Modified / inspired from some scribblings in the notebook I’m keeping now:
There’s been a recent NYM piece circling around social media in the last couple days addressing the coming human and ecological catastrophes in a postulated post-climate change world. The article itself was filled with a lot of doomsday porn and is in general not an uninteresting read. However, what I usually find more interesting about these articles and the reactions surrounding them is the universal calls they end up intending about the dire need to act, to save the world from the fate that will befall it. This isn’t even something that is restricted to eco-conscious left-liberal types. For example, even in Ted Kaczynski’s recent book Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How one sees the same cautionary tone: “What is in store for humanity and the planet is very grim. We must act now to avoid disaster.” Of course Ted twists this into justification for revolutionary action to overthrow techno-industrial society (GLHF I guess… My thoughts on that and more in my critique of Kaczynski’s neo-Luddite revolution in the Atassa journal here).
For me personally, much of the panic and lament over the current and coming ecological catastrophes betrays a certain ignorance or naïveté of the ways of the earth, and even of reality itself, perhaps. The world arises from out of the Heraclitean fire. That fire is ever-living, ever-arising, ever-active in the heart of the world. To be sure the current and coming destruction and desecration that we have brought upon the vast and varied systems of the earth is tragedy in the highest sense. But it also seems to me that the end of the world is not necessarily something to be mourned, presupposing that it isn’t something “wrong,” and that the world isn’t something to be saved. When we recognize the true scope and grandeur of existence, and the ever-moving currents which have swept through existence for eternity, it seems that to despair is to cling to our petty attachments. It is to cling to ourselves, to our idols, to our creations. The coming catastrophes, including the possible (or probable) annihilation of the human species, is part and parcel of the processes of the earth. It is simply the way of things to arise and to pass away, to be swept along in those churning currents of an ever-living world. We are no different. We will be supplanted, as with all things. And so the world will not be saved, neither the human world or even the inhuman world as we have come to know it, but in this things are as they should be. The river of Heraclitus is ever-new and stops for nothing, and buried within the ashes of the world, ever-present, is his eternal, dancing fire, that cosmic womb which gives birth to worlds.
If one can rightly speak of “hope” or “solace” in our time, it seems to me that it lies in recognizing this truth of the immense, eternal, merciless, inhuman power and beauty of the world. It is found in decentering our anthropocentric perspectives and recognizing the overwhelming beauty of the whole, what Jeffers once called “…the face God…” in his poem Nova. There is more truth and goodness in a single tree than in all the delusions of man combined. To be sure, this perspective does not offer “solutions,” “fixes,” whatever. It is wholly unacceptable to the spirit of our age. It has the audacity to foresee the coming end of man and all that he has wrought on the face of the earth and sees that in his obliteration things are as they should be. To propose a solution is to suggest that there is something to be solved. To propose that we are in a position to fix the world is an extension of the hubristic notion that we are in a position to dictate to the world what is right for it, rather than the reverse. Humanity has been a calamity on the face of the earth. It has wrought death and destruction in service of its own foolish, self-righteous arrogance. In this we have at best forgotten and at worst entirely ignored our place within the webs of the earth, a place which we will surely be reminded of by the fury of the wild earth if certain predictions are to be believed. At the end of the day, the take home point of all of this is: Yes, our world will end. No, you cannot save it. But that doesn’t matter. It wasn’t worth saving and what is good and beautiful in the world will flourish long after the sun has set on the days of man and a new earth has risen which will have long since forgotten the name of “Man.”
I would like to close with the spirit of Jeffers, who so succinctly and so beautifully expresses the sentiment I have attempted to voice here:
Then what is the answer?- Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know that great civilizations have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose
the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will
not be fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing and man dissevered from the earth and stars
and his history… for contemplation or in fact…
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.
Robinson Jeffers | The Answer