Chris Hedges has seen attendance dwindling at all types of public gatherings:
But it is not just sporting events. Public lectures, church services, labor unions, Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, Masonic halls, Rotary clubs, the Knights of Columbus, the Lions Club, Grange Hall meetings, the League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies, town halls, bowling leagues, bridge clubs, movie theater attendance (at a 20-year low), advocacy groups such as the NAACP and professional and amateur theatrical and musical performances cater to a dwindling and graying population. No one is coming through the door to take the place of the old members. A generation has fallen down the rabbit hole of electronic hallucinations—with images often dominated by violence and pornography. They have become, in the words of the philosopher Hannah Arendt, “atomized,” sucked alone into systems of information and entertainment that cater to America’s prurient fascination with the tawdry, the cruel and the deadening cult of the self.
I have nothing against nudity. I like creativity and camaraderie, which nakedness would seem to encourage. But I also like being productive. I’m wondering how much of this article about arranging for an entire office to work in the nude for a month is accurate and how much is spin.
I had a wonderful visit with a friend yesterday. She and I have been friends ever since we attended law school together in the late 1970’s. We had an engaging conversation in her living room. I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable visit. We traded numerous stories and observations, sharing more than a few laughs. As I was traveling back home, it occurred to me that we accomplished this without any of the following:
Handing each other gifts;
Dressing up in fancy clothing;
Blinking lights, ornaments or decorations;
A television turned on;
Singing or listening to ritualistic songs;
Eating special food or drinks;
Making unsupportable claims about events that happened 2,000 years ago.
Instead, we celebrated a friendship and took an active interest in each other’s lives. This is an activity that can be enjoyed simultaneously by small or larger groups of good-hearted thoughtful people. In fact, some of my favorite moments this year have involved
Recently, another friend of mine mentioned that her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it is the holiday most devoid of commercialism and religiosity and jingoism. I mostly agree, but even Thanksgiving has been clouded with commercialism, obsessions with spectator sports, and the perceived need to display ourselves through decorations, special clothing and special food. To be fair, I do enjoy the spread of food one encounters at Thanksgiving, but it is a secondary consideration to the occasion. What would be more meaningful as a Thanksgiving celebration: A big feast without anyone to share it with, or a room full of special people without special food?
I would like to nominate Non-Holiday Spontaneous Visiting as my favorite “holiday,” because it is this “holiday” that gets even closest to the core of the most important part of what makes us humans at our best.
Last night I road my bike across town to the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park in St. Louis to take some photos. I didn’t know what I’d find–I assumed I’d be shooting a sunset. It’s a spectacular overlook at one of the many edges of one of the largest city parks in the U.S. I did find a compelling sunset, but what was equally compelling was a group of first rate drummers that go by the name of “Soularo,” including Nafi Rafat and Marcus Jones. They gave me permission to photograph part of their session.
As Jones noted hours later, drumming is like heartbeat. That is true, and it is also a powerful elixir, capable of erasing one’s woes and filling one with thirst for good-hearted life. That’s what seemed clear from watching the dozens of people who were drawn to this spontaneous gathering.
Only a few weeks ago, I spent time at this same location honoring the life of Sonny Glassberg, who recently passed away (she was the mother of a friend of mine). She gave substantial financial support to allow the renovation of this extraordinary venue.