Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Wow. I just wrote that title down and then stared at it for a full five minutes. I mean, I could write a novel or two on this topic. It touches everything I've ever believed in, most of my fatal flaws, and a lot of what is going on in the world. But I only have my self-imposed two pages, and I am going to confine myself to discussing
a) Deepwater Horizon and
b) falling in love too quickly.
Yes, they relate. Somehow. I think.

I majored in Environmental Science in college. Prior to college, I took a year and hitchhiked around the country, working on organic farms and studying primitive skills and apprenticing at a solar power company, all in an attempt to understand if there might be ways forward, ways that don't end in a mass die-off of humanity and/or the ecological wellbeing of the planet. I really cared. I twisted my hair up in pseudo-dreads I never washed in order to conserve water. When my shoes fell apart I constructed new ones from grass and dogbane cordage. I gathered wild foods or traded labor for room and board. I began that year with $7 in the bank, and ended it with $1.50 (the year's budget: stamps, a bus trip, a phone call--they had these things called pay phones back then, on street corners, if you can imagine.) In the evenings, after I had spent the day weeding or harvesting or mulching or splitting wood or wiring inverters or tracking fox, I would either write in my journal or work at some craft project, a basket or a shirt or a pair of sandals (dogbane-and-grass shoes, it turns out, don't hold up too long.) I wrote a lot of music. I smelled. I was happy.

College, as you might gather, was a nasty shock. I fell into a tailspin from which I am still recovering. The life of the mind and the life of the body can be really difficult to reconcile. After such an intense period of experiential learning, trying to write papers about the ecological ramifications of specific legal minutiae was daunting. And seemingly irrelevant. I multiplied my difficulties by refusing to touch a computer for any reason---I earned my BA with the sole aid of a Royal Manual Typewriter, thank you very much. (What, me, make life more difficult for myself? Hard to believe, right?) A distaste for political environmentalism ungrounded in day-to-day experience soon drove me from participation in my chosen field. But neither did I return to my primitivist lifestyle. I just sort of gave up, entirely. Having learned how daunting the problems we face actually are, I could no longer muster the energy necessary to fight them.
I say all of this because I like the sound of my own voice. But also by way of explaining why I no longer stay up-to-date on environmental issues. I thought I had moved on, into the sphere of education and personal improvement and positive thinking, smaller fields with more promising outcomes. Until today.

On the bus home, to occupy myself, I picked up the discarded newspaper of a previous passenger. Deepwater Horizon was on the front page. I got about a paragraph in and found myself crying. The rest of the ride was undertaken in sunglasses. I think the sniffling might have given me away, though.

Why, why, why are we so continually and ineradicably STUPID? Why can't we see the plain truth that resources are limited, and turn our energies to finding other ways rather than pigheadedly, at great cost, trying to scrape out the last little bits...and failing in such a way as to not only destroy the resource we went in for but also damage irreparably what was once a healthy, functioning, beautiful place? It goes beyond stupidity, actually. It is willful self-destruction.

So after all these years I've discovered why I've been avoiding environmental issues. Not because I'd evolved beyond them, or was sickened by the hypocrisy of their proponents, but because it hurts too much. The same story, over and over and over again. Beauty replaced by ugliness. Complexity replaced by base monotony. Wisdom replaced by banal entertainment. Again and again and again. It is not to be endured.

So: falling in love. I hesitate to write about this tender new thing yet, for fear of stunting it, but the possibility of love has emerged from nowhere and it is too heady to suppress. I find that my greatest fear in opening myself to a new relationship is that I am not where I want to be. My outer circumstances do not match my inner life. I do not have goats or blackberries or traplines or a solar homestead. So I feel a bit unworthy, or unequal to the task of being known.
I promised I would draw these two topics together, and back 500 words ago I knew how, but I've lost it. I think it had something to do with the state of flux, with imperfection... Oh yeah! Self-control! I was going to make the point that the REASON I am not in outer circumstances to match my inner vision is my lack of self-control. The same lack of self-control evidenced by the continual rape of the planet by voracious humans. The same lack of self-control that causes me to fall in love too quickly. The same lack of self-control that characterizes earthquakes. Wildfires. Deer populations. Wild mustard. Self-control is NOT NATURAL. The world exhibits NO self-control. Checks and balances, yes, but they come from external forces. Perhaps it is the same for us humans. We are natural beings, after all. Why do we think we're so special? Why should we have self-control, rather than being controlled by cause-and-effect like the rest of the vertebrates?

So, ugly as a lack of control might be, we may have to come to terms with it. Accept the world as it is. Accept ourselves as we are. Our attempts to control, after all, are usually at the root of human suffering. And environmental suffering, come to think of it. And parenting difficulties! (Yes, I had to work that in somehow!) It is a total contradiction that attempts to control our environment could be reined in by attempts to control ourselves, and the truth is, the world is far too complex for anyone to comprehend. The idea that I could somehow come up with a plan that would "fix" it is downright laughable. And maybe...just is the same way. Maybe life is too complex to judge by simple standards. Maybe I am right where I need to be. Maybe I can just let go and love, despite my imperfections. The earth. This man. Myself.

1 comment:

  1. I totally think you are on to something with your conclusion. I lived much of my 20's with a similar desire to change the world. I really think that, to quote a Howard Jones song "everything around us is natural, don't fight it". Even if we do destroy the earth. Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end, right? Let go and love! And live! One Life!