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"Why Rant?"

   The following e-mail arrived yesterday:

   "I read your rant Grandpa. I thought it was very interesting. Does your
head ever hurt from thinking about all these things all the time? At least
someone is looking out for us - thanks.   Love, Erin"

   Erin is one of six granddaughters.  She is now a freshman at Trinity
University in San Antonio, Texas.  The rant she refers to is the Rant of the
Month for last month, called "Indulgence and Clarity."   It has to do with a
debate within one of the organizations which has opposed dumping
radioactive waste at WIPP, near Carlsbad.

   Here is my reply:  
   "Dear Erin,  
   "My friend, Charles Hyder, who wrote HUMAN SURVIVAL ON A
PLUTONIUM-CONTAMINATED PLANET, which we published last year, told me that
when he was researching the data for the book, he often had to stop because
he was sobbing so.  When anyone puts to him the common and often trite
question, 'How are you?' he asks back, 'Am I allowed to include my own self
and my feelings about myself in the answer?  Or must I be very strict and
simply factual about it?  If the personal is allowed, then I feel fine.  If
not, if the answer has to be free of self and selfish feelings, then I feel
   "What he knows, about plutonium and half-life and leukemia and human
tendencies to lie and procrastinate and refuse to think about unpleasant
matters  -- what he simply knows to be true, makes him feel terrible, and
drives him to continue to try to sound some kind of alarm.
   "I have a milder case of the same ailment that afflicts Charles.  I have
a quiet and happy personal life; I have family and friends and health and
work to do and energy with which to do it.  But here is something else.
   "As the old prophet Jeremiah said, 'There is as it were a burning in my
bones and I am weary with holding it in and I cannot.'
   "The pain is in my heart, in my bones, not in my head.  It is caused by
what I know, so my head is indeed involved.  A very sensitive crap-detector
is part of it.  When I write rants like the one you read, it relieves some
of the pressure, some of the burning. 'I am weary with holding it in, and I
cannot.'  So it comes out.
   "It means a great deal to me that you are thankful.  I am very proud of
you, and want you to thrive and be happy.  Stay in touch.   Love,  Grandpa"

	Erin's note made me think further about the question, "Why rant?"  So I
pursue the inquiry further.  The energy for ranting comes from genes
inherited from my Scottish mother.  A rant burst out of her from time to
time, fired by long-standing smoldering anger.  She had plenty to be angry
about, personally.

	I have much less reason, really.  My mother's rant was personal, and the
people around her had to learn to defend themselves from it, or be hurt by
it.  Some simply fled.  In the end I also fled, far away.  But the
wherewithal with which to rant followed me.  There has long been plenty of
advice at hand, that I should cool it, see the bright side, concentrate on
the good news, set aside awareness of impending doom.  I have done some of
that, but still much of the material that surfaces has that sting it, that
indignation, which, if pressed just a little, turns to rage.

	"What is this?" I ask myself.  Some things came clearer after reading a
biography of William Blake.  Blake cared about public popularity and
approval of his work, and then he kept writing and drawing things that could
never be "popular."  I admire his work very much.  I understand his ballads
and his aphorisms and have let him into my life as a sort of guide.  For
decades I have been grateful, especially for one word he made up:
"Nobodaddy."  It is perfect, as a substitute for the word "God." But Blake
fell into despair, much like the despair which killed our fellow-artist, Vincent.

	I need to learn from this.  Life, and life's precious connections, are
worth affirming, even as the Destroyers proceed to destroy them.  Rage,
rage, Harry, against the deliberate destruction of life and love and beauty
and truth.

	Call things by their right names.  My focus is becoming The Whole Thing.  I
will not allow them to destroy all of it, without any protest from me.  This
resolve releases the rant.  There needs to be less subtlety and more clarity
and more fury.  [Compare DUKE CITY TALES with VERMIN: HUMANITY AS AN
ENDANGERED SPECIES...]  More matter and less art.  Something is the matter,
and I'll be one who is unafraid to say so.

	My problem is not our mortality, which enraged Dylan Thomas, who advised
his dying father to "rage, rage."  Samuel Becket had the same problem, when
he said that it was better to write plays that declared life meaningless
than to "sit around and listen to oneself rot."  That is not my problem.
This is not about the limitations that come with organic life.  This is not
even about loneliness or depression.  The rage I feel is about the
deliberate destructiveness I see all around.  Organized, well-funded,
well-thought-out, carefully trained-for and planned-out destructiveness.
"There is a burning in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I

                                    *   *   *
Copyright © 1999 Harry Willson

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