Cross posted from PrayforCalamity
The flue damper drops with an iron clang that reverberates through the kitchen. At three hundred square feet, the straw bale cabin we are currently living in heats easily with the old wood stove. I pile the belly of the steel box high with oak so my lady and our daughter can return to a warm home. Plodding through the snow in my knee high boots, I head out to start my Cherokee. It fights me when temperatures are below freezing, and convincing the engine to turn over requires patience and a handful of tricks, including occasionally popping the hood and manually pumping some gas at the fuel rail. This is not a process I enjoy, and I have been researching a solution for a couple of weeks now. It would seem that a new fuel pump and assembly are in order. Last week found me replacing degraded “O” rings in the oil filter adapter to seal a leak there. Removing the filter adapter was an exercise in zen. The process required that I lay on the cement floor of my friend’s unheated garage, the ground drawing my heat from me, as I removed a very inconveniently placed motor mount bolt while flecks of aged engine grime fell into my eyes and mouth. Turning a wrench an eighth of an inch at a time can really ground you. On my next day off I can try to tackle this rough start problem. Always making plans, making to do lists, spending my days before I meet them.
The driveway is a little over a half mile long, and I move slowly over it, absorbing the details of the forest on every side of me. Gray sky, born of a mist that intermingles with the countless slender fingers of trees reaching upwards, arterial in their deliberate formlessness. A monochrome wash of tones accentuates the golden leaves of the beech trees. These small tear drops of paper flicker like watercolor candlelight. Through the forest I curve on roads still layered in an inch or two of snow. Even the thinnest branches of the trees all have a brushstroke of white highlighting their organic motion, which speaks of rivers and lightning, of nerves and fissures, of the geometry of the world entire. It is clear to me in this moment that I am witnessing poetry, that the Earth sings, that there is the most amazing, most gut-wrenchingly divine performance before us, all containing pieces of wisdom great and small, waiting for us to grasp them. And we don’t care. We aren’t interested.
A car pulls up close behind me. I am driving too slowly. I let them pass.
Collapse is a very odd fascination. I cannot help but think that such an interest is a by-product of the civilized mind. I also cannot help but think that the collapse so many people fear is related to their perception of time, which is in its modern form, shaped by the superstructure of our society. Capitalism has commodified our time. People in our culture sign thirty year mortgages, they make promises to pay for cars and phones and anything that can be bought with a credit card. The entirety of neoliberal capitalism is predicated on the notion that there will be more energy and stuff tomorrow than there was today. Imaginary wealth in the form of digital notations, be they named “stocks” or “bonds” or any other “investment vehicle” exists purely in an abstract future space. Civilization already has us living within the confines of abstractions built from so much collective imagining, and these abstractions form the foundation of an even more illusory notion of time in which we have convinced ourselves that we exist. When predominantly western, white, middle class people fear collapse, what exactly are they even talking about? I posit that they are actually anxious about the destruction of the future, by which I mean a constructed notion that does not actually exist.
Certainly, I am out on a limb, but that is exactly where I mean to be. Time, as it is, is not “Time” as we experience it. This is not surprising, as nothing is as we experience it. We interpret the world around us via our senses and generate a picture of it in our heads, which itself is informed by our individual biology and experience. When we speak of time, we are speaking of the abstract way in which we interpret it. Past, present, and future are clunky attempts to place ourselves within this abstract notion we ourselves have imagined into being. This understanding is culturally informed and not a hard and fast representation of reality. Not surprisingly, modern industrial civilization has imagined time into the most expedient and efficient of forms for the benefit of production; the straight line.
Over the years I have found myself constantly hurrying, loading myself with tasks in order to manifest the future. When I was saving money to buy land, I was constantly at work, picking up extra shifts, staying late. When my partner and I finally bought our land, I had to build a house, and do it quickly. If I was idle, if I spent a day at rest, I felt guilty. This guilt still builds in me whenever I find myself not busying about. Always I am in a hurry to manifest the future, and most importantly, to have it match the abstract picture I have generated in my head. It is almost as if the very existence of tomorrow depends upon me laboring to generate time itself, that without me holding it on my shoulders like Atlas, the future will fall out of being. And then where will I be? In the uselessness of the present, which is itself, destined to be an obsolete and immutable past mere microseconds from now.
The civilized mind is bent on domination. The land must be bent to serve human desires. The flesh of other beings must be whipped and tormented into serving human desires. The bodies of women must be confined, contorted, and too often forced to serve the desires of men. The story of civilization is the story of domination, the exertion of force and the repudiation of symbiosis. Interestingly, the abstract notion of time generated by the civilized mind is just another tool designed to dominate, however it contains within it a contradiction; time as modeled by civilization is infinite, particularly as it projects into the future. This creates a conundrum, as the generation of an infinite future space creates an infinite workload on the civilized mind, having to now manifest, maintain, and control an infinite terrain.
So we see the denizens of working class westerners labor endlessly in an attempt to place their circumstances in crystal, to eliminate any variance or uncertainty from days to come. Can this reasonably be described as anything other than absurd? Perhaps insane?
Sweet potatoes stick out the top of water-filled mason jars along my window. In time they will drop roots and then slips with small purple leaves will spout from them. I will pull the slips and place them in water where they will establish further roots, and when the last danger of spring frost has passed, I will plant the slips in my garden. All of this exists in a future I have concocted in my mind. Agriculture cannot exist without a plan, without a perception of a day many days beyond this one. Civilization requires that we collectively imagine tomorrow into being, in full technicolor and high definition detail. It is hard for me to not assume that this requirement is the birth of anxiety and stress.
Abstract notions of time are, like all of our abstractions, a tool. We create tools to serve a need. Tools require not only the knowledge of how to generate or operate them, but the wisdom to do so skillfully, safely, and most importantly, of when to not use them. As is the case with the vast majority of the cognitive tools civilized humans have invented, we have found ourselves in the service of the tool of time. We are not present. We are not here. We are not listening to the poetry of the world before us because we are altogether somewhere else.
Of course, there will be those who insist that without a view of the future, we will destroy the world of the present. After all, if someone takes all of the fish from a river or dumps radioactive waste in the ocean for a benefit here and now, the future will be one in which no one will be able to eat from the rivers or oceans. Why is it then, that we see these very same behaviors running rampant at the hands of a culture so lost in its projections of time? The very economic structure of capitalism demands that tomorrow contain more production than today, yet it simultaneously destroys that very possibility. So lost in a vision of the future, capitalism blinds modern civilization to the actual makeup of the present. The map is given precendent over the terrain.
There exist cliches about various indigenous cultures maintaining a concern for their progeny seven generations out. Such ideas would suggest that concern for the future, or the invention of the future as an abstraction, is not a product of the civilized mind at all, but the human mind. Still, it strikes me as highly unlikely that any band of hunter gatherers would find themselves so concerned with a decline and fall of their world in some distant time to come. Obviously, any attempt to think the thoughts of an imagined person is some long ago circumstance is open to folly, but none the less, when I do attempt to place my own mind in such circumstances, what jumps out at me is this: Pre-civilized hunter gatherers would exist in a world where everything around them that they interacted with was placed there by nature. Pre-civilized humans must have remained ever cognizant of their surroundings, paying attention to the plethora of details in their experience in order to find food, avoid danger, note their location, etc. Seemingly, such people would find their minds more present in their circumstances. Perhaps at night they would lose themselves in thought as they stared deeply into the night sky or the cook fire, but I digress. It is hard to imagine pre-civilized people creating and agonizing over the future the way civilized humans do.
For a bit more insight on this issue, I asked a Metis man about the civilized notion of time versus the indigenous notion, and he had this to say:
“Talking about core pillars of a completely foreign worldview very quickly turns into an esoteric mess. Any explanation of concepts of time, like saying time is cyclical will have a westerner looking for spots to add his seconds, minutes, and hours. The concept of future apart from past and present suggests a linear view of time. If you stand at the center of a circle with the past present and future all flowing within the circle, where are you? And why would you not be able to see a future? Euro worldview sees the future as a black void that needs to be filled with all the new stuff one can imagine into being. Their present is of no consequence, as it quickly becomes a frozen point in the past that can not interact with the present and certainly not the future void. Indigenous worldview sees a future that looks much like the present and past if all beings act in a responsible way. European worldview is collapse, it is an irresponsible actor.
Indigenous peoples are often accused of claiming European Worldview is evil. This is not the case. It is seen as a mental illness. That mental illness has now infected most of the human population.”
People who talk to trees are very unlikely to clear cut a forest. Mainstream society would consider such people crazy. People who reject a linear notion of time, who speak to their ancestors and believe that the past is just as important as the present and the future, do not create economic systems that are predicated upon the infinite growth of material production. Mainstream society would consider such people crazy. As I sit here I cannot say that I know for certain the shape or make up of time. I can say that the tools we create are of limited use, and that when they bend us to their service and to our own detriment, we are fools to not remake them, if not abandon them altogether.
Tomorrow will come, to be sure. It will bring with it happenings and consequences. In no way am I suggesting we abandon concern for such things, but perhaps, that we remember that there are a lot of pictures we have drawn up in our minds, often collectively, and that anxiety is the byproduct of our efforts to match reality with these projections. We must remain flexible. We should make efforts to remain present, and thus committed to the terrain.
Of course, with this, I struggle too. At the end of the day, I am merely a man trying to make sense of his heartache. By the hundreds of millions humans race about, neglecting their spirits and their physical well being to make certain that lines on charts always trend upwards, to fill the black void. In doing so, they close their ears to the song that the Earth sings with every sunrise, to the poetry she writes with each curve and undulation of the topography, and to the ancient wisdom she has joyously written into every leaf, and stone, and star. We are all so much less for it. And we all but guarantee our doom.
Pingback: Filling the Void | deinvestiture
mike k said:
Thanks for a true and sensitive piece td0s.
At some point those committed unconsciously to a flawed and lethal dream-world become violently hostile to those who would awaken them to reality. How those awakening can deal with those who, in their state of delusion are destroying the world will decide whether humankind can continue to exist on Earth.
thanks for the post td0s!
Your post reminds me of the last episode of Longmire I saw on Netflix last night. Might say your timing was spot on. That was the relevant part of my comment. The rest, not so much…
MATH HARD, ENGLISH EASY
DANGER >>> Grade Six Math Ahead !!!
Electric grid power is only 18% of total world energy demand.
82% of total energy demand is for mining, roads, bricks, steel, glass and food.
It takes 10 times as much solar-wind power to shut 1 fossil fuel plant simply because they don’t work with no wind or sun.
Therefore, we need 10 times as much solar & wind power to shut 100% of fossil fuel plants just to stop 18% of emissions. You don’t need to be a math wizard to see this is bad. Converting transportation to electricity will only compound the problem.
If we get 50% of all electrical grid energy from solar & wind power by 2050, this is only 9% of total world energy demand. This is why CCS won’t work, but it gets much worse.
Solar & wind power won’t stand up to the bad weather, floods and droughts to come, and neither will we. Smart grids will only widen geographical exposure to risks.
Scientific American said we are losing soil so fast we won’t have any “human agriculture” in less than 60 years. What does this mean?
50% of soil gone in 30 years. What about water?
50% of humanity will be short of water in 30 years.
DANGER >>> Grade Three Math Ahead !!!
no soil + no water = no food
mike k said:
I now understand that the vegan diet is the natural ancient one for humans. Also eating animals is a big cause of planetary problems. It’s amazing how just not having kids and eating veggies could go a long way to save our planet. As for the rest of the planetary salvation gig – just stop using metal. That should take care of the rest of our problems with “civilization”.
Of course the wealthy elites would try to stop such a movement if it got too large, by coercive measures. My idea is just a daydream that will never happen, but I will try to live it – except for the metal part. Actually if we did the sex and food part in spades, we wouldn’t need the metal part. So, I’ll be an exemplar of my simple formula for saving the planet. It’s up to others to figure it out and get on board. Unfortunately most folks are too brainwashed and brain dead to see something as simple as the obvious truth that we are eating and fucking ourselves to death.
So don’t ask me to give at the office. I’ve already done my part and given everything necessary to get the job done.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks, always appreciate your comments.
Norman Pagett said:
with regard to the vegan diet being the natural one for human beings, we have forward facing eyes giving stereoscopic sight. This gives us an advantage in hunting/ catching fast moving elusive (energy rich) prey.
All meat eating animals have evolved the same eyesight factor, over millions of years.
You can make the personal choice not to eat meat, but evolution says otherwise.
Advising an Inuit to adopt a vegan diet will decide what is ‘natural’ for human consumption. The Inuit consumes the energy resources of seals and fish etc in order to survive in a very literal sense.
On the other hand, the prey animals, deer for instance, (the vegan grazers) have evolved side facing eyes, which gives them a broader field of vision to spot those who want to eat them. Grazing animals also have to spend far more time in the process of acquiring and digesting sufficient nourishment from the food they eat.
Nature’s mechanism in that respect really is very simple.
Vegan diet is a recent notion. Our bodies need high quality protein in order to function properly, together with a mixed vegetarian diet. All a matter of balance. Energy rich high protein diet allows the species who eat meat to go for longer periods between intakes of food.
One cannot deny that our meat eating habits are helping to destroy the environment—but that is another matter entirely.
We are genetically programmed to consume, our genius for firemaking and killing methods have allowed to do that to excess, and we are in the process of killing and eating everything that moves in order to survive now—but that still hasn’t turned us into grazers. With regard to use of metals–that is just another aspect of consumption that is related to use of fire. We’ve overdone it, in other words.
Our hunter-gatherer forebears ate anything available without thought of diet, meat, veg you name it. Fire and metals simply improved their killing rate. As civilisation developed we just improved on that.
We are only 10000 years removed from that era, our minds and bodies have not had time to evolve from what we were.
mike k said:
In the millions of years prior to the development of weapons, I can’t see our ancient ancestors who lacked claws running after swift and elusive animals to eat. More likely they were up in the trees using their soft hands to pick the abundant fruit and swing from tree to tree. So our basic physiology developed as plant eaters, and we still have that same inner chemistry.
The evidence for this is that eating animals and their products (milk) has given rise to a host of lethal diseases all of which are avoidable by adopting a vegan diet. See Dr. Michael Greger’s recent best seller How Not To Die for abundant scientific documentation of this.
The proven positive impact of adopting a plant based diet on both our individual health and the health of our natural environment are sufficient reasons in my book for strongly recommending it to one and all interested in saving us from extinction.
And BTW the myth regarding the health and longevity of the Eskimos and other far North meat eaters has been roundly exploded. The whole fish oil supplement industry was mostly founded on that myth.
Norman Pagett said:
0ne can argue endlessly about the time periods of evolution, when weapons came into use, when we came out of the trees, fire and so on, ultimately there are no precise answers.
what is beyond question is that vertebrate hunting animals who consume meat of weaker animals as their energy source have forward facing stereo vision, while the animals they prey on have evolved eyesight that gives them a wider sweeping view forwards and sideways.
humans have that vision
tigers don’t eat carrots, but neither do they destroy their environment as we do.
Our eyesight is good for tool and weapons use as well of course.
Nature does not evolve in any direction without reason.
I didn’t mention health and longevity of the Inuit, I said “survive”
There is no plant life where they live to provide sustenance, therefore they must kill to live,
Their climate is not conducive to longevity, but they get by on what they have, which happens to be flesh. no doubt they evolved with changing climate over millenia
Their health must at least provide them will all the natural nutrition necessary to at least live to the age where they can reproduce and support offspring
Thank you Norman.
I do get so tired of Mike K (or Mike Kay) and his fantasy filled tripe. He’s a variation on the Bud Nye theme.
Norman Pagett said:
to quote Prof. James Lovelock (Gaia):
Man is a tribal carnivore, not a gentle gardener.
I very clearly do not understand the collapse sub-reddit. I am continually banned or denied posts. Anyhow, the following post was removed for being “misleading”.
Although there are ways to appeal, the moderators just seem to be able to arbitrarily fuck you over at their whim all while observing the “rules”.
I’ll resend this to reddit later, but it’s all cued cleaned up an ready to go.:
Watch 4 Top Scientists Say Why Renewable Energy Won’t Stop Climate Overheating
Guys, today is a good. Biogas will save us ! doesn’t matter if to accomplish it , we’ll have to deforest southamerica.
mike k said:
The idea that the distant ancestors of modern humans were carnivorous predators has attracted all sorts of theories, but none of these so far are conclusive in the eyes of the scientific community. As far as the forward facing eyes hypothesis, see the article below.
As for James Lovelock, who popularized the Gaia idea, nothing he has put forward that I know of has gained general scientific acceptance. His stance on massive nuclear power as the solution to our global climate disaster, must give one pause as to his plausibility as one claiming scientific legitimacy for his off the wall ideas.
Norman Pagett said:
OK—I’ll stop eating meat
But as to other necessity for saving the planet, my girlfriend would kill me.
Instead, I’ll continue to enjoy dying slowly.
mike k said:
This article explores the mooted question about our really ancient dietary selections and evolutionary adaptations:
mike k said:
The only reason I can seem to be really erudite and intelligent is google! Mostly….
mike k said:
Congrats, Norman! You are halfway there with the veggie diet.
(Unless you are just pulling my leg – in which case you get points for a sense of humor.)
As for the girlfriend problem – there are plenty of women out there who are not obsessed with reproducing, and are game for a loving, sexually active relationship. The idea that genetic predispositions rule our lives is a myth. It’s amazing how many people have surrendered their freedom and agency to such untrue beliefs.
The truth is that unless you deeply understand why having kids in today’s world is a serious moral mistake under most circumstances, you will follow whatever course your own desires or someone else’s might dictate. Real ethical action often depends on going against various inner and outer currents that will control our live if there is no one at the helm….
“Scientists have discovered that ‘the present’ has always existed, but some of them are not sure about ‘the past’ and ‘the future’.” –Dredd
https://imgur.com/a/N06Mp Fukushima : five years after nuclear disaster