basis like to have an evergreen or three "in the bank" for use on those occasions when they just cannot get out their usual timely material.

Right about now, I could sure use one. I am pretty much played out after a couple of days of intensive writing in response to emails and posted comments on the steroids/baseball site I have mentioned here so often over the last few days. I am played out not so much by the length and volume of the efforts, though those are not trivial, as by the uninspiring endless repetition of the same few basics over and over again in each of the various forums (fora?) involved.

Moreover, there is nothing especially juicy in the news on which to hang a major effort of exposition. George Bush has given a State of the Union address that no one is even bothering to mock, much less attack with fire, so pathetic and irrelevant has the wretch now become.

In a way, that's bothersome. To consign him to the garbage pail of history with just an indifferent shrug is to severely undervalue to stunningly immense damage that he and his master, Dick Cheney, have inflicted on this nation. And we will never, ever recover from it. Once certain lines have been crossed, there is no retreat, not with the best of will. The powers of the "Imperial Presidency" will never contract.

I often suspect that the answer to the Fermi Paradox is that high intelligence is not, after all, an evolutionary advantage, and may well be self-limiting. Fifty years on from the depths of the Cold War, people no longer wake up sweating in the night about nuclear war, but all that means is that we have accommodated our lives and sensibilities to the fact of it--which is to say seen it as an unpleasant fact and swept it under the rug of our consciousness. That affects our minds, but it does not affect reality, and reality currently contains a huge number of nuclear weapons awaiting only the right button-push. How sure are we that there will be a humanity worth the name around in, say, 500 years?

Meanwhile, pitchers and catchers report in just over two weeks. As I get older, I am minded of Professor Tolkien's elf trying to explain to the human and hobbit mortals what time is like to the undying:

[T]he world moves, and it moves both very swift and very slow. Swift, because they themselves change little, and all else fleets by: it is a grief to them. Slow, because they do not count the running years, not for themselves. The passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream.
None of us ever ages, not in our inner consciousness: internally, in our conceptions of ourselves, we are forever fixed at some ageless moment, however the world may see us changing. Duration in human perception, it has been suggested, and I agree with the suggestion, is relative: we somehow measure time relative to the length of our own existence. To the five-year-old, the hour his nap will take is an eternity; to the elderly, the years flow, well, like ripples in the long long stream. Sigh.

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