Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution

Gold sun

When I look at the world outside myself, I see a marvelous place. Beauty everywhere.

I see that life goes on, and that every life has its own joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats. Its own love story. No one is to be pitied, unless we are all to be pitied.

Much gloom and doom is written these days around the shortsightedness of the human race. About how, even though we are capable of figuring out how our energy-consuming behavior dooms future generations, we don’t seem capable of changing our behavior. Not even when we see clearly that our own children’s and grandchildren’s lives could be—will be—profoundly affected by it.

And I’m no better than the next guy along those lines. I don’t always remember to turn out the lights when I leave the room. I have way more possessions than required for simple comfort. Also, I’ve been known to drive an hour to save a few bucks on cheap underwear that was made on the other side of the planet.

So … Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.

And yet, as I grow older, I do sometimes wonder if this human inability to take the future seriously would be just fine, if we could only take this present moment seriously. Save what can be saved in this moment. Feed who can be fed. Treat this person with dignity. When all hell breaks loose, bring the ones you love safely back to base camp. That’s all anyone could ever do, throughout the millennia.

It’s what they are going to have to do after we’re gone. 

Depending on how it all plays out, those of us born in the mid-20th Century could be condemned in retrospect. I wonder if we’ll be viewed by future generations something like slave owners who went to war defending “honor” are viewed today: justified in their own culture, condemned by posterity.

And so … if by chance a future generation reads these words and scorns me for leading a life that contributed to your present pain—well, you have every right.

And yet … from this morally-broken stance, I still have the temerity to say, Love and care for those you can. Especially those who are close at hand. It’s all any of us have ever managed to do well.


These thoughts have been present with me in the past few weeks because, after years of freelancing, I am once again employed. A small, clean-energy software start-up firm in Seattle has themselves a new “Technology Writer,” and I have myself a job. If all goes as planned, together we will do our bit to help clean energy sources like wind and solar become cost-effective players in the global energy economy. Go team!

The work feels good, if a little scary. No spring chicken, I find myself once again climbing a steep learning curve. Such is the life of a tech writer. These days, I’m cramming volts, amps, watt hours, operating modes, AC, DC, and a gazillion other acronyms into  this well-worn brain. Amazing stuff! Awesome how electricity works, and doubly awesome that we humans actually figured out how it works.

Or, sort of figured it out. Electricity still holds some of its mysteries pretty close to the vest. But by gum, when I plug in my laptop, that sucker charges. It’s a miracle!

Here’s wishing you all new adventures, new epiphanies, and a fresh charge of clean energy in the coming year,


About Margaret D. McGee


  1. Brad Offutt says:

    Happy New Year, Margaret! Seems to me every generation can choose to scorn or blame the past ones for perceived “sins.” So can each new lot thank and praise those now gone for unimaginable sacrifice and magnificent advances. Thanks to my folks’ and grandparents’ generations, I can write this on a smart phone and can see the screen clearly! Congrats on your new job and on what the company in question is doing. You aren’t very old, you know. I have ten years on you and am still a whippersnapper in so many ways. As recorded in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus (who did not preach guilt) told us to find what’s within ourselves because that will save us. Here’s to more love and more salvation in 2014!

    • Thanks, Brad. I’m with you in gratefulness for past generations. And I know that guilt can be unhealthy and unhelpful. At the same time, I think it’s important to recognize responsibility. Does what we do matter? I think so. So I wrestle with that…

      • Brad Offutt says:

        Oh, yes! Responsibility is so important! And every one of us, on occasion, fails to “live up” to various responsibilities. In fact, the original New Testament word for “sin” did not carry the baggage we’ve loaded onto it. It simply meant “falling short of the mark.” What we do matters very much, as does striving to do always better. I just guess I come down on the side of not expending time and energy on guilty breast-beating when I catch myself out.

  2. Mary Davies says:

    Margaret, I’m thinking about your idea of saving what can be saved in this moment. As a climate activist, I’m quite focused on citizenship and stepping up politically. But I also love the idea of trying to envision and even to live right now the life we think we could have if we lived more sustainably. THe bike-able, walkable, bus-able life I get to live, including all the incidental human connections that would never occur if we were sitting alone in our cars, for example.
    Hurray for your new job too! The challenge will be a blessing, I feel sure.

    • Thanks, Mary. I’m so looking forward to when we can move into P.T., and I will be walking to the library, and the theatre, and Aldrich’s… Good on so many levels. Probably another year or two out, but … we’re working on it.

  3. fitting boxes
    one inside the other

  4. Brad Offutt says:

    Carolyn, that is just beautiful! So am I inside the box my parents formed, or are they inside mine? I think maybe it’s both at the same time.

  5. Thanks, Brad. There was a father with three sons. The last son was born several years after the first two. One day the two older sons complained that the father was more lenient with the last son. The father replied that perhaps he learned something from the two older sons and reared the youngest son with more understanding. In this case the sons were in the father’s box.

    There was a very poor mother with several daughters. The mother made something out nothing be it a bit of leftover food, a pice of cloth, or a broken branch for a Christmas tree. All of the mother’s daughters had the same ability to make something out of nothing. The mother was in the daughters’ boxes.

    Perhaps, Brad, we are all one?

    • Brad Offutt says:

      Carolyn, for me the miracle of Christmas is that God, the Spirit of Life, the Ground of Being, not only is IN us but BECAME us, and allowed that we be in Him. So, despite individuality (a great gift indeed!), we are in fact all one. So I am one with my dear father, my difficult but loving mother, my steadfast grandpa, my crazy grandma, my creative sister, my amazing daughter, my lover of 47 years – and you too! Thank you!

  6. Loved this. Thx. Which company?

    Happy New Year. Have fun with the new job–an exhilarating start to 2014.

  7. Congrats on the new job, Margaret. They’re lucky to have you.

  8. Thank you for your work news, Margaret.
    What a great model you are of jumping out into the (somewhat) unknown and letting your life take you in a new direction. Research shows “new learning” is the best way to continue to build neuro-connections. Way to go!

  9. Congratulations on your new job, Margaret, and thank you for your description of the work and the challenges. Very inspiring.

  10. joe proctor says:

    Margaret–Congrats on your new job: a new year, a new page, new challenges.

    we meet
    at funeral homes
    catching up on news

    from a distance
    the smell of jasmine tea
    forgotten friend


  11. Brad Offutt says:

    Human frailty, with thanks to Homer for the initial image and no thanks to me for the outcome!

    rosy-fingered dawn
    and a shiver of dismay –
    all out of propane

  12. Brad Offutt says:

    I should have added to the above that I am a big part of the problem (forgot!) and also of the solution (emergency call to the propane folks). Extra layers tonight…

  13. For those following comments to this post — my apologies for that flurry of test comments. I heard that some folks were having trouble with comment notification, and I needed to see what was working. Testing is over for now, and I promise it won’t happen again soon! Thanks for your patience & understanding of my challenges with technology.