the anthony dobranski blog


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Worms made the world and the world is their art

I have written in the past about my wonderful compost and its happy population of worms, which do much more of the work of composting — pretty much all of it, in fact — than I ever suspected when I threw a few into the container.

A recent Science News article on fossilized worm burrows thus struck me deeply. The fossils from the Ediacaran period, 550 million years ago, may be the oldest example of animals turning the ground to look for food — and may have created new environments and new selection pressures. The idea is unproven and still controversial, but these burrows may be evidence that worm burrowing started the Cambrian explosion, which produced most of the major animal groups around today.

The idea is charming and resonant. What if I and all the world I know around me are some great art grown by worms, tilling and tilling, for hundreds of millions of years? What if the Anthropocene era is simply the latest of their fads and genres, the slam poetry to their gymnosperm sonnets and dinosaur operas?

In Proverbs of Hell, William Blake wrote “The cut worm forgives the plow.” He may have been righter than he knew. Perhaps their forgiveness is not fortitude or patience, but the indulgent parent forgiving the biting three year old, the reader forgiving a paper cut.


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Political naiveté and general uselessness

A little while ago I posted a thought that perhaps the Republicans might see their way to backing some form of congressional voting for DC, with an eye toward upping the party’s standing among the moderate and meritocratic citizens of our nation’s capital.

My, I am naive.

I have been reading Geoffrey Kabaservice’s excellent and elegantly-written history Rule and Ruin (full disclosure: Geoff’s a friend and a groomsman), which explains the how and the why of what the media has christened the rightward tilt of the GOP in the past fifty years. As Kabaservice makes fascinatingly clear, it was not a tilt but a putsch, a dedicated effort by devotees one school of right-wing thought to gain complete control of the Republican party. To call these people — and by these people I mean the activists, not general-purpose registered-Republican voters — conservative is to redefine the term for there is nothing conservative about them. They are nearly anarchist, with a frontier mentality that views with suspicion anything that is not a fence and denies any sense of a shared commons.

Anyway. I see now the only way the Republicans want DC in their fold is as vassal.

Rule and Ruin is one of two texts lately that have given me some new food for thought. The other, lighter but also more pointed, was a New York Times magazine column (sorry, “riff” — really, the Gray Lady’s  getting a little too hip) by Steve Almond, on how liberals are so busy indulging in right-wing political commentary, in order to enjoy their dudgeon, that they are failing to counter it by meaningful and useful acts.

I suppose I have been party to this — not to the point of listening to Fox News, but by watching satire shows and the circumlocutions of politicians on Sunday talk shows. (Really I listen to the rebroadcasts on CSPAN Radio — easier to do while gardening or ironing, and with no commercials — and much less now than I used to.)

It’s making me wonder if there is any value per se in being a well-informed citizen if I don’t do much about it. Certainly in uppity DC, as in most other places in the country, my value as a voter is meaningless thanks to the electoral college.

I need to find my inner Norquist on this one.