It’s time to imagine that we are living through a nightmare – a comfortable life that is eating the future. We devise efficiencies to slow the hands of the clock. But the way of life which the solutions would maintain, is the cause of the problem.
When I present midsummer night’s dreams of perhaps less comfortable lives, which can have futures, I’m ridiculed as away with the fairies. I know a bank where wild thyme grows… so the less comfortable life can be pleasurable. I’d like to find ways to communicate the pleasure.
Meanwhile we can remain drowsily peaceful by the inane, but marvellous provisions of holiday flight, telly & super market aisle – in hope that the future will wash saviour technologies to our shore. After all everything decays. Nothing’s perfect. Larger forces than ours will provide. My behaviour is nothing to the wider world.
We are living through a cargo cult – in a beachcomber, or hunter-gatherer state, plucking simples and pleasures from super market aisles. In the fall from the primal garden we had learnt consequence. Now we’ve ascended to another sort of garden – without consequence, in which we need learn nothing. Those millions of years of borrowed photosynthesis have negated the Tree of Knowledge and have re-opened the gates to Eden – with a twist – It is Eden for now (the End of History), but not for then – when history will return with the most terrible Fall for both ourselves and our children.
But within the nightmare, we can travel without travel, gain “knowledge” without curiosity and feast without apparent effect. We pretend that the future will be arranged by a tide of cleverly-educated children. We want those children to be happy, but we care vicariously by the provisions of “service providers”. The gentle surf, like the deep breathing of sleep washes thought; probity; dexterity; responsibility from the shore. Why should we throw away a wonderfully-achieved state of contemporary advancement, for something, nasty, brutish and short – and also probably bothersome and over-energetic? Who wants to fall backwards into history?
What’s more, midsummer night’s dreams are difficult to realise.
But the choice is not between a rock and a hard place. It is between where the cargo cult leads – to the end of civilisation or otherwise, to a new way of life in which a contemporary consequence is attached to a contemporary action. It should be plain that contemporary actions create the future. Futuristic ideas create nothing.
Surely, however difficult, we’ll wake from the nightmare and choose a civilized future by how we behave today?
In my Midsummer Night’s Dream we re-learn that journeys, not destinations are the pleasure; that civilisations are what we do, not their visible states. Experience doesn’t come by the tide, but by solitary senses, to the understanding of solitary heads and hearts. We also discover that we share those experiences in common and possess a common intrinsic knowledge of the humane and inhumane.
Even so, most people have chosen the changeless provisions of the nightmare.
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been travelling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress at great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork in the road – the one less travelled by – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson.
While we are lost in enchanted woods, we might consider the three choices, which the Fairy Queen offered to Thomas the Rhymer: a broad and easy road to wickedness – a narrow road through thorn and briar to righteousness and then – See ye not yon bonny road that winds among the ferny brae – that is the path to fair Elfland where thou and I this night maun gae.
I pass beneath the arch of your raised eyebrow and into the Lands of Fairy. My road bears long caravans of humanity, both as moral citizens and as a species into the wide, half-glimpsed terrains of an ecologic and economic whole. I say, it’s an adventure more marvellous than the oil-powered comforts we must leave behind – in which we become enthralled by the physics of nature. If a litre of oil had the power of two to three weeks of manual labour, then many more of us must be actively and ingeniously involved in living without it. I hope that alone is a seductive proposition.
After, all, the Lands of Fairy have been an ancient seduction – as has femininity – the mysterious wiles of denied power – which may be mysteriously wiser than blokes like me.
I see caravans of par-blind economies winding into half-remembered old territories, settling clumsily at first, with inappropriate tools – a fashionable surge to evacuate retail parks and the corporate brands of both baked bean tins and political parties – to occupy what can be self-determined – proper shops, workshops, market squares, streets, harbours – and of course what has born all those things – the fields of agriculture.
My fashionable surge (or folk movement, if you prefer) sheds anachronistic rules of fossil physics to re-learn laws of natural physics.
Actually, that physics is revealed in puckish reaction to clumsy footsteps. We take physical roads to find their physics and spiritual roads to find their spirits. We carry the morality (the humanity) within us. Why not take the narrow road to righteousness? Well, as I say, it is within us. We know what is humane and inhumane in human transaction, but beyond society we don’t know right from wrong.
Historically, ecological effects have been balanced by allocation of commons – received from ancestors and passed to descendents. But those commons have been enclosed in various historical waves and finally by post-modern consumer-rights machinery – so much so that some environmentalists have promoted the idea of “eco-system services”. Such consumerist proposals, along with carbon targets and quotas, “organic” labelling in super markets and so on, are all parts of the futility of the fossil-powered nightmare. Improving the nightmare does not change it to a benign dream – rather it becomes endorsed, swollen and prolonged by each organic, fair-traded, carbon-audited, true-cost-accounted dispensation.
The strata of many millions of years of fossilised nature have provided mortality with such god-like powers that Nature has been progressively-diminished in the social imagination. I propose to re-imagine her as we demigods fall back into our original human natures – from fossil-powered trans-substantial Valhalla into a world of natural consequence.
As we shall investigate, biomass (life) flows between species – diminish any particulars in that complexity and we diminish the whole. My imagination presents each species as a defined pool of life, through whose banks the whole liquidity flows. The banks hold the forms of an individual within a species for a life span – at which moment, the banks collapse and the river breaks free – to be taken up by other defined pools of life. Death is essential to life.
Suggesting to trans-substantial consumerists that they are flesh of the flesh of the biomass they diminish, has got this writer no readers. Nor has it sent the transition town movement the practitioners it deserves. My “green” friends won’t wake from the nightmare, but tinker at ways to improve it. Super markets, business/retail parks, air ports and high-speed rail links expand, while naturally-evolved high streets, market squares and workshops decay. That these are dark days for hope is undeniable. But, that nothing has been done to adapt to a world without fossil fuels, gives us more reason to do so ourselves. – Responsibility is the source of happiness.