Everyday Life: Antidote to Political Poisons

While making dinner — or reflecting excitedly on the importance of making dinner while sipping wine — I began to shape ideas that have been pressing on me during the week.  What had been expected and feared to happen in bad faith presidential action was happening.  Many of us could see the vindictiveness coming; now it almost felt posthumous.  

My anger had been simmering into something else: into a rich, bittersweet sorrow for the “we” of country. How distant we are from our “exceptional” goals (hardly the first time, hardly the last).  What poor flawed creatures!  In my wash of compassion, I felt that old-style pity. Recognizing my pivot, my poetic turn and dance move, I saw, again, that we can open to the other, be medicine to counteract the poison.

So here’s to pounding the garlic cloves with thyme with mortar and pestle!  To sizzling peppers in a pan over the flame, to share.  Here’s to winding up to the big question: Can everyday life be a moral response to political failure? 

It has to be yes.  In my kitchen, moral questions like these touch on either Torah or Tolstoy.  Last night it was Tolstoy who imagines his character Pierre, in War and Peace, as a wartime captive witnessing the execution of prisoners. He sees an abyss, an unpassable wound.  He can’t imagine how his world can continue.  Unexpectedly, a peasant appears at his side, and says, “just eat this potato.”  Generosity intrudes unexpectedly, and Pierre begins his repair. 

One person’s potato is another’s oyster or apple.  Or fig jam.  Or fresh bread. Chicken tagine with lemon and olives.  Salt cod with peppers.  Once we get started, there really is no end. 

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5 Responses to Everyday Life: Antidote to Political Poisons

  1. Vladimir says:

    Tolstoy… and potatoes to the Rescue! Great post. And Tolstoy, by the way, said at one early point of his career that he doesn’t care if his fiction solves any questions. But had he known that the youth of today would read his novels and fall in love with life, he would devote all his life to writing. Well, he did. And it works.

  2. Mark Garrison says:

    You poignantly address the crucial question of our time, Jill, how to avoid letting fruitless anger descend into hopeless despair. And yet. . .is turning inward for solace in daily pleasures—which is my approach, I confess— simply standing by as the country slides toward fascism, as Germans did in the thirties? Is my vote in November all I can do?

    • jillbpearlman says:

      Mark, you put your finger on the point of oscillation! One can never argue against the creation of community, sharing, opening and elevating the good. Now, it can be seen as a matter of resistance, practically, to live qualities of the world we want to see. I used to think of artists and humanists as Irish monks, carrying forward values essential to preserve once the world is ready again. But of course, we don’t want to be ostriches with our heads in the sand. How do we know when it’s time to get out on the barricades? Million dollar question.

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