A Delusion of Permanence

August 4, 2011

One of the most-profound problems of humankind is the inability to see no tomorrow — or at least a tomorrow so unlike today.
Life continues burns in the soul.

Not so fast there, Sherlock.

Humanity loves delusion if the alternative is unthinkable.
Yet even as the morning starts to break here on California’s northern coast, so many situations have put the planet in such peril that the imagination cannot cope with the horror coming quicker than one could say “fiddle-sticks.”
And apparently at this point, there’s not much anyone can do about it except to gird thy loins and get ready to rumble.

(Illustration of Picasso’s ‘Girl with a Mandolin‘ found here).

Even US peoples have a sense of this delusion of the future.
In a poll last month, 84 percent think the economy currently sucks and a good 59 percent say it will continue to suck for at least a year from now in a “very” poor state.
And the ludicrous debt ceiling fiasco just completed (or just started) allows US peoples (and the world’s peoples for that matter) to really witness how the government is now non-functional — our people in DC can’t even budget the FAA.
Neil Bolen, a FAA civil engineer, summed up the whole shit: “Congress doesn’t care about me at all,” Bolen told CNN. “They’re not done with their work and they go on vacation. How do they do that?”
Yes indeed.

Even all this pessimism, most US peoples still walk around as if all will eventually be okay.
Despite the two biggest game-changers in world history coming at us faster than you can say “fiddle sticks” not many are paying attention.
Peak oil sounds farfetched, but the reality of it really means the end of cheap oil — the vast, vast majority do not comprehend the implications — within a decade the engines will coast to a stop.
And that ain’t that long from now, Sherlock.

And climate change?
Despite the boiling, burnt nose on the faces of US peoples sweltering in record-breaking heat, there’s no great awakening to why.
And despite the heat boiling sidewalks and creating a blood-red reservoir, climate change is not mentioned by the MSM.
From Climate Progress: Our science-based institutions, like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, have no difficulty straightforwardly explaining the connection between human-caused global warming and these monster heatwaves. If only our news-based institutions could do the same.
And in turn, inform US peoples.

All which rattles the dream of life’s permanence.
No one like to think of any kind of end, especially to a most-privileged existence found in the US.
My thinking on this subject was cued by an essay by Rod Dreher, a US writer and editor on social, religious and economic issues, on fear and delusion.
The post is found at RealClear Religion.
A few highlights, especially as modification never stops:

Some things never change.
We are living through an extraordinary time, one in which we are desperate to believe that things for our civilization aren’t as precarious as they are, but in which reality advances without pity on the stronghold of our self-delusion.
The world has just witnessed the appalling spectacle of the American government risk the full faith and credit of the United States in a high-stakes game of chicken over the debt ceiling.
Though we appear to have swerved at the last second to avoid a cliff-plunge, everybody knows that the country’s fiscal policy continues to be driven by bipartisan recklessness.

This is not just an economic crisis.
At bottom, it is a moral and spiritual crisis.
We Americans have been living as if the historically extraordinary bounty of material wealth and personal freedom are the natural state of mankind.
We — and in a democracy, the government is “we” — have been living far beyond our fiscal means for far too long, and punishing any politician who failed to lie to us about the free lunch.
But our disastrous failure of prudence is not only financial.
Take the indulgent stewardship of our natural resources.
While we are (rightly) consumed by the perils of climate change, for example, few people are paying attention to the growing topsoil crisis.
The world is losing vast amounts of precious, hard-to-replace topsoil each year, much of it disappearing because of wasteful agricultural techniques.
Have we become so accustomed to full supermarket shelves that we think they will continue to replenish themselves infinitely, no matter what we do, or fail to do?

Tinder’s essay poleaxed me because it made me realize that the world of abundance and liberty I took to be my birthright as a young American was an illusion.
That is to say, its reality was contingent on maintaining and renewing convictions, practices, and disciplines that increasing wealth and personal autonomy make harder to observe.
It’s a story as old as Rome, as old as the human race.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said during the depths of the Great Depression.
Given where the country was at that moment in its history, that confident pronouncement might have been the right thing to say.
We aren’t there yet, and God willing, we will do what we must to avoid calamity.
For now, it seems to me that the wiser course was suggested by the gloomy British financial consultant, who, reflecting last week on the extremely dire prospects facing his heavily indebted nation, warned BBC listeners, “One thing worse than fear is living in fantasy.”

And the only way to get ride of that fear and the fantasy is to wake-the-fuck up!

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