Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Magical Thinking

The other day while driving my car some unconscionable distance, I was listening to NPR talking about the volume of oil escaping from that deep sea fiasco in the Gulf. It was somehow encouraging to hear that there are entire ecosystems which handle the natural leakage of oil from the ocean floor.

Then today I find that they are running out of clever tricks, and that it might be months, and that each week will be like another Exxon Valdiz cracking open its hull. This is not encouraging. Our little pinprick down a bit too deep could clearly overwhelm a lot of ecosystems. I can only hope the contrarians on global warming will take note.

I've recently discovered a slew of Chinese movies whose scope is blockbuster huge. These rehearse the span of Chinese narrative history. I've seen a few more rehearsing Western narratives. There's always lots of blood. Lots of miraculous fighting even after the fatal blow. I'm not really sure why that particular fiction captivates audiences, as though a well trained and determined fighter can keep on keeping on after his blood is drained..

The Earth is clearly bleeding. This wound could be fatal, though not, of course, for the living Earth. It could be fatal for us, Earth's conscious denizens. We are those for whom the oil has been meant. And we have perched ourselves precariously on oil's pinnacle with scant time to climb down before the structure beneath us crumbles.

Yes, I did say that. The oil is meant for us. And we have gone a click too far. It is long past trivial to observe that the Earth is a living organism. The balance of systems is far far more complex than that in any one identifiable organism on her surface (by which I mean to include the shallows of our oceans, by which I mean their depths). This is clear enough, since those systems include and incorporate every single individual subsystem.

We'd thought until now that the earth as a whole was rather simpler than us. That it was the ground for our complex species; we the capstone of evolution, conscious creatures of the Earth. We still secretly did and do believe that we are at the very center of the cosmos, defined in terms of the complexity of our nervous system. The elaboration of our understandings.

We are none of that. Our bodies, rather, are but the ground for dialogic thought, and this in turn, through writing, is what is meant by consciousness. We had none before we got civilized. Period.

The earth has no vocal apparatus. No means to store communications. Well, apart from us. We are the voice of the earth, and not of our individual selves, nor certainly of our "culture." Whatever complexity we represent is embedded, not separated, from the ecosystems of the entire planet. We cannot be abstracted, no matter how much we exalt that particular sense of "meaning." Earth's oil was meant for us in precisely the same manner that anything is meant. It's not about intention.

It is easy now to imagine the end. The oil will gush for months. The price impact of peak oil will hit the globe, very much as though we'd reached that magic tipping point. Cars will suddenly look absurd, and the failure of the economy, writ large, will engender anger far far beyond what folks feel now, directing it willy nilly against this or that object.

Our monocultural food basket will collapse in an instant, from some virus, from lack of oil inputs, by analog to oil blowout prevention failure. There will surely be a systemic collapse of the flimsy scaffolding of law. Nature will sort this out. We won't. We will have gone beyond ourselves, and God help us.

Against the oil leakage, we will eventually deploy all remaining resources. But it will be too late.

Not too late for nature's crops. Not too late for the Earth. But far too late for the current manner of our human organization, an economy built on an extravagant narrative of absurdist religious hope and fervor and insanity.

There will be those who Praise the Lord as he fulfills his promised destiny. I won't be among them. Our complicity in our demise will have been too obvious. We have crawled into our narrative. We are gone insane.

The massive influence of the Christian narrative is a piece of evidence that we remain willfully blind to. We might take it as evidence of Divinity, as how else to explain its clear impact on our human history and now, very recently, on the fate of the very Earth. But it would be wiser to take it as a grand example - the grandest example - of how narrative forms as much as it describes reality. Imagine others. Please!

There are alternatives, you know. It won't be luck that stops the gushing. It will be deliberate acts of care, of doctoring, of re-established equilibrium. It will be our stepping back from this Devil's brink (oh, why must I capitalize that Name?) where sweets and fats and oversalting trump our bodies' sense of safety. We must not slaughter the fatted Earth. Her prodigal Son has not returned. We have fallen.

Now hey, how is it we are so certain the the Earth herself is not in dialogic communion with other organismic planets, huh? Why is our personal narrative so compelling? Who, indeed, do we think we are? If the Earth were conscious, it would be just barely; a babe among babes whose language is only started and almost certainly not yet written.

Or are we that pathetic beginning, despite how impressed we are with our shiny toys and trinkets.

I remember changing my daughters' diapers while having a conversation with them. Assuming consciousness includes some function to control the bowels, it's not enough simply to be able to speak. It's not even enough to be able to read and write. Just now I had to deal again with Dad, who can deploy reason well enough in defense of his angry position that he can still drive a car, but then can't remember the position he's already agreed to after another minute goes by. His anger no longer belongs to him. It's ours, his family's, and utterly dependent on our manner of presentation.

Tonight I will go to a book signing for a book I feel that I must read. It details the demise of Eliot Spitzer who, the book's author claims, might have made some significant difference in the fate this great Empire State now suffers. Another sad instance of the fallacy that mind has dominion over flesh. Spitzer's is, by all accounts, one of the finest minds among the current stock of politicians. And that brilliance is now for naught, just as our most brilliant human contrivances are as naught against the ever so much more powerful juggernaut of our lowest common denominator desires. Rendered up by the magic of capitalist economics to an utter dependence on oil.

We will drive, dammit, and we will eat red meat and we will be angry at any deprivation thereof. If it is so hard to take Dad's car from him, just imagine how tough it will be for the rest of the planet, which still believes that it can hoist itself with the cleverness of its engineered narrative.

Screw that! It is fully NOT necessary that our lust for oil trump every bit of common sense. But the way in which we organize our economy would have to change. As it is, the prizes flow to he or to that organization which best harnesses the lowest part of each of us. These tea baggers are onto something, but they're not in on the joke. They seem to think that decency at the dinner table is the same as decency in the only sense that matters. The cosmic sense.

We may feel virtuous because of our polite behaviors and politically correct actions as we sail our yachts, drive leather upholstered disposable cars, set tables groaning with ethnic delicacies from around the world, and speak of edgy arts. But we are not only no better, we are no different from the pornographer who preys by means of lust. We may shutter our minds, but it's not our minds which lead us.

I am sick to death of people invoking religious or health-based objections to this or that food on offer to them as a guest. I will honor only politically motivated requests, and those only if I may be educated as to the offensive content of what I have on offer. It is not my body's purity which must be defended. Nor is it the precious sensibility of some animal which had to be slaughtered. It is the planet, and our place on it.

Parents who create perfect and perfectly beautiful minds for admission to Yale and Harvard have in fact created analogs of sex slaves; made beautiful by being trained to ape actual thought and adult creation. This is easily enough proven by the choices the graduates of these places largely make for high profile careers and lifestyles and private jets and hauty cuisine. These are, in essence, childish choices. No different from dolled up sex slaves to depraved adult lusts. Good work, helicopter parents! You have created perfect apes of humanity, brilliant in all ways but those which count. Our lust is always for youth, and yet we discount those who act as we know our priests should. They are merely normal, and the priests depraved. But each of us is trained in stimulus response to candy on offer to the babe within us.

What if, instead of the idiotic conception of the human mind as something whose power can be measured, we were to consider it like a tuning fork, in harmony with the entire cosmos. What if the range from hideous to beautiful were considered a range of gifts, and the measure of the character of their properly named embodiment was the distance between the gift and the congruence of its usage with the health of the entire planet. What if intelligence is analog to beauty, and what if all of this is culturally relative.

Would we ever learn to see as truly hideous the winners who indulge only themselves at the expense of everyone on the planet less fortunate? Would we ever learn to see the luscious bodies on display as the monstrous embodiments of decay they really are? Doubtful. But, you know, that was the narrative which got us to this point. That was the burden of Christ's story. It is not our cleverness which can harmonize with the natural impulses of our planet.

Well, this is tiresome. My voice gets weird when I try to work these things out. I would far rather ride my Walmart (guilty!!) bicycle around town on such a sunny day, and marvel at this beautiful but empty city, decked out in springtime glory, waiting for the fall. Wheeee!!!! (plus, I stopped along the way to get my locally roasted Sumatra, which is almost too wonderful to embody in words).

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