Natural Slope

Spiritual Smart Aleck


Part one: Back in the 1970s I lived for a time in a house with some friends, one of whom was an engineer. He introduced me to the concept of natural slope by saying the house had achieved natural slope, i.e., it needed cleaning. Not that he was going to clean it. Cleaning was not men’s work.

Merriam Webster defines natural slope as “the slope assumed by a mass of earth thrown up into a heap.”

So, natural slope is the point where gravity kicks in and soil begins to slide back down on itself, although you can apply it to materials other than soil, like crap stacked up in your house.

Part two: last Friday morning while driving to my class at the swimming pool I heard a story on the radio which shocked me. I had never heard language like that on National Public Radio. Realizing what had been said, and who had said it, hit like a body blow.
Then the announcer switched out of his announcer role for a moment, and said he could not let this pass without saying, “This is racist.”

Once again, I found myself wondering where are the grownups? Why is there no accountability?

Part three: A few months ago, I quoted Holocaust survivors who said it’s too late to leave this country, as it became too late to leave Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

We may not have camps and gas showers and ovens, but we are letting brown and black people die in Puerto Rico. We gun down and lynch black people. Our president is calling countries populated by black and brown people “shitholes.” He praises white supremacists as “fine people.” He has made it okay for Nazis to march with impunity in America.
The Republican party, which is in power, does nothing to stop this.

As a mother and a grandmother, I have to say it: shame on you, Republicans. Shame on you.

I don’t say shame on him. I know he has no shame.

Part four: I keep thinking that all this unregulated terrible behavior is piling up like all the papers and boxes and other crap in my house. When that stuff reaches natural slope, it starts to fall. You can keep throwing things on top of other things, but they slide and roll over each other and spread out and you can’t walk anywhere until you clean up the mess.
I keep thinking that’s what our government is doing, stacking crap on top of crap. I keep thinking it must be getting to natural slope. Every time the president shoots himself in the foot, I wonder, is this it? Is this the day the country simply cannot bear the weight of one more quarter-teaspoon of bullshit?

Part five: Yesterday I watched a video taken in Orange County, of homeless people camped in tents and makeshift shelters on the banks of a river there. Their encampments stretched on mile after mile, and looked like the encampments here, tents and tarps, and piles of bags of stuff, and people milling around. I imagine most homeless encampments look like that. Homeless people and their encampments have become normal in America.

Then I hear on the news that the stock market is hitting record highs. I see pictures of white guys in suits, smiling because they are making lots of nice money, like they think this boom will never end. What short memories they have. The stock market’s natural slope is not predictable.

Part six: Last night I watched, “I Am Not Your Negro,” a documentary about James Baldwin. If you have not seen it and you get the chance, see it.

The movie tells Baldwin’s story, and the story of race in America in his lifetime, and now.
When they showed film of him speaking, his intelligence, his search for exactly the right words to say exactly what he meant, his clear and profoundly humane being, were a balm to my heart and mind and soul. He did not pull any punches, he spoke the truth, even though white people really could not handle hearing the truth.

Sometime after his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were shot and killed, he moved to France and lived out the rest of his life there. Listening to him in the movie I realized how much I miss hearing the intelligent, rational voices of honest, humane people.

Part seven: I encourage you to spill intelligence, rational thought, honesty, good humor, and kindness over every person you meet, as if those qualities have reached natural slope within you, and are tumbling out of you unrestrained.

If you can’t do that, at least be quiet and don’t make things worse.
Blessings and peace, friends. We are all in this together.