Sometimes the life force tank empties out. It’s a kind of ennui, an emotional exhaustion that often sets in about now, when the winter is still running its weather patterns even though the soul is ready for spring. I’m also feeling overwhelmed by the complex intensity of this political season and of course, football (do not go there, please).

This extract below, from a New York Times Book Review piece a few months back, surfaced mysteriously to the top of my desk pile. It is an apt description of my current state of mind. Which can, like the weather in New England, change rapidly:

“In ancient Chinese rituals,” Gray [author of “Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia,” ] writes, “straw dogs were used as offerings to the gods. During the ritual they were treated with the utmost reverence. When it was over and they were no longer needed they were trampled on and tossed aside.” That is our probable fate. He quotes Laotzu: “Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs.” If we don’t wipe ourselves out first, the cosmos may do it for us.

Elsewhere, Gray has emphasized what he calls the modus vivendi: the possibility, beyond mere tolerance, of embracing the multiple forms of human life as a good thing in itself, since no single arrangement could ever realize the full range of ends that people pursue…“In the future, as in the past,” Gray writes in “Black Mass,” “there will be authoritarian states and liberal republics, theocratic democracies and secular tyrannies, empires, city-states and many mixed regimes.”

We may not like it, but we can get used to it. In “Straw Dogs,” he counsels a kind of neo-Stoic withdrawal from the whole mess: “Contemplation is not the willed stillness of the mystics but a willing surrender to never-returning moments. … Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?” Hitherto, the ideologues have sought to change the world. The point, for John Gray at least, is to put up with it.

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