Long Live Gravity

The health insurance giant Humana may be part of the problem when it comes to health-care reform. In fact, in Michael Moore’s film Sicko, Humana is indicted for murder by denial of payment. But still we can be grateful for this: Every year Humana lays out big bucks for a festival of original plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky.

And, as if to prove Lenin’s proverb about capitalists selling you the rope with which to hang them, the highlight of this year’s Humana Festival was Wild Blessings: A Celebration of Wendell Berry. In that production dozens of our local hero’s poems are recited and sung, including the one, written years ago, that goes: “When I hear the stock market has fallen, I say, ‘Long live gravity! Long live stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces of fantasy capitalism!’”

Gravity is a natural force that can’t be outsmarted by even the wiliest humans. To think otherwise is pure fantasy. We think we have gravity licked when we soar across continents in jet airplanes. But stay up there long enough, and gravity will win. The same goes for all those brilliant financiers who were so sure that house prices would keep going up forever. They believed their own fantasy, and gravity did the rest.

“Fantasy” is the only appropriate term for a belief that natural forces can be overcome by human intelligence. That faith in “intelligence” may be at the root of our current economic problems (and some others, too). Several years ago, there was a movie called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Kenneth Lay and company really believed that the smartest people from the best schools could create a trading market in the “commodity” of electric current. That intellectual adventure ended with the lights going out in deregulated California.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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