by Reese Jones
Whether one believes in climate change or not, or that humanity can indeed scale back greenhouse gas emissions and maintain stable, livable global temperatures, there still seems to be a prevailing undercurrent of sadness, hopelessness and even despair for many around the globe. Are we on the path to annihilate ourselves, or not?
In the following essay-article, I explore the inner turmoil that seemingly affects so many of us and the conditions that preclude our idyllic fantasies that all is well.
Warning: Perhaps not for the faint of heart …
In the last few audio-videos I’ve conducted with Dr. Guy McPherson of near-term human extinction fame, we share a laugh or three as he presents information whilst in between his teachings, we contemplate the human condition.
Dr. McPherson is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona and has published a few books that address climate collapse. He believes that human civilization on the fast track to complete annihilation as we will be unable to avert planetary warming enough to prevent cataclysmic consequences.
Listening to our recent conversations, one might think we were being blithe and blasé. But, underneath it all, be assured within us there resides a deep, deep sorrow.
Let me begin by sharing a personal experience.
Not long ago, to my utter horror, I discovered, mangled within a trap that had been put out for rodents, a beautiful blue jay who often frequented our property. As his small body lay there crumpled, his little legs impossibly askew, he looked a terrible and grotesque parody of his former, splendid little self, once so vibrantly alive, so stunningly gorgeous.
The sorrow that overcame me was indescribable. It was a deep, wrenching, terrible suffering, for he had been only partially caught in the trap; his suffering one can only imagine. To this day, I find myself desperately trying to convince myself he must have lost his breath and thus, perished quickly.
Not long after, I heard about 43 missing students in Mexico. It was beyond my imagining what the parents must have been going through. And when they discovered the bodies … their agonized, collective suffering might have had the force to move a small universe. The loss of this one, precious little bird, would pale in comparison. Nonetheless, my sorrow remains, and only grows with every new iteration of terrible news.
Sorrow and sadness are not new to me. From earliest memories, I came to understand there is terrible injustice and horrific cruelty upon this world. For some, the discovery of all this may have been in the form of something they read in a book or saw on a wildlife show. Or, perhaps they may have suffered the withering taunts of a cruel brother or sister, attacks from a ravishing relative, or beatings and curses from a vicious, drunken parent.
As for those who may have experienced a more idyllic childhood, there are always the first realizations that all is not right and fair with the world. It may come in the form of errant whispers as friends or loved ones come to blows and tears behind closed doors. Or, it may be going to school and seeing others bullied, or being bullied one’s self for no apparent reasoning.
Realizations of the unfairness of life can come in the loss of a beloved pet, the very confrontation with death itself. And of course, such indoctrination into harsh reality can be as simple as suffering a physical injury that can render one reeling from pain. There are always the first, wrenching, terrible hurts that tell us the world is not as we would wish it to be.
But, we go on. We trip the light fantastic down the paths of our young lives, sorrows and injustices faint memories, far apart from our self-involved and hopefully pleasant, new little adventures.
Luckily, perhaps for all living creatures, is that we have a sense of… forgetfulness.
However, these days, almost every day, I am struck by news stories of double, double, toils and troubles. Wars and rumours of wars; reports of innocent children and animals raped, tortured, murdered; prisoners subjected to nightmare atrocities by our own, august governments. There are images of abysmal starvation and abuse. Terrible greed amongst grinding poverty. Enslavement. Atrocities upon atrocities.
And then there is the toll of devastating loss of life and limb from storms, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, droughts, pestilences, plagues, you name it. There are the diseases and illnesses and accidents that turn people we know into death knells of our own fragile vulnerabilities and portending demise as they shrivel away to dust before our very eyes. And of course, there are our own illnesses and accidents. Indeed; we can be besieged by the toils and troubles of fickle folly and feckless fate at the mere drop of a hat.
And then, to top off the seeming madness, amongst all this dark, cacophonous mess, there are those who trumpet in the dark, “but wait!” There are glorious secrets to our happiness! Life is beautiful, rich and overflowing with possibilities; joy and peace can indeed be spread throughout the world, hopes and dreams can be fulfilled with just our mere intentions and, perhaps, just a bit of meditative prayer. We can manifest our dreams by loving what we do, and doing what we love. Just wish it, and it can be so.
I have a dear relative who saw the irony of all this at the rich age of 12, and decided then and there that he would relinquish his own will, chuckle his way through the rest of his seeming meaningless and comparatively meager little life, cast his fate to the winds. There was no real future in the mere 100 years he could possibly live; logic and reason would never prevail amongst the roiling body of raucous humanity that he had come to observe. It all seemed to boil down to the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure, of which neither he would allow to hold him sway. He has no special wants, needs, desires; he lives only to serve others, and find pleasant reverie in game machines and coding. Perhaps he understands more than one might suspect. Or not. I’m not sure …
And then …
There is the story to top all stories; and that is, the story of our own self-immolation, the very real possibility of our very extinction much sooner than later, possibly brought about by our very selves. We are talking about the end of everything we know, we ever knew, we could ever come to know.
Good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, we crave life. And to realize that everything we hold dear will come to naught is a ludicrous, hard-to-fathom proposition. But WAIT. Think THEN, of this …
WE ARE the ones who ignored the trap. It is our loved ones, ourselves, who contributed to the setting of the trap. It is US for whom the bell was cast, it was for US that the cow was milked from which our bread was buttered. We may not have been the ones who set the bait or pulled back the spring. But … we knew … we ignored … we denied. And most of all, we were the RECIPIENTS OF ALL THE LARGESSE.
We are the receivers of the spoils, the partakers. The bird was killed so that I, amongst others, would not suffer a plague of rats.
I am the one who should have found the trap that caught the bird that destroyed his precious, precious little life. Underneath, I knew it all.
It is me. With every action I take, every breath I take, I help bring on destruction. My very breath is an affront to all I cherish and love; for when I take, I destroy. And that is the terrible dichotomy of existence of life itself; this give and take, the winning, the losing, the living, the dying.
And so, beneath the layers of my soul, there is a deep, deep sadness. And so, what do I do? Why, I laugh. I joke. I smile, I sometimes grimace through the pains, the heartaches, the perplexities of this thing called life. I … continue.
I hope you can forgive me for the chortles … believe me … the laughter merely keeps the sadness at bay for mere, mere moments.
One more thing … there are those who find utter peace in their faith, the promise of a heavenly forever. I, too, believe this is possible. But nonetheless, the sorrows of the world are my sorrows, and I wear them with every smile I make, every resource I take. And, I continue.
If there is any consolation, it is truly love that remains my one, saving grace.
Interview from 15 December 2014 is embedded below in five parts.
Catch McPherson on the radio tomorrow, 7 January 2015. Link is here.
An excellent write-up in anticipation of McPherson’s near-term visit to Rhode Island and New York has been posted by the Brooklyn Culture Jammers. It’s here.
Embedded below is an interview from late June 2014 with Michael Harris on the Living Green television show