At midlife a threshold...

The Deep Ecology Platform:
(Source: Foundation for Deep Ecology)

“The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: inherent worth; intrinsic value; inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.

Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.

Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.

Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.

The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.

Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.

The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent worth) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to participate in the attempt to implement the necessary changes.

I think it is a good time to begin here with this platform again. These are troubled, desperate times. Leaves are falling from the trees in ochre, umber, and yellow tones. This morning the first fingers of frost’s tips arrived from dawn down below on the river. The sun lumbered lowly in the ever-southerly kingdoms of the empyrean. The light is of course slant and cold adumbrate. Its brightness is the spent runner’s lunge across the finish line heaving. No need to mow the grasses anymore. Time to rake and pile. Time to cover the compost bins and let them to their alchemical slumber, bring in the sensitive, thin-skinned beings, batten the twice used air conditioner, and prepare to inure oneself to these northern dark climates with wool, oil heat, and liquor. We’re here now, let’s make the best of it.

If you think that your life will outrun the coming disasters you are already among the dead. If you think that your life will go on like it has, well, there’s probably no getting to you in time. This blog and this kind of thinking aren’t very good at the missionary conversion side of things. I have no wish to convince you if you don’t think anything is wrong. I have no wish to convert you, for there is nothing to convert you to. This ain’t no ideology nor is it a system of beliefs. This is just one man’s groping in the dark for some safe places to grieve. These places are always temporary and never the same for two people. This clearly isn’t the news of the monotheistic religions, it’s indiscriminate and not redemptive and there is absolutely nothing to do. There are not prescriptions or solutions. In fact, there are no business words at all. This is the hardest part I think for many. That there is nothing to do. This is tantamount to suicide for many in our civilization. Even folks who I admire will admonish me to reconsider this. But what about all the actions that have brought significant benefit to poor people, to persons of color, to nonhuman lives? What, indeed. To you I say, I seek not to convince you either. If you’re out there on the edge of things pushing against the system and its monstrous, cannibalistic grin, please keep going out there. No need to give up on my account. Nor anyone else’s. I’ll say it again, if you come to this on your own, or via my writing or someone else’s, and there are many others out there who have wonderful voices which iterate in their own way what I am writing about, that is fine. There is no requirement that you do though, nor any requirement that you stay. These are troubled, desperate times. This way that I speak of is not depressing nor is it hopeful. It has no particular claim to be anything. And that, of itself, maybe a reason for someone out there to take it up and go find what they may.

I urge you however, if you want to engage with me on this material, to try to suspend the idea of one or the other. Try to understand what I mean when I write, “there’s not light and there’s not dark, nor is there good and bad. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve sinned and repented, or not sinned or not repented of your sins, we’re all in this now.” Whether you want to be or not, if you’re reading these words you’re alive for a moment on this planet, same as me as I write them now. That is incredible. Take a moment to lean into the warm wind of that sentiment. Lean into what it feels like to not belong to anything. You don’t have to stay there for long, it is extraordinarily scary. But for a moment pretend you do not belong to anyone but to yourself.

I, for one, have always refused to be told what to do if it didn’t suit me. This has been my allotment. I refuse to be told that I should work for a living, though I have and very hard at times. I refuse to be told I should be educated, though I have and intensely. I refuse to be told I should save money and plan for retirement. I have not done those things. I refuse to be told I should invest in the markets. I think it is morally untenable to do so. I’ve reached an age where, despite my hatred of bromide, one must put up or shut up. This is the age of realization, or perhaps of individuation if you prefer to fly toward the Jungian heavens. I’m turning 40 soon. This midpoint reached in these latter days without the help of earlier ceremonies to kill off the adolescence can seem simultaneously momentous and totally inconsequential. There are days when I am sure I will go out and wash homeless persons’ feet and tend to the dying. There are days when I am pissed that I can’t make it up to the pizza joint for a beer and a few slices. There are days when I drive a gas guzzling Tacoma truck that my wife and I intensely craved and then rue that the tofu from the co-op isn’t make from locally grown soy. I imagine this approximates many lives out there. I walk around dragging my childhood selves around with me. I constantly apply childhood solutions to present problems and the results are consistently absurd just as they would be if a child were actually doing the dailies I do. Does this person like me? If I manipulate this situation, maybe they’ll love me. As my wife’s therapist once told her, they didn’t even know you then. These poor people in my life now, those whom I foist my fucked up childhood survival strategies upon did not know me when back then. They cannot be expected to respond in ways the solutions expect. I suspect, in your quiet moments, you can see this about yourself too unless you were lucky enough to have been through a process to kill your childhood as any culture worthy of that word would do.

So, the problem is this: how the hell do you cross the threshold of your midlife in the midst of the surest news that your life has been entirely lived far outside the bounds of what was appropriate for the earth? Your life has consumed far, far more resources (another business word) of the earth than any other human in the history of the species. If you are from a country in North America or Western Europe, your life is the result of a cannibalistic action of the “civilized” world’s to destroy the planet in the name of comfort and status. How much fossil fuel do you use per day? If you are an average person in the United States this can be expressed as about 500 human slaves working for you twenty-four hours per day. How is this anything other than cannibalism? Your life is literally consuming the finite flesh of the world so that you may sleep in comfort and order shit from Amazon. Of course, you must work for it. You must sell your body to the system in order for the system to provide these comforts and statuses in return. If you decide to stop selling yourself to others you will be punished and ostracized though various means. We are infected with a virus that has made us all crazy. More reason than ever to step through a threshold in midlife into something saner and slower and less cannibalistic. But where? And how?

Despite a little while back telling you there’s nothing to do, I am going to tell you now about old time ways to help when you stop to look into this abyss. And if you don’t see an abyss, if you aren’t gripped by hatred, disgust, fear, and grief you aren’t really looking in the right place. I’m going to myself now going to go back up and read the words of the Deep Ecology Platform again, take a moment and do so too and I’ll meet you back here when you’re ready. It’s getting dark, the frost is again settling, the path is winding but you already know it. Don’t forget to eat to keep up your strength.

….”an obligation…to participate.” The etymology of obligation is instructive. It comes to us out of the vast ululating wordhoard from Latin meaning, among other things, a binding in duty or law. From where comes the law or duty? And what gives it the power to bind? These are subjects for future writings but enough of where I am going will suffice here. The Law exists. It cannot be separated from the universe. In a way of thinking, the Law is the universe. All cultures who create mature humans know about the Great Law. It is the Great Law which binds you and binds me together and to flow and duty of “to participate.“ So then, after reading the previous seven statements you are gifted an obligation to participate. How can you read the seven litanies before the eighth and not be bound by them? How could you turn back? Well, many do and other will after first allowing themselves to be bound. That’s okay. But my point is, if you work through this list (I will in detail in coming writings), you will find something that is the fullest kind of despair, a despair that binds but in doing so does something else. Now, in English, there comes down to us a word that seems a lot like to bind. To bind can mean to hold. If we add this little word onto another old welter of a word that means “to trample”we get something like…threshold. Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere…