You Can Go Home Again
28 February 2016
In considering the ecological crisis there is a tendency to see a bleak "reality" where we, left alone, are stranded somewhere in the contemporary future, distanced from the joy and innocence of childhood - and in this context only the "hope" that our hard work and technological know how can rescue ourselves. "I can 'fix' it; if I just do it a bit 'better." This "hope" is the fuel of a metaphorical rocket propelled constructed space ship of accomplishment and nostalgia. It is not home. At best it's the structure of a "home-stead." Seductive yes, a house bought and paid for on credit maybe; home, no. The good news is, no need to be a pioneer at all; no need to "better yourself." Imperfect is okay: home is falling down, desires unsatiated, sadness. Home is your darkest love.
With "hope" we remain largely floating, entertained in a vacuum, a kind of "space station" with brilliant music, brilliant views of the "blue marble" beneath us and the depths of space above. It is post 2001, and we and Hal have worked out a deal. There need be no space-child as long as we are willing to completely keep the machine and its technological fuel consuming apparatus spinning.
This is the insidious side to the progress movements of "pioneers" like Elon Musk, or even mythic films about problem solving (and colonial) American know-how like "The Martian."
Walter Benjamin in his 1935 "Arcades Project" relates that there is a quelling of our subconscious desires through the consuming of their effigy. We want love, and so we consume dates by way of an online app. We want friends and so we hang out with people and get along. We want to construct great things and so we work for companies that construct great things.
Lewis Mumford writes in "The Myth of The Machine," 1970 that the apparatus of the machine has replaced the apparatus of life. As I have sat hunched over a computer milling daydreams of intelligent mechanical systems I have sought to justify spending hours plugged into tools as "humanizing" a mechanical system. Amid these thoughts I could not understand Mumford's logic. What, after all, is the distinction between a life affirming system and a mechanical technological system? Why must Mumford seek to define in opposition something that I, as an enlightened space traveller could clearly obfuscate? After all, ideologies of technology stand, enveloping, for us to enact, as power words juxtaposing opposites in dynamic, re-orienting morality away from known concepts of living creatures and dead rendered tools towards a "making," placing us in a monasterial hierarchy of death-life, an infinitude, a razor edge DO-ing of philosophical nonthinking.
This is no doubt the "Deep Ecology" that Bookchin, in his 1987 essay "Social Ecology vs Deep Ecology" "describes is the methodology of the National Socialists in justifying the erasure of the ghetto amid the dream of an "ecologically" correct state of nature. He goes on, in his critique, to discuss the spiritualism of fairies, recycling, (and perhaps "green" energy?) that takes us away from the reality of social ecological crisis, allowing us to quell our doubts and needs through the consumption of a pure nature that assuages our own satisfying sense of guilt as an evolutionarily failed homo sapien scourge. Indeed, we are led to believe we have a "choice:" population control or infinitely increased production. As Bookchin discusses, to see ourselves with this kind of "choice" is to render us as unthinking and mechanical as the Cartesian "animals" and "resources" that these same "Deep Ecologists" hope to save in this way.
We are human beings, and we die. Is that such a surprise? Too humanistic? No, we are not godly and enlightened characters that transcend life and death above and beyond our planet by cryogenically freezing ourselves. Go ahead and download your thoughts into a locked notebook or a cluster of neuron like circuits. When you do it to a living, intelligent being, it is called teaching. Even writing is intended to be read. When you do it to a secret hard drive with the idea that you can indeed become that hard drive after death - then you've been fooled, fooled by the fear of death into clinging to the fantasy that you are above it.
And so it is indeed our fear that is the main ingredient of the rocket fuel that propels our space ship of accomplishment. We fear that we won't be able to be fully human enough, we won't be able to LIVE the way we really want to, and it drives us to consume the "lives" we "want to have." So we fly further and further from home.
There is still hope; there is hope that comes from the inside that emmanates from your heart and the interconnectedness of the universe, the sad realization that life ends, that in fact, death is everywhere, and that we are ineffably, albeit momentarily, alive. This hope of the void - tragic gravity - can bring us back to earth. With it we can go home again.
As long as we have desires, as long as we have fuel to fly away, we still have the humanity that draws us back to earth. A paradox? Return to Innocence? Paradigm shift necessary: Let yourself desire. Dont satisfy yourself. Let yourself be negative. Don't balance. Let yourself be sad. Don't cheer yourself up.
The moment we fall, we encounter the net beneath us.