"Balance" by Chicana Muralist Judy Baca (used by permission)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apocalypse No! Part 5: Celebrating Collapse: The Coming Adventure

Apocalypse No! Part 5:

Celebrating Collapse: The Coming Adventure

“We are forces of Chaos and Anarchy; Everything they say we are, we are.” - Jefferson Airplane

“We can deny the reality of collapse, but that will not prevent it from happening. We can continue to live the nightmare of civilization, clinging to the old paradigm, allowing the old stories to shape our lives. Or, we can choose to live the new story-the story of the life/death/life cycle, the story of collapse, community, and commutation. This is the story we were meant to live-the one the soul has been whispering in our ears since we were born but was silenced by the cacophony of empire. For all the uncertainty and angst evoked by collapse, its unsurpassable gift may be the opportunity to live and tell that story.” – Carolyn Baker

What extraordinary fortune to be here at the close of the drama, and to have the chance to learn from it and to practice within it, to be certain that what we do now really, really counts. We’ll have the chance to learn what it might mean to live as free human beings. It is entirely possible that the coming Crisis will create bonds between us, where nothing else has done so before, the same kind of bonds created by hurricanes, floods and other “disasters.”

As a kid, I always loved hurricanes. Everything was taken over by something larger than any of us, something that felt immense and mysterious.

We taped the windows. The sky darkened. Electricity went out. Lightening struck. Bathtubs were filled with water to drink. Streets flooded. Branches - sometimes whole trees and telephone poles - snapped like matchsticks. Battery operated radios crackled. Candles cast long shadows on the walls. Thunder exploded overhead; a dark wind howled, and rain battered the windows. Our world came to a halt, bowing before the power of the Earth, sky and water, before Huru Can, the ancient god of the Maya.

In Mexico he is known as Hunab Ku, and he is calling us again to open ourselves before him. The story of our times, of this civilization, is ending.

Tonatzin is the name of the Earth. She is calling us home to her, home to witness the deaths of her children, her children we are murdering. Mariposa, Oso, Mono, Tigre

By 2050 the list will expand to a million. The ones that are dying are the wild ones. As they die, what we have called civilization- City Life- is also dying. And whether we join them in death or not, we or our children are going to, inevitably, rejoin the ranks of the Wild.

Thank god. It’s coming – the adventure many of us have been waiting decades - even our whole lives for. It’s been laying quietly, waiting for us, for this juncture, for thousands of years, and now it’s here. We’re about to go back. Back to normal. Back to a life that- if we can survive to live it - might just be free. Free of all this. Free at last of push buttons, cell phones, nuclear madmen, advertising, prisons, cops, jobs, cars, bosses, screaming bombs, plastics, and every kind of daily sickness. Thunder and lightening are about to explode right overhead, about to shake our windows and walls until the whole place trembles. Some of us can already hear it and feel it. Some of us are listening. Of course it’s going to be horrible, but if this way of life continues, things can only get worse than the worst we can actually imagine now. The day will inevitably come when we wipe ourselves off the face of the Earth, and all life with us, unless things drastically change.

It’s not like living under the shadow of nuclear war for five decades makes for a life of contentment or happiness, or like you just love death on the freeway. It’s not like many of us in the West have ever heard real silence, or spent a moment truly alone. We don’t live lives of lasting integrity wherein we know with certainty that we are safe to express ourselves openly and honestly among those who undeniably care for us. It’s not like we really feel connected, now, to this madness.

There’s a constant humming beneath the surface of our awareness. Isn’t there a throbbing question that repeats itself again and again, saying “Is this shit Really, Really Worth it?” Of course there is. But some of us have just been afraid to face it. Some of us thought we were alone with it, that it was our unique problem, and no one else’s. Like you were the only one who couldn’t adjust. Like the Human Zoo was someplace natural where we belong, where everyone fit but you, where the glitter of potential wealth or fame left everyone else in a solid trance, except for you and your problem and your weird friends.

No, Sister. No. Even George Bush hates “America” and this “way of life.” That’s why he’s so eager to blow it up, that’s why he wants to bring on Armageddon That’s why he recently threatened World War 3. Just look at the obvious. You’re not alone.

So, the reality, if James Lovelock is as right about the future as he was about Gaia – about the nature of life on earth, about the Earth as a single, living, interconnected organism – is not so pretty. If he’s right, most of us are going to die, about 95% of humanity, by 2100. The heartbreak that’s coming is unimaginable.

But, on the other hand, and the arrogance of this question is all but beyond redemption, but, so what? 100% of us are going to die, sooner or later, anyway. But that leads us to another question -


It’s as much a question about how you live as it is about how you die. And, if you hadn’t noticed, the questions are much the same. Are you going to die a slave, or are you going to die trying to break free? Are you going to live a slave, or are you going to live trying to break free? Are you going to die loving and connected and in service, somehow, to life and all beings, or are you going to cling to the illusions of your power and the obsessions of “individuality”? And how are you going to live? The questions that matter are the same, whether you ask them of life or of death.

The questions that matter are the same, whether this way or life continues or dies, and whether you survive it or go down with it. However things go, we have this one power; to answer these questions: to decide the meaning of it all. As a general rule, that’s all any of us gets. It’s all any human has ever gotten.

Here’s the thing, though. We are going to have a chance no one has had for thousands of years – not in the way it will pose itself to us. We’re going to have the chance to break out, break free, and start totally over. The sad truth, though, is this. It may be too late to start to change now. If you’re not young, or if you haven’t been at the business of change for awhile, if you never turned on, tuned in or dropped out, if you’re “normal,” if you’ve adjusted, if you’ve become the moral equivalent of “institutionalized,” if you’re too “civilized,” the shock may be too great when the walls come tumblin’ down.

You might not be fit for freedom anymore- physically or emotionally, or morally, or spiritually or socially. Time will tell - for all of us. But not for even one of us, alone. One of the lies that has been exposed for all of us in the global Crisis we face is that we are alone. Everything, and everyone of us, reverberates. Our lives reverberate like overlapping ripples of water. No one, alone, shapes themselves. No one’s life fails to shape the lives of others. We can be together. We have never been apart. Now, it’s just that it’s changing. We can change with it.

For my part, whether it’s now, at 52, or god help me, at 62 or 72 or 82, I’m going to die changing - trying to break free, just as I have lived. In the worst case scenario, one with no afterlife, death itself will change nothing for me, personally, or if it does, I won’t be aware of it.

Or, god knows, maybe some of us will have seized the moment, that small opening that may lead to a different future as all of this falls down around us. Maybe we will die free. Maybe we will have lived free. Maybe you, too. Maybe we will die in the claws of a jaguar, the teeth of a wolf, in the power of the wind and rain and the stars, or in the long shadow cast by candles, in silence. Maybe we could live that way. As close to Wild as can be. All of us. Forever.


There is a reason I loved hurricanes, and there is a reason why I still love floods, although I haven’t been in one in years, living as I do now, in a desert.

In a flood, find the drivers who’ve found a high place. Park with them. You’re all stranded together.

But we’re not forced together; the sheer reality of being in a world that is out of human control magnetizes us to one another, makes it clear we are here together, all in one boat, different only in the details of what we call our “separate” lives. But the world has changed. That freeway underpass you’ve all traversed a thousand times is no longer what it was. Now it’s a fiercely coursing channel, a new riverbed sprung to surging life, a life that- seemingly out of nowhere - can now take our own in an instant. Before it was nothing but math and concrete. Now it’s alive with power and presence.

Look at the footage of New Orleans after the levies broke. When all this falls apart, we come together in an instant. For those who stay free, “tribes” form on the spot. When things are no longer “in control” the Sacred Hoop reasserts itself, the Circle is unbroken. It’s not just pragmatic survival; it’s recognition, the shattering of our isolation, the instant recognition of our common humanity, our vulnerability, tenderness and bravery. We’re suddenly in it together, FEMA or no FEMA, law or no law, Guard or no Guard, life or death. That’s what floods are good for, and that’s why I love them, just like I love hurricanes and the god they are named for.

That’s what collapse is good for. The promise it holds: To Return us to ourselves, to one another and to the Earth.

It is from the stories of our Return that the myths that sustain a new culture, an authentic way of living, may, at last, re-emerge among us.


NOLA radfem said...

Greetings from New Orleans.

I love this piece!

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