Predictions of Apocalypse and Destructive Weathers
I have just read of and seen the destruction wreaked by a tornado in Mississippi, large chunks of small towns flattened, survivors picking through rubble. Somewhere around thirty deaths, homes and businesses destroyed. It’s a geographical area that suffers these insults regularly, about as often as other areas have forest fires, floods or snowstorms, so no surprize. And in the lingering aftermath of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, with, as we know, a huge body count, it will be digested quickly by those of us not personally affected. Disasters, the natural ones, have a nasty habit of striking, and we have long come to accept their relentless power to gobble up anything that has the temerity to get in their way. We live with destruction and absorb tragedy. It comes with the territory, the game of incarnation.
Wars, revolutions and sundry civic strife, angers erupting all over the map: this too we take in stride. Not because we like or ignore it, but being in service to our various daily schedules and duties we can only glance and skip past the grumbling. Those with faith in a benevolent deity are tested, those without do not seek to be reassured, they know how to grit their teeth and plough on. Those of us who have relinquished our need for the supports of faith or fantasy stay serene in our understanding of the vast reach of illusion and aim our gaze at the endless adaptability of soul. It all sounds a bit grandiose but ultimately we know where we live.
All my adult life I’ve been witnessing the parade of dire predictions, coming at me from various sources, sometimes the leaders of doomsday cults, others the self-appointed shock troops of environmental and economic degradation and destruction, all threatening some form of hell-fire if we don’t change our ways. You know, radically and right away. For me this stretches from sharing a joint with acquaintances or strangers and hearing someone pontificate on how ‘the whole shitstorm was going to go up in flames any day now’ to carefully orchestrated articles in respectable journals. In both it was assumed that you shared the view that capitalism was terminally corrupt and would collapse with its own internal contradictions. The Marxist theoretician Herbert Marcuse would sometimes be quoted, the philosopher E.F. Schumacher’s influential book Small Is Beautiful would be admiringly referenced, while those sounding the early warning bells of environmentalism would be hinted at.
Sometimes the above would not be mentioned, usually by those unaware of their existence, yet that ‘rotten to the core’ viewpoint would be held, often quite passionately. It was fascinating to see the marijuana high helping folks see through the masks of society and personality yet leaving the untrained intelligence to its own devices. They figured the jig was up but they couldn’t fathom why. It was enough to be lost in the enchantment of the mysteries. That the architecture of the puzzles would be forever hidden from view was a given, despite the tantalising hints offered during an lsd experience, hints that strongly suggested a game of many dimensions entertaining with the illusions of purpose and meaning. One where everything seemed layered under veils of deceit and illusion. One where the byword, as immortalised by the comedy collective Firesign Theatre’s Everything You Know Is Wrong, was a given.
Despite being a product of that counter culture I never could buy into any of the packages promoted as important. Along with all those gurus salivating with the promise of a salvation quite distinct from that churchy one long hollowed out with rebellious suspicions, I tended to stand apart as I contemplated the archaic revelation of many lives linked by karma and heavens available to any who might enter on so much as a whim. Economics of any variety might be seduced by corruption, religions built on threats and fearful ignorance and politics the preserve of the greedy and deceitful, but even a quick scan of history would reveal humanity’s ability to self-destruct with alarming efficiency and yet somehow stagger on to the next crisis. Empires waxed and waned quite predictably. Almost with what one might call immaculate timing if one felt so disposed.
Yes I was young and giddy with intellectual enthusiasms, but in reaching out in all directions I could start to grasp what I’m confidently relaying now. Of course there was lots to admire: that generation who refused to go to war, the women who shucked the reins that restrained them, all those who struggled to shape a better world out of the racist bones of the old, the musicians who made an entirely new rhythmic and harmonic universe out of the roots they’d inherited from various traditions.
I was reminded of all this today reading a cultural history of the rock band King Crimson. In a resurrected interview, from Dec. ’74, with one of their founders Robert Fripp, who when speaking of a book by John Bennett, a disciple of the mystical philosopher Gurdjieff, that had deeply moved him to see “our dinosaur civilisation” as not so much as custodians of the biosphere as careless destroyers of it. He had become convinced that “society would soon start collapsing on a colossal scale, much like the Minoans of 1450 BC” . A crisis was forecast for the 1990’s, which would be “ a decade of considerable panic” that would make “the depression era of the thirties look like a Sunday outing compared to this apocalypse”. He saw a “transition between the old world and the new” that had already begun, with the old world “already in its death throes”.
While the OPEC lead oil crisis of that time may have made his scenarios seem all the more real, at least for a while, the sentiments camouflage themselves as thoughts faded from view, as they always do. Apocalyptic prognostications continue to manifest deep inner anxieties with their promoters insisting you join their fear club or else to this day. It seems to me that a large part of their attraction is the helplessness many feel in the face of what we call “natural disasters”, as if predicting much worse could make us wise or immune. We do of course have a natural immunity, as we do to viruses and bacteria, and on this level it can be know as eternal life, something everyone enjoys whether they realise it or not.
The doom and gloom clubhouse will always be filled with card carrying members gleefully toasting the new apocalypse at hand. Let them enjoy their self-affirming revels. What I have learned from living and listening is that shit happens every other week somewhere but as a species we pick ourselves up dust ourselves off, make more babies and move on. Yes, we are all dust in the wind, as the song sings, but that dust is also seeds, seeds that will sprout, seeds that cannot help but sprout. As one wit once observed, the sun rises every morning because it has no option.