I have to look at the landscape of the blue-green world again. Just think: in all the clean beautiful reaches of the solar system, our planet alone is a blot; our planet alone has death. I have to acknowledge that the sea is a cup of death and the land is a stained altar stone. We the living are survivors huddled on flotsam, living off jetsam. We are escapees. We wake in terror, eat in hunger, sleep with a mouthful of blood.
It's not a very uplifting little passage from Dillard, but it's full of truth. Earth is the only planet in the solar system on which death exists. In fact, the life of the human race sort of depends on death for its very survival. We kill and eat animals. We raise and harvest grains and vegetables. Our cars are filled with gas, which comes from oil which comes from animals that roamed this blue-green world millions of years ago. I could go on, but you get the idea. Death gives us life, and vice versa.
It is Independence Day in the United States. We celebrate with parades and races and barbecues and kids running through sprinklers. And we celebrate with fireworks. In less than an hour, I will be packing my family up in my car, and we will be heading off to a community picnic that ends with rockets and explosions and showers of lights. I will buy kettle popcorn. My daughter will probably get cotton candy. My son wants a snowcone. Yes, the town in which I live is a little like a Norman Rockwell painting (if you can ignore the occasional crystal meth house).
We can celebrate freedom on this day because of brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our way of life, from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War and beyond. Yes, in a very large way, death is a very significant part of today's celebrations. Dillard has it right: death is always around.
I'm not going to get all maudlin and dark here. I simply want to acknowledge the fact that I live in a country with immeasurable freedom, and that freedom came at a price. Maybe there will be a time when freedom won't be so costly. It will simply be as abundant as sand on the shores of Lake Superior or grasshoppers in a summer field. We won't have to argue about it or fight over it. No blood will have to be spilled. Nobody will have to be buried.
Freedom and peace and independence for the whole world. Not a bad dream.
Until then, Saint Marty will spread out his blankets on the grass, eat his kettle corn, and wait for dusk to fall.