Friday, July 19, 2019

Living With the Apocalypse (I.)

Newsweek, 2014

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

I bought the above Newsweek special while waiting in line at a checkout counter in a grocery store in 2014.  I still can't quite fathom what it means to be in a world where people graze a magazine while buying beer and cookies about groovy  "places to visit before they disappear" due to global warming.  Are there "soon to be extinct" bus tours?  Cruise ships that will take you on a champagne cruise to islands that are sinking beneath the ocean and/or plastic waste?

                         "The World will end not with a bang, but with a whimper."
                                           ......T.S. Elliot, "The Hollow Men"
I've always had an  apocalypse problem.  I  grew up with THE BOMB in the 50's, and remember the mini bomb shelter my father built, with its barrels of water and shelves full of cans of beans and tuna  fish.  It seems so hopeful, naive, and sad in retrospect,  to think that such a stock would help a family survive a nuclear war.  But like all unimaginable horrors it was, ultimately..... unimaginable
Later I encountered literary and film variations on an atomic "End of the World".  Like the poignant  movie  "On the Beach" with Gregory Peck ("Waltzing Matilda" still evokes that heart-breaking image of lines of people waiting for  their euthenasia pills as a radioactive cloud slowly approaches the shores of Australia, the song playing in the background).  Or "Fail Safe", or Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles , which envisioned an inevitable  nuclear war that exterminated what Bradbury seemingly   considered a hopelessly violent and destructive  humanity.

Rock Hudson in The Martian Chronicles (1979)

Being a native Californian,   I also grew up with the San Andreas Fault hanging over  our free-wheeling, hedonistic culture  (actually under us) with an omnipresent End Times inevitability as well.  Fueled by Hollywood and various New Age prophets "The Big One" with its visions of L.A. skyscrapers collapsing and the San Francisco Bay splitting off as the Continental Plates shifted were always underfoot.    
In fact, the high stakes End Times has informed me and my generation, provoking  post-apocalyptic artforms, utopian communes and survivalist camps, dark Gothic  philosophies and Ascendance cults, as well as the truly  mind boggling denial that infects America, especially  now with Trump and regime.  For me The Apocalypse has always been a kind of backdrop to a life lived, as well, among astounding wonders and miracles of social change and new technology. 

I also came of age in the optimistic, activist 60's, a child of the wealthiest, largest, best educated generation the world has ever seen.  A time of huge possibility and creativity.   As a child I watched black and white tv (with tv dinners on tv trays) while I tried to understand images on the news about the  struggle to integrate the schools. I remember well the terrified faces of  those brave black children........fifty years later I watched a black president dance with his beautiful black First Lady at the inaugeral ball.

I've seen  the Second Wave of feminism, marched for women's rights, and later joined the emergence of a spiritual paradigm devoted to the  Goddess and Eco-feminism.  I've seen the development of ecology.  And gay rights.  On another black and white TV I've seen a man walk on the moon.  I've watched computers appear  in offices, and then  into the common market,  and just when it became possible to actually own one of the amazing  things, I watched the Internet appear to  change the world and human culture with stunning rapidity. Now people walk around with them in their pockets, and think nothing of calling someone instantaneusly on the other side of the world.
A movie poster displays industrial smoke stacks whose emissions form a hurricane eyewall
I don't know if the New Age we so fervently believed in in the 70's will include the arising of Atlantis  and a global Golden Age,  but I do sometimes think we might have the beginning of a technology for  it, if humanity can survive its self-destructive adolescence.   If we can survive human greed and violence, if we can find a "Webbed Vision".

Earth balance.jpgI remember reading in 1994 Al Gore's EARTH IN THE BALANCE (and what a different America I believe it would have been if Gore had rightfully been President. ). 

Later, when  a movie was made about Al Gore's work to wake up America to climate crisis,  AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH..........I thought, YES!  Now things will change, now the real priority will take precedence.   It's been over  ten years since AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, and in 2017 Gore released AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL as followup.   It did not do well in the movie theatres, being, no doubt, not very "entertaining".   In particular, AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL documented what an extraordinary international  achievement it was to create the Paris Accord on Climate Change. 

Now, thanks to Trump and our supposed elected Congress,  the U.S.A. was withdrawn from the Paris Accord, and  is the only country in the world that is not a member of the Paris Accord.  Is this really what the American people want?  To destroy the future to give short term profit to a few corporate entities?  But this is not what the presidential candidates are speaking about even now as another election looms for next year. This is not what our "elected representatives" in Congress are speaking about either.  And our "president" likes to joke about how funny global warming is (along with making jokes about handicapped people and assaulting women's genitals.)  Ha ha.  There goes the population of Zimbabwe to drought!  There goes Puerto Rico to hurricanes!  There goes Florida to the rising ocean!  Ha ha ha!

But Climate Change  is what scientists are speaking about.

As I write there is a record heatwave killing thousands in India, and in June it was 115 in Paris.  As I write there is no water in the capital city of Zimbabwe for some two million people.   
Here it is, accelarating  between the cracks of our so-busy lives. Streaming away on Facebook between the cat videos and the latest warning of what not to eat because it will make you obese or give you cancer. Looming like a shadow over the kids sitting lost over their cellphones on the bus.   As I enjoy movies at the touch of a fingertip, or explore the greatest library the world has ever known, which is literally at the touch of a fingertip.  As I plan a trip to the other side of the continent, a trip that will take me a day, and took my great grandmother a month and my great-great-great-great  Grandfather 6 months, and at the risk of his life. 

Or as I buy  a magazine, found ironically at the checkout counter (see above), next to the latest about Bruce Jenner's sex change or Brad and Angie's marriage problems.  "Places to see before they're gone".    At the checkout pun intended.

The end of the world.   Right there at the Check Out Counter.

Not the end of Gaia, Her evolution and experiments, which for all our cleverness and all the gods we've invented and called upon......includes us.  Probably not the end of humanity either, although there will surely be a lot less humans on the planet in 100 years.  But surely the end of so much, so many other species, so many beautiful places, so many lives that will never fulfill their promise.  Our magnificent civilization,  our expanding, insatiable, unsustainable,  global civilization, in its infancy, really.   

Today, as on other days, I ask myself how do you deal with that?  Maybe tomorrow I'll have an answer for myself, but today, I don't know.  
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake… 
because my great great grand children won’t let me sleep.
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams:  What did you do?
(Excerpts from Hieroglyphic Stairway,  by Drew Dellinger)

I used to feel self-rightous when I pulled out my shopping bag, or recycled my paper, I would sneer at people in SUV's, feeling "appropriate" in my little mini car.  But now.....I don't.  We're all in this together  and the world my grandson will inherit, and all of those yet to come............will have to know it so much more than I.  

How do we live with this?  What do we do, in our small and daily lives?  Where is the wailing wall, the support groups, the encounter groups, the consciousness raising groups, the "sitting Shiva", the "climate change meditation rooms"......that might bring about dialogue, that could shake us out of our denial, our complacency?  If two movies by a former Vice President of the United States, and 98% of the worlds scientists, won't do it.........what? 

"A Webbed Vision" (2007)

Many people vividly recall from childhood unexpected moments of perceiving the grand unity.  Some experience the grace of inter-being on extended trips into the deep silence of wilderness. Some know a version of it in the post orgasmic state.  Some have reported that such "altered" consciousness occurs suddenly in mundane circumstances.  It seems to persist even through our deeply ingrained habits of seeing only separateness and fragmentation.
Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace:  The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age
I can cast no judgement on others, or myself, for needing to turn away,  for needing to make my plans, plant my gardens.  I do believe, as Charlene Spretnak comments above, a "Webbed Vision" of interdependancy is the paradigm that just might save us all.  But this is not an essay in which I can somehow conclude with any hopeful closure or self-help cliche.  Yes, we all should be getting solar panels, recycling our gray water, eliminating plastic waste, driving the smallest cars we can get.........but we are all still part of the problem.   Perhaps the only place to begin, each day, is a spiritual place.   The point in the center of the mandala, remembering that we are each a part of the Living Earth  and each other.  From that place proceed with the day...............

1 comment:

Trish MacGregor said...

I hope there are enough of us to bring in a badly needed paradigm shift.