** WARNING: PESSIMISTIC IDEAS BELOW **
I’m not sure what happened.
I am pretty vigilant about monitoring the media I consume.
I try to avoid things that put me in an unnecessary state of anxiety or fear.
I avoid agitating political commentary and self-esteem eroding celeb-worship.
But I am distressed.
It started with the book, “Story of B.”
I won’t do it justice, but the basic premise of B’s philosophy is that humanities ills can be traced back to agriculture. Humans lived in balance for eons until some clever hunter/gatherer invented the idea of exploiting the land at the expense of other species. It allowed for massive food abundance, which allowed for exponential population growth, which led to the gradual – and total- disconnect of the human species and the rest of the world.
I read the book around Thanksgiving time, so used it as a starting point for a lecture on gratitude. I asked, “How many of the things in your life that you are truly grateful for are the result of societal or technological advances?”
As news reports of Black Friday sales and shopping madness filtered through my friends feed, the human disconnect became so glaring that it hurt.
Evidence of our crises piled up around me.
• Activist friends clamored on Facebook about Senate Bill S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act and the scary restrictions on our food.
• A speech by Bill Moyer highlighting the collapse of the American Worker (and the empowerment of the Corporation and super elite) over the last 20 years.
• New TSA rules that showed us our future as we continue to sacrifice freedom in the pursuit of perceived safety.
• A trailer for a movie called, “Earthlings” turned my stomach. As far as I can tell it is a one huge montage of animal cruelty footage. I’ve never been much of an animal rights activist, but the disconnect between our actions and the effect we have on non-human life (animals, plants, waterways, oceans) is rarely illustrated with more vividness than in a slaughterhouse.
• FixCongress pointed out the insult on top of this injury with a single tweet, “39 new congresspeople have never held office. Will they like spending 70% of their time raising money?” Ugh. Hopelessness delivered in under 140 characters.
• Finally, I re-watched the powerful Story of Stuff and – even with it’s over-the-top examples – felt like I was punched so hard in the gut that I lost my breath. The sickness of our humanity is hard to fathom. Even if I made dramatic changes to my life patterns, the momentum of our cultural illness feels unstoppable. It is our consciousness that is sick. And the outbreak is global.
How can human life be so amazing, and so horrific all at once?
How can humanity be given such a unique gift to experience an awareness of the world, while collectively being so destructive to the natural balance of that world?
I am rattled.
Yesterday I was so out of sorts that I wrote out “What I believe” in an attempt to anchor myself.
I may need to re-read that list daily. Maybe more often than that.
I am having a hard time seeing humans as anything but a virus on the planet. People like the Unibomber seem far less villainous to me. It seems naive to believe that we will get ourselves in balance on our own.
Granted, there are many people who have awakened to the situation. People who are either immune or cured of the cultural virus. But these are tiny, powerless pockets – like the doomed survivors in a bad zombie movie.
I suppose the only way to peace is to focus on the present moment.
The only way to feel in balance is to achieve it intimately and personally.
And, perhaps, the only way to live in joy is to let go of the belief that humans should or will persevere. In the same way that life is painful if you fear death, so too is humanity horrific if you fear extinction.
Perhaps the acknowledgment of the disease – and it’s advanced state – can allow for a renewed appreciation for the preciousness of it all.
In the same ways that viewing a sunset – knowing it would be our last – makes it so much more beautiful.
Maybe all we can do is gather good friends, pour some cocktails, and toast the clouds as the day fades to night.
(Just try not to think about how it is the smog in the air making the sky so colorful.)
NOTE: Please excuse the pessimism. Pink-tinted glasses expected to return shortly.