Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oil Blowout!

This will not come across right. You will think I'm some sort of Pollyanna, and who knows, maybe I am. But I hear of the oil slick down toward New Orleans, and I think something along the lines of OK, cool, Mama is finally getting up to dance. She's reminding us who's in charge here. Of course, that's after I run through my feelings of dread at what it is that we've unleashed. What were Oppenheimer's words? "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

I have the feeling in the face of this oil blow that I do while sailing and the weather clearly asserts how puny I am. This oil blow terrifies me, even while it thrills me that humans are being shown how small we are. How incapable to contain all contingencies.

I don't really give a whole lot of credibility to the Gaia hypothesis on most levels; that the earth can be considered a unitary living organism. Or in particular, that it/she might be conscious. But then again, the notion of a conscious God is poppycock to me too. Since, for me, what can consciousness mean if not a kind of dialogic awakening, resulting, through language, from multiple minds conspiring. (I won't bore you just now with more Julian Jaynes.)

Sure, I've wondered about a kind of dialog between heaven and earth, but the trouble is that while consciousness is dialogic, language, the substrate for consciousness, requires a lot more than two for the dance to get started. There has to be a whole community.

And if there are other planets alive, well then they are communicating in language which won't be picked up by puny man's technologically based receivers. But surely the Earth is alive It is more than a single organism. It has co-evolved with life, and just as my mind is neither fully responsive nor responsible for everything that befalls it, the Earth reflects us back. It makes no more sense to wonder whether the Earth is dead or alive than it does to wonder whether the me I was a second ago is dead. The earth also, is still becoming, and we shouldn't be so sloppy with our categories.

Which brings me around again to the weather; manifestations of what often gets called fate. The toss of dice beyond anyone's control, except for God's if you want to raise things to that level of abstraction. We can regard this oil blow as a regrettable accident, with no meaning other than what we make of it. But if you follow that chain far enough, there is almost nothing about our existence which can't be traced to accident. At some point its "meaning" comes from outside your puny self.

And so it has suited me to wonder if oil cannot and should not be regarded as a gift from earth to man. Ecologically minded people like me tend to be horrified when we learn  the extent to which our current capitalistic and poisonous diet is actually oil based. From the fertilizer to the pumping of water from the ground, to the plowing and transport and refrigerating and drying, there is as much oil as input to our food chain as there is to our transportation industry. And at least as many outflow points, therefore, for greenhouse gaseous emissions.

We're horrified by the warfare, by the money power, by the straight up raping of the earth accomplished for what There Will be Blood demonstrated so clearly must be a game of greed and self-aggrandizement, inevitably to the point of utter desertification of the earth, the self, the soul. Rosebud.

We're horrified by the poisoning of our bodies by the corn sweeteners, the soybean economy, the concentration of energy production into the hooved animals we consume with such lusty gusto. And most of all we're horrified by the immiseration of so many otherwise intact and self-sufficient cultures and peoples beneath the unleashed Halliburton empires of rapacious global capitalism.

But, you know, just as I was taken aback the other day to hear someone voicing a cogent caution about the impact of all this new (only about 100 years) radioactive energy we swim through: The power grid, the radio, the television, the cellphone, the WiFi, WiMax interconnected super-saturated world of communications and power distribution technology for which, as anyone who's grabbed rabbit ears knows, our bodies make really good antennae: just as I was taken aback by that seeming paranoia, I'm sometimes taken aback by the presumption that we must engineer our way out of the predicament we're in.

My thought was simple; do you really think this occult effect which might be doing something at our cellular level, and who knows, might even be tweaking our propensity for cancer, and might have some subtle effect on our moods; do you really think that impact can hold a candle to the solar power of the actual human communication which rides on all these waves?

Hasn't the impact of that drowned out the other stuff in some kind of inverse of the proverbial drop in the ocean? Hello people, we're globally interconnected now by all this electromagnetic radiation which powers our communications technology.

Or like when people study paranormal interactions between mind and matter, isn't it enough of a miracle that I can apparently will my hand to pick up tools and impact literal mountains of matter, even before I deploy the petroleum-powered engines at my disposal. Have we really become so numb to the miracles right before us?

All of these wonders descend from Earth's gift of oil to man. We have squandered it, surely, and there are some among us who are as bereft of soul as Bernie Madoff. Who would make of it a magnificent tomb. But the majority of us by far do not mean harm by our actions. Harm is caused by their collection and concentration - these petty actions - and by proxy when we allow those who speak for us to aggrandize themselves upon our meager wants.

Anyhow, I'd say Earth has had about enough of our uppity oil-sucking ways. I'd say we put a drill right into her heart and she's bleeding and we'd better start paying attention. But that doesn't mean we have to disavow all that we've done as though it were the result of evil, devil guided mankind.

There is a lot of expanded consciousness riding on the gift of oil. Most of it engendered by the likes of mass mediated communication, leading right up to and including Facebook, which I hate to say, has given me quite a few new and important connections. Ones I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Let's put a diaphragm over top that gusher just as quickly as we can. If oil is still lighter than water, then we should be able to suck the oil out the top. It's a kind of opposite to putting a band-aid on the wound, but the concept's identical.

Then let's let the Earth heal a bit. Let's dial back our proxy aggrandizement, individually and one by one. I know I am not even  remotely interested in some fanciful mansion on a hill. I'd rather live in civilization, and leave the hilltops for picnics. I enjoy walking to the extent that the city affords that luxury. And I do enjoy how much I can get accomplished, even socially, from right inside my home. No time wasted commuting. No life threatening challenges against fate on the highway. And hopefully some smallish fraction of oil use compared to turning the key of my car.

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