The Twilight of Our Tale: Part One

March 15, 2015 § 21 Comments

Part 1

“Protect your spirit, for we are in the place where spirits get eaten.”

John Trudell

Spring is moving in quickly, more quickly than I might necessarily want. My arms are worn enough to keep me from complaining about the break from hauling and splitting firewood, and sleeping the night through instead of waking up at three a.m. to stoke the embers and add more fuel to the stove is a welcome respite. I am quite concerned however, that the season for collecting maple sap may be cut abruptly short. For the best syrup season, night time temperatures need to drop below freezing, and day time temperatures need to rise to just shy of forty degrees Fahrenheit. A week ago, nights were just above zero and days didn’t creep past twenty. This week, nighttime lows hover in the high thirties and the days are approaching sixty. Of course, this could be a fluke, and I don’t want to scream “climate change” with every strange localized weather event, but the songbirds seem to be dropping anchor for the season, and I am recording the details of this winter’s drastic waning in the ledger book of such things in my mind.

The arrival of spring brings for me a surge of energy as I feel life return to the above ground world from the root-balls and burrows where it slumbered during the frigid and dark portion of the year. Spring also brings with it a workload beyond what I ever have time for, so the energy I feel running through my limbs as the sun shines down on my jacketless body is quite a gift. I mention such things because as the days lengthen and grow warmer, I have commitments in the garden and about the homestead that keep me from writing, so this will likely be my last piece for a good while. Such a hiatus comes none to soon, as I feel I am running short on things to say for the present time.

Why do we seek such writing anyway? If you’re like me, you are reading this very piece as you drink your morning coffee or tea. You are mustering the wakefulness required to go about your daily activity, but before you do, you are washing your mind in a bit of confirmation bias concerning the state of the world. Everything is going to hell, and on a daily basis you check in with the news feeds and blogger community to peruse the latest data points that confirm what you already know: climate change is accelerating as superstorms and droughts increase in ferocity. The people in power are still maniacs insistent on walling themselves off from the public with cordons of brutish and overly armed police. People without power are still being brutalized when they stand up for their dignity or merely exist between a capitalist and a resource. Some species went extinct. Some rainforest was clear-cut. Some stretch of ocean was overfished, or used as a radioactive dump-site, or both.

Rise and shine, the world is right where you left it when you went to sleep last night. Now go to work.

A few days ago I asked a young man I know who works as a dishwasher in a deli, “Why do you get up and go to work every day?” He answered, “To pay the bills.” I then asked, “What would happen if you didn’t pay your bills?” “I would be evicted eventually,” he replied. It quickly became evident that I was engaging in an exercise more than I was asking sincere questions, and he quite happily humored me as we ran through the entire sequence of events that would follow his not paying his bills. There are the police who would serve his eviction and the consequences they would face if they refused to do so, the police chief who would fire them, the mayor that would fire him if he didn’t terminate non-compliant police, and on, and on down the line. It wasn’t a new line of thought for him, and after playing the game of hypotheticals, I asked him what was behind this whole machination of human dominoes that forces people to work doing things they hate, like washing dishes in a deli.

He said, “Money. Greed.”

I offered a different possibility. “There is a demon behind all of this, manipulating us. It is an invisible and nameless demon that is trying to eat our souls.”

He laughed. I told him I was serious.

Perhaps you don’t believe in demons. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that no matter how much we know, individually and collectively, no matter how much anger we harbor, no matter how much we hate what it is our bodies and minds are engaged in for hours at a stretch every single day, we still go and do it. Minute by minute, hour by hour, no one is standing there making us do anything. It is all internalized. We are obedient. We are docile. We are domesticated.

Here is where you jump in and interject that bosses and landlords and police and judges all are waiting in the wings to punish disobedience. Of course they are. I don’t disagree. But remember, there are more bosses and landlords and police and judges all waiting behind the first set to make sure they keep to the rules and continue the game of civilization uninterrupted. Though this is obvious I point it out for a reason: there is no one to kill. There is no one person who if eliminated would provide for us the opening we need to stop the insanity of industrial civilization and to build something new, something sane, something with the potential for longevity.

Thinking of such things reminds me of “The Grapes of Wrath.” In the story, Steinbeck writes a scene in which the agents of the landowners come to tell the tenant farming families that they have to leave.

“Sure, cried the tenant men, but it’s our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we got killed on it, died on it. Even if it’s no good, it’s still ours. That’s what makes it ours – being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.

We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man.

Yes, but the bank is only made of men.

No, you’re wrong there-quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.”

The tenant farmers are pushed to anger at the blamelessness and absurdity of their situation.

“We’ll get our guns, like Grampa when the Indians came. What then?

Well-first the sheriff, and then the troops. You’ll be stealing if you try to stay, you’ll be murderers if you kill to stay. The monster isn’t men, but it can make men do what it wants.”

Steinbeck does a masterful job outlining the maddening and perplexing nature of our conundrum; people comprise the system, people act out their roles within the system, but people are not the system. So what the hell is the system? It seems so innocuous. It is rules. It is expectations. It is a series of triggers by which one human action results in an automatic response by another human who is just doing their job, and if they weren’t doing it, someone else would be. Of course, I am not trying to absolve any single person of the responsibility they bear for the actions that they individually engage in. I am however, interested in exploring the construction of the invisible forces that keep all of us participating in a system that we know is toxic to us physically and spiritually, as well as to the living planet at large.

It is so easy to blame the system. It’s just a word, and it is a stand in for the pieces and the whole of everything we see that is wrong with the way human society is behaving. Poverty? Blame the system. War? The system. Racism? The system. But what is the system? If it is just rules, expectations, and essentially stories that we tell each other, then why is the system so hard to change? Why is it so seemingly immutable? Why are we so damn helpless and ineffective at altering something so fragile, so simple, so made up? Could all of us really be so captured by something invented, something spoken into being and jotted down on flimsy pieces of paper? It’s as though we all began playing a game, only to realize that the game was playing us, and once begun there was no way to stop playing, even as we watched our movements destroy the world.

Maybe there is a demon after all. Maybe ignoring the demon, pretending it is not there endangers us further. Maybe the demon is an eater of souls, and its strategy is to diminish our power and our will through mindless labor, through a dulled existence of symbols and static, flashing lights and loud noises, addiction and poisonous food. Maybe for millennia, this demon has been slowly at work, gaining strength and refining its strategy, inserting its desires and ploys into our lives as politics, as capitalism, as war, as revolution, as status, as sex, as culture, as normal, as human nature.

Is it so hard to believe? Look around. Walk through a gas station. Look at the racks full of five hour energy bottles, E Cigarettes, scratch and win lottery tickets, chili cheese flavored corn chips, male enhancement pills, and thirty two ounce aluminum cans full of Monster and malt liquor. Step outside and see the fifty-foot glowing signs advertising Arby’s, Taco Bell, and some nameless pornography and sex toy megastore. Each establishment is serving up a small slice of death, of exploitation, of misery. Each storefront and corporate logo is masking a sweatshop, a slaughterhouse, a slave, an oil spill, another species gone from the Earth forever.

But we don’t believe in demons. We are too rational for that, too objective, too advanced. At least, that is the story we tell ourselves. But then I look around at the tortured landscape and the careless people moving through it who don’t seem to notice that they are traversing a spiritual wasteland, and I have to wonder.

Maybe when we go to the internet in the morning and look for the daily headlines and editorials, we are really looking for a friend, someone of like mind to join us in our knowledge and our fear of the events taking shape all around us that individually we are just too damn small to do anything about. Like office workers who jumped from the upper floors of the burning World Trade Center, we want someone with whom we can hold hands as we take the plunge into a future that has no good outcomes.

Or maybe, we are looking for hope, logging on and scrolling past link, after, link, after link until we find what we have been waiting for; a set of instructions. No more data points, no more statistics and measurements confirming what we already know, but a plan. For God’s sake, the catastrophe is spelled out in neon lights and it howls from a megaphone all day, every day. I have more awareness than my mind can bear, but what the hell am I, are you, supposed to do about it? We are so small. We are just one person. We are already late for work.

Step one: Protect your spirit, for you are in a place where spirits get eaten.

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§ 21 Responses to The Twilight of Our Tale: Part One

  • Idiocracy says:

    Great read, as usual…

    In a literary sense I think there are indeed many Demon’s that haunt us – be it individually or collectively. And you need not look to the supernatural to understand them. Infact just like the supernatural, these demons are all constructs of the human mind, and one merely needs to look within oneself and others to find them.

    For example, with regards to ‘The System’, I see that it’s persistance/pervasivness can very simply be put down to two things; Greed drives the system, Fear fuels it.

    The innateness of these ‘Demons’ in the dominant culture’s collective psyche is what I think makes any meaningful change so hard.

    But thankfully, for those of us who have taken the red pill and un-plugged, at least writers like yourself exist to make waking into a world where spirits get eaten that little bit easier.

    Enjoy your time in the patch! I’ll try to enjoy my fencing… 🙂

  • JAFO says:

    “Or maybe, we are looking for hope, logging on and scrolling past link, after, link, after link until we find what we have been waiting for; a set of instructions. No more data points, no more statistics and measurements confirming what we already know, but a plan.”

    The instructions, the plan, exists.

    It’s to be found in Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame”.

    • td0s says:

      JAFO! Where have you been, mate? I sincerely hope you are well!

      Yes, Endgame is great, but even that seems more…how do you say, maybe, mental? Like, its a psychological exercise, I think, more than a blue print.

      I highly recommend it to those who havent read it though, as well as Jensens “Culture of Make Believe” and “What We Leave Behind.”

  • David says:

    Thank you. I needed that, and didn’t know it.

  • Greetings TD!

    RE from the Doomstead Diner here.

    I’d like to chat with you in one of our Podcasts, and also Cross Post some of your Blogs on the Diner.

    Please contact me on the Diner or my reverseengineer77 AT yahoo DOT com email address if interested.

    RE

  • Thank you – a breath of fresh air in the apocalypse is always needed. And thanks to tdos for some books that might have a blueprint – a way to proceed.

  • Neoagrarian says:

    Damn, what a well-written piece. It touches on so much territory that I’ve spent time contemplating and, I have to confess, agonized over, that I’m not quite sure what nuance to comment on. I think the wise thing to do here after having read it is pull away for a little, let it simmer and percolate, and come back with some (what I hope will be) intelligent commentary. Thanks for the work.

  • Miep says:

    You just keep getting better.

  • Roger taylor says:

    Beautiful but fairly grounded piece.I look forward to more.

  • neilrobin says:

    This part ………

    “Maybe when we go to the internet in the morning and look for the daily headlines and editorials, we are really looking for a friend, someone of like mind to join us in our knowledge and our fear of the events taking shape all around us that individually we are just too damn small to do anything about. Like office workers who jumped from the upper floors of the burning World Trade Center, we want someone with whom we can hold hands as we take the plunge into a future that has no good outcomes.”

    You have it right there, just about summed me up in a few words …..no more to say really…

    Thankyou.

  • Neoagrarian says:

    You’ve hit on something here that is crucial to the recognition and understanding that there is a ‘force’ that is driving all this. Perhaps your invocation of a ‘demon’ is more than just metaphor. Just because we cannot weigh it, measure it, define it, enumerate it or even acknowledge it does not mean it does not exist. Echoes of Wetiko.

    I am reminded of those ants who come under the drone-like spell of an invading fungus. What happens is that they, as the host, become infected and all their ganglia go to ratshit, compelling them to do what ants do not normally do: to crawl, in a trance, to the highest point of surrounding vegetation, at which point they remain until until their brains blow up, and the agenda of the fungus, which is to disperse and reproduce, has been consummated. This is a ‘natural’ process. It can only be assumed that this has been going on for millennia or more, with subtle refinements of co-evolution along the way. But I suppose both parties are served by it in what appears to us as nature’s ‘strange ways’, or it would not be around now as a phenomenon for us to witness.

    As yet another metaphor, how does this compare to our situation? Well, if we are wise, it would instruct us to acknowledge firsthand that we too are ‘mere’ creatures. We differ in small ways, but those apparently have been enough to set the planet out of balance, to set the world on fire.

    Unlike the ants, or most other creatures, we do not live so much in the world as of the world. We conceive of the world. We contrive and construe the world. We make models of what the world ought to be. And we shape and form it according to those models. That’s our ‘fungus’.

    Our penchant for innovation, our ‘ingenuity’, the very plasticity of our ‘nature’, our capacity for the cultural accumulation of material complexity, almost ensure that one or another ‘civilization’, somewhere, sometime, will set in force a kind of relentless contagion within the human species. And ours has. You and I and all the rest of the human biomass living right now at this point in the arc of history are heirs to all the architecture and infrastructure and thought models of one particular culture : the one that went on to proliferate and metastasize and dominate the others.

    What were its origins? Is it worth contemplating? Was it 16th century western Europe? Was it the Greeks? Was it Mesopotamia? I don’t know. I am small. And I question just whose history got recorded.

    It seems to me that humanity, at least as represented by civilization, has lurched and stumbled forward on the shoulders of human outliers, many of whom I suspect were sociopaths or worse: from the ancient pharohs to Gengis Khan, from James Watt to Adolph Hitler, from Robert Oppenheimer to Bill Gates, just to name a few. The rest of us, the majority who just want to live a decent life and be left alone to pursue our biological imperatives while doing the least harm – food, shelter, reproduction, community, whatever – have been the bulk of human biomass in the middle of the bell curve. And so it is today, only we are closer to the day of reckoning.

    When you say above “I am however, interested in exploring the construction of the invisible forces that keep all of us participating in a system that we know is toxic to us physically and spiritually, as well as to the living planet at large” I share the exasperation that inevitably comes with an encompassing awareness of the state of things and where it is likely leading. But who the hell is the “we” in that statement? Here is what I mean by that – I’ll try to be clear. From my the limited experience of my own lived life, I can only conclude that most people dont even know that we are participating in a system that is undermining life support systems. I’m sorry to have to say that. It pains me terribly. Most people (and I don’t say this as some omniscient, disinterested observer who is merely studying the situation from a vantage point of immunity) are caught up in this mess like bugs in amber.

    Let me illustrate this by way of a little anecdote if I may. Lately, I’ve been trying to set up a community seed bank in my eviscerated, rural locale. But man is there a mighty headwind to overcome. I may as well be trying to start a social flint-napping club or a stamp collecting club. Most folks are now so untethered from any meaningful conception of the history, sources and origins of their own fucking (excuse the expletive) sustenance that it is well nigh impossible to bring about even a modicum of citizenly response to a constellation of issues that are bearing down rather quickly upon us.

    In other words, they don’t see any pressing reason or practical urgency to help themselves at the scope and scale at which they live their lives. Food is a thing you buy, right? Seeds, too – they come in little envelopes for a buck sixty five? I don’t know where people’s heads (and hearts) are these days, but the white noise of modernity seems to have them scattered to the winds. Atomized and itemized. I feel like I am being beckoned to come over and join the party on the railway tracks, and never mind that evil beam of light approaching far off in the distance.

    That’s all for now – my own reality beckons.

    • Miep says:

      Great comment.

    • aubreyenoch says:

      I’ve never used demons, but I have a very good friend who evokes them quite sincerely. When all his observations don’t add up he calls the difference a demon. Personally I prefer to blame “space aliens”. Although individual aliens rarely fit the pattern, planetary consciousnesses and galactic consciousnesses are often handy to fill in the unknowns. So many behaviors we observe in our fellow Earthlings seem more understandable if we consider that they must have evolved on another planet. It just seems impossible that the current link in a chain or life on Earth that goes back three or four billion years could behave this way.
      It’s beyond greed and stupidity.
      It fits reasonably well if you see the progression of life on Earth since the appearance of Eukaryotes as a reproductive act by the planetary being that is Venus. All these forms that have evolved have been steps toward the goal of raising the temperature of Earth to the 400 degree C (750 degree F) that the Venusian life form requires.
      Really like your writings and look forward to the next post.

      • mars says:

        Interesting theory aubreyenoch. I was under the assumption that we are classified as Eukaryotes. If so, certainly we do not fit the hypothesis for such high global temps. I have not found any information on the Venusian origins of Eukaryotes. Could you please further inform on said topic.

        I am currently reading Stephan Buhner’s most recent work, Plant Intelligence and The Imaginal Realm. In it he postulates that our symbiotic relation to bacteria may be a force for planetary interstellar exploration by man. In as much as we piggyback bacteria, thus sending earths “seed” to other planets.

    • Timothy says:

      Yes, great comment

  • merdic says:

    Glad you`re still writing and giving the fight! It`s always a breath of fresh air to be here reading, thinkink, reading some more, search my notes, write new notes, re read… LOL

    Great job Dig

    Saludos!

  • […] Originally published by Pray for Calamity. […]

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