Sweltering in Place

It was a hot week in the Bay Area. Temperatures hit the upper nineties and stayed there. I have written before how I don’t like air conditioning and have stopped going into movie theaters and most grocery stores because of it. I even refused to use it in the Bronx, where the humidity would climb as high as an elephant’s eye. Well, I must be getting soft, because I turned it on this week, and the humidity was only up to his thigh.

I have a friend who reminds me every so often to be kind to myself. Maybe I am finally paying attention. For the most part, though, I haven’t followed his advice. The particular form my unkindness has taken over the years is self denial. Interestingly, the denial has been of a penitential or religious sort: fasts, pilgrimages, cold showers, and making do with as little as possible even with what most people would consider “essential” goods and services, to use the word of the hour.

But I think turning on the air conditioning in the midst of sweltering heat points to something other than my being kind to myself. Something else is happening to me now, something almost on a hormonal level. I feel myself moving from self denial to skepticism. As the philosopher said, I am so skeptical of things that I can barely wiggle my pinky as a sign of interest. That might be an exaggeration. I can move my pinky, both of them. I am not so skeptical that I deny absolute truth. Neither am I a cynic. As we grow older, we often become cynical, but it’s hard to tell in my case whether what looks like cynicism is really upbringing, genes, or just being a New Yorker. So, I’ll leave that alone.

The skepticism isn’t religious, moral, or even academic, although academic comes closest. What I mean is that I have become hardened toward ideas and beliefs that consume many people today. For instance, I couldn’t care less about what’s trending, who’s hot, and where the action is taking place. I don’t think I’ve ever been attracted to those things; i.e., “earth’s absorbing vanities,” as the prayer goes.

An example is Space X, which just launched two astronauts into space. I have no idea what their mission is and what they hope to accomplish. Like the pinky guy, I’m not even interested in finding out. My skepticism consists in this. Elon Musk, for as much as I admire his boldness and creativity, is a businessman. A privately launched rocket into space eventually will earn him beaucoup d’argent and land him on the cover of Time magazine (if that still exists). That’s not a bad deal for his investors.

But must I get excited for him because of his success? I am not a venture capitalist and the launch of “Dragon” (why in God’s name is it called that?) does not represent the country the way the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions did. This launch is about Musk and Space X, not about us stepping into a new frontier together. But, you argue, this couldn’t have happened anywhere else but here and was a joint mission with NASA. So, it is still a celebration of American ingenuity and know-how. 

You have a point, but I am still skeptical, especially when I hear all the hype about the interface of private enterprise and government and how this synergy will save the planet. For one, I don’t trust people who use the word “synergy.” Second, Musk, the entrepreneur, wants to capture the transportation market to Mars since Warren Buffet has bought up all the railroads down here on Earth. This is starting to feel like a board game. Think I am being too skeptical, cynical even? Brazil’s Petrobras is an example of a private-state enterprise. For the past twenty years, it has been involved in the greatest corruption scandal in history. Of course, it’s now a Netflix movie. 

Here’s my dilemma. I love what Musk is doing and believe projects like his will lead to a more prosperous and, hopefully, humane world. I also think he is a spectacular kind of visionary who can execute his vision. And not just one vision but two. One would have thought a car company bigger than Ford and GM combined would be enough. But I can’t get past the skepticism. Something smells fishy. I just hope it’s the heat.

Image credits: feature by Ava Sol; man by Michael McAuliffe; launch by SpaceX. For more, go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”


  1. I like what you wrote….”don’t know if my cynicism is upbringing, genes or just being a native New Yorker” { I can relate to that feeling…so true} and also…, “I’ve become hardened towards ideas and beliefs that consume many people today { me too…this conspiracy theory thing … sometimes, I feel like it’s like Mel Gibson in that movie with Julia Roberts…although possibly true, I just don’t want to hear it or pay attention to that crap}- good article Robert

    1. Thanks, Mary Ann. Is that the movie where he speaks in song lyrics? I’m actually sympathetic to conspiracy theorists, although I don’t believe the queen is a lizard. I distrust ideology on all sides, Left and Right. It’s now just about everywhere.

  2. Robert, you are a gift to us. I am glad that you gave yourself a gift of air conditioning this week, especially during this week, a week of heat.
    For me, it has been a week of such sadness. Sadness because I have watched so many younger persons compounding the tremendous difficulties, inequities, and absence of leadership by example by shredding their precious selves. That is the ultimate loss; the loss of a creative response to the unacceptable through actions that shred the non-negotiable dignity of the self given to each one of us by God. I’m not blaming or judging, but I weep to see persons shredding themselves: setting fires, trashing what has been built, as response; tearing up piece by piece their very selves, and their gifts. That is the ultimate assault; when persons are able to bring others to shred their very selves.

    1. Thank you, Susan. The shredding you point to is obviously very real. But for me it highlights the complete absence of the church. I don’t mean in acts of social justice and “resistance,” although it probably has responded in the usual way. I mean in terms of a prayer/spiritual life that gives people hope and shows them that despair is evil and that anything that arises from evil is evil. People have a choice whether or not to shred themselves, as you say, but they must be shown a real alternative. The church hasn’t done that. We haven’t done that as Christians, and so people become desperate. The church has capitulated in so many ways and now people run riot.

      1. Robert, I completely agree. I don’t know that I would have survived without the examples and friendship given to me by sisters, priests, and communities living and working in the ghettos of Los Ángeles and Watts. It was their examples and friendship that led me toward meaning, Hope, and the idea that a creative response is always available to me in spite of terribly unacceptable circumstances.

  3. Iraisse the bar rebecca .Pardon me do you have any. Extra Bathing Cap…And why if you were so privelages and you forgot whut was left as soup in your hard had and thermous without a frgn sqirt of a hose.
    lFrg. I.Im talki. oeoe not Peter podimous..created a stir after visiting remos I. The community proper,, Anyone know wehere Paddy and the curator is .I’m carrying a neelg purchased wiffle ball and bat..talkin bout rip..well foot note

    Me thinks that Jacobs was spying behind a slab.
    You know. Him n ver the obvious..
    Waiter I’ve got a hutch in my swing

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