Some 15 years or so ago I was in a meeting when a guy I hadn’t seen for years came in and, when it was his turn, had an outburst of anger and victimization and rage and futility and most of the other emotions falling under the purview of “pissed”. When the meeting ended I walked over to him, and before he could offer his haven’t seen you in a long time greetings, I said this to him: “Now what?”
Over the years since then, when we have managed contact in person or through email or over the phone, those two words have invariably found their way into the conversation. Usually on his part. It’s something we ask each other, ask ourselves, remind ourselves – Okay, there’s all that, so Now what?
The phrase came to me this morning, early, in the recliner, thinking about Nice, France and France again and again and everywhere else over the planet where horror and humanity gone wrong has paid its hope-draining visits these last many years. Now what?
I honestly gave some time in my head early last night, looking at but not really watching the news, to thinking dark thoughts, dystopian thoughts, those of an Enraged New World, where whole groups of people are scrutinized for the good of everyone else. I woke up and found myself in bad company, in fantasy bed with the likes of Newt Gingrich, certainly not wanting to be racial or racist in any way – not in any way – just wanting a world where anyone is safe to go anywhere anytime, to rejoice in the sweet gift of life, and its promises of love and kinship and wonder and starting a business and chasing bliss and fresh breezes blowing along a tree-lined avenue.
Then this morning I had the thought that if I were 16 or 17 years old when I woke today, my desired career path would be as an agent with the FBI, with the CIA, with Homeland Security, with Interpol, with MI6, with la Surete, or something else, something better, like the agency Tom Cruise worked for in Philip K. Dick’s “Minority Report”. Where you get to see the crimes before they happen. Where you get to see someone getting into a large white truck in the hills above the ocean front in Nice, where you get to see into his head and see his thoughts, his intentions. And stop them before they happen. That would be good.
But I’m not 17 and that’s not real and the fact is the only real thing for me, right now, is not knowing what to do. Being left with only this – “Now what?”
It’s ironic. My intention for my next post in this blog, a few days ago, was to write about another agency, another grouping of initials. This one – VISTA. I wanted to write about VISTA, Volunteers In Service To America, that hands-on, hope-affirming government created and funded agency around, doing good right here in The United States, back when I was growing up, way back even before I saw my friend walk into that meeting. Back in the 60s and 70s. And an idea growing in my head about bringing VISTA back, now, and turning its attention on the racial and economic opportunity and general kindness issues we find ourselves facing right here. But now look. I’m all up in my head with the FBI and the French DST and Philip K. Dick’s Pre-Crime Police. VISTA pushed over into the corner.
Some days. Some days it’s really hard. It’s hard to feel helpless, and afraid. My wife Susan is in San Diego now, visiting her parents, and I cannot think of how many times in the last three days I have told her to stay safe. I said it more urgently this morning. Stay safe.
I don’t believe God or The Great Spirit or Higher Power or whatever you want to call it, I don’t believe we were allowed to come into existence on this beautiful planet just to be scared. Always scared. Or to be forever heart-broken. I don’t believe that for a minute. But this morning, sitting here, I’m not sure what to do about it. So I’m left with Now What.