Hanging by a Thread

We often hear the phrase “hanging by a thread”. It typically refers to a life situation that has become desperate or threatened. With all that is currently taking place in our world today, I thought the phrase to be exceptionally relevant.

We enjoy a tenuous existence at best. We often experience a life of “quiet desperation” and spend a lot of time and money in an attempt to prolong and protect our lives as well as those of our loved ones. Always trying to plan and achieve and build for the future while doing our best to ignore the executioner’s axe hanging over our necks, unsure of when it might fall. Never knowing when we no longer get to participate in this strange game of life. I will admit, it makes for a lot of high drama and intriguing storylines if you are a writer such as myself. However, writers are subject to these same rules of existence, so we cannot take the plights of others too lightly when we observe and write about them. We are writing about our own fears as well.

I thought today of the devastation taking place in Florida due to Hurricane Ian. They are calling it a once in a thousand year weather event. Until a year ago, I was a resident of Southwest Florida. I enjoyed many a drink and stunning sunset in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Venice, the barrier islands, and Sarasota. If I had not recently moved away, my existence would have been under severe threat and all I took for granted would have perhaps been swept away along with my illusions of safety. My many friends in that area are at the forefront of my thoughts and I sincerely hope they are safe, even if their goods are not. One day you live in paradise, the next day in hell. It will take years to rebuild the damaged  communities and infrastructure and you will bury some of your neighbors along the way. Such is the temporal nature of our lives.

Overwhelming flash floods struck my homeland of Eastern Kentucky earlier this year. They classified it as a once in a hundred year flood event. I have no idea whether global warming is the root cause of any of this and I do not care to opine on the matter. I’ve seen strong arguments on both sides of the issue. What I do know, is the peaceful existence of thousands of people was washed away in a matter of hours. With little or no warning, many perished in the dark waters that rushed through their homes like a mad thief in the middle of the night. They went to bed in their personal version of paradise (hill people will understand what I mean) and either woke up to scenes of total devastation or did not wake up at all. A delicate existence.

The Bible says, and I paraphrase, “Beware when you think you stand, lest you fall.” People should refrain from getting too cocky. Your world can change anytime without notice. None is required, and often, none is given.

I just lost a dear friend, Bob, who died unexpectedly. We shared many a laugh, many a beer, and many adventures. The news shook my daughter who grew up best friends with Bob’s daughter. It was the second father of one of her best friends to have passed this year. It brought home the fragility of our families and friends and all we hold dear. It made her worry about her own father, me. I wish I could promise her I will be around for as long as she needs me, but I cannot. My wife and I lost our mothers within a few months of each other in the last twelve months. Realizing this, one would think we would treasure each other more, would you not? We continue to conduct our lives like we are immortal, while being perfectly aware that we are not. That is denial at its best, but when you think about it, what choice do we have? We should not live in constant fear either.

We fail to see how interconnected we are on many levels. How our welfare depends on the well-being of others. For example, people are running out of food in African nations due to the war in Ukraine. Who knew before this heinous war began that Ukraine was one of the world’s largest grain exporters and that Africa was heavily dependent on those shipments? When Russia invaded and blockaded their ports, it not only cripped the Ukraine economy, but it deeply affected those who needed the grain to survive. Fortunately, deals were later struck allowing grain shipments to start again, but probably too late for some of the poor souls who needed them.

Ukraine happens to be home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. In their infinite wisdom, Russia shelled the area around the power plant threatening to cause a meltdown and loss of radioactive containment. Of course, Putin denied it, but it is unlikely the Ukrainians launched missiles at their own reactors, or maybe they both did. I don’t know. Mankind’s capacity for stupidity seems to know no bounds. Our interconnectedness comes into play here once again. Should the containment and safety systems protecting this massive nuclear facility be compromised or destroyed, not only would there be power outages affecting millions of people during the coming winter, but a radioactive cloud would be released into the air as well. The crazy thing is, depending on the direction of the prevailing winds at that time, the cloud could descend on Russia itself, or it could travel throughout Europe causing health emergencies on a massive scale. Oh, how we like to play with fire and cause our tenuous existence to become even more fragile than it already is. I know most of us would not willingly take part in such insanity, but when you look at the world leaders, including those in our own country, it seems we have allowed the inmates to take over the insane asylum. 

So, we continue to hang by a thread…hoping it does not break. But, take heart my friends, the human spirit does hang on…and on…and on. It seems indomitable. We do the best we can with what we have most of the time and try to take care of one another for the most part. I see hope in our future…if the thread does not break first.

Take care of yourselves and one another.


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