Cocoon with cable

Walking down Second Street early Monday morning, I was struck by the silence. I wasn’t surprised, mind you—I knew it was a holiday, even if Labor Day marked a labor day for me. Still, ambling away from the office for a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll, I couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t much to notice.

No bikes. Few cars. Empty sidewalks, except for a woman in front of Pluto’s sweeping up some broken glass. Only when I reached the entrance of Peet’s did I encounter a crowd, but the caffeinated and conversational souls only registered a small ping on my sonar.

Strolling back along a slightly different route, I found myself in a state of contemplation. A series of reflections began to flow.

I thought about some pieces in this week’s issue: Emily Brannen’s remembrance of Sept. 11 (here) and Jaime O’Neill’s essay about a side effect of war (here).

I thought about Chico, where passions tend to focus more on construction than destruction.

I thought about how these contradictions meshed, why they came to mind in sequence.

And that’s when an odd phrase popped up: a cocoon with cable.

There, in a silky nutshell, was the answer. We receive glimpses of the world at large, but the impact has limits. We’re connected, with a disconnect.

Take next Monday. Another anniversary is on the way—9/11’s fifth, in the wake of Katrina’s first. Emily Brannen felt the Twin Towers fall; I watched on CNN, the way I “witnessed” Gulf Coast devastation and the Iraq War. Are milestones of these contemporary events all that different from anniversaries of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima? Not if you’ve only experienced them the same way, on screen.

Same with fighting overseas. Our troops, their loved ones and veterans have a connection to combat that civilians don’t. War doesn’t confront most Chicoans face to face. We see the occasional protest or salute; beyond that, our streets are peaceful. We are insulated—cocooned—in neighborhoods where beauty is never more than a few blocks away and wholesale violence is anomalous.

Consider energy. Apart from all-too-predictable price spikes, is the oil shortage really hitting home? When we’re not at risk for rolling blackouts, or lamenting the summertime bills, how much do we worry about electricity? Some environmentalists are so concerned about greenhouse-gas emissions and petroleum supplies that they’re advocating nuclear power (here)—so, the problem is serious. Yet air conditioners stay set at 72 and alternative transportation means driving Mangrove instead of The Esplanade.

Judge not lest you be judged—believe me, I’m not casting aspersions, nor casting stones from the porch of a glass house.

What I am saying is it is natural to intellectualize distant events and act on close ones. But faraway troubles may not be as far as we think, and things we do “here” can have a ripple effect “out there.” Enjoy the cocoon, for we’re fortunate to have the comfort, but keep a watchful eye on the cable.