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Presence

I have been absent. This blog hasn’t had much of an update in some time, and I have no illusions that this is a bad thing.

Then again, I consider myself a writer—or at least I aspire to be a writer—and a substantial part of being an active, contributing artist in our modern society means having a presence.

Of course, that primarily means an internet presence. The flashy artists, the ones who show up in trendy magazines or are renowned in the lit scene, they live in big cities and can attend live events, buy drinks for fellow poets, or have a one night stand with that cute up-and-coming singer/songwriter. More than anything else they do, they show up.

More than anything else I do, I don’t show up.

I have a measly internet presence. Years ago, a woman wearing too much make-up laughed at me. How the fuck could I even be human if I didn’t have Facebook? It was a naïvely idealist view, at the time. Something I could roll my eyes at and dismiss. But since then, it has become more and more true.

Not that I feel any less human. In fact, in the past year of neglecting the internet—after too many years trying to coyly join in on the party—I feel more alive than I ever have. But then again, as the Millenials say (and let’s face it, Millenials will become the dominant force as Baby Boomers vegetate & die): if you did it but didn’t record it, did it happen at all?

None of it happened. Because life never happened. It is happening, or it is not. Anything besides what is currently happening is either memory or imagination. Life itself is an existential experience, a matter of the present—of being present—of presence—and there we are again, with that goddamn pejorative.

What really gets me about presence is Definition 1.1 in the Oxford Dictionary: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” That is essentially internet presence, although of course, with the narcissistic twist that the internet produces, this usage gets confused with 1.3: “The impressive manner or appearance of a person.”

The first definition speaks to something beyond the self, something beyond the senses. The second speaks to ego, the self, the senses. The way we interact with the internet is that: it’s beyond the senses, beyond the self, beyond the ego—and yet it engages the senses, the self, and the ego. It’s an empty egg, and we’re subsisting on an imagined yolk.

I prefer the first definition. I even take it to heart and let it expand: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.”

Then what is it?

I don’t know. Maybe that is what I am endeavoring to find out.

Playing It By Ear in the NICU

There is a trick

intensive care nurses use

because I think their training insists that they don’t get people any more down

than their situation is already making them—-

the nurses say things like,

‘let’s play it by ear’

(as if anything medical is improvised,

like the charts are ecstatic jazz jams we’re all scatting along to,

with the appropriate significant digits)

and things like

‘another day or two’

(which I have heard every day

for five days now)

and my favourite

‘that’s okay’

(which is a thinly veiled way that they indicate that they don’t want you to worry,

although you probably should)—-

I have heard it all

the same way I have heard the respiratory rate monitors alarm

and the ECG alarm

and the hissing of high-flow oxygen

and my baby girl cry

because things aren’t alright—-

the nurses know it but they won’t say it—-

it’s okay,

just another day or two,

let’s play it by ear.

 

Get on It

As soon as I hear a beat, my heart skips, I get on it /

Don’t be obtuse, I’m so acute don’t even need chronic /

The sonic elation got me bombing radio stations /

Facing a blank age disappearing from this great nation /

No patience, so we bleed from our eyes onto kilobytes /

No one even knows what it’s like to spend a lonely night /

Unless the Wi-Fi is down, then we’re in trouble /

Suddenly silent in the town we built from a tech bubble bubble /

Attack the rubble, or at least whatever’s left /

We are one that’s split, like a lip that’s cleft /

But I know what’s left, and it can’t be liked /

A lightning strike, lighting up the day or night night /

Now don’t be a frightening, don’t hide behind a pop song’s lies /

Unplug, unwind, where your freak flag flies /

Do or do not don’t try, even if you don’t belong on it /

As soon as you hear a beat, open your heart, get on it…

 

As soon as I hear a groove I move, I can’t help it /

My body is the music, like dropping E, you know you felt it /

Unsheltered, nude before the evil-lasting eye /

I see you in front of I, these rules are hard to abide by /

So crunch it, eat it for lunch if you don’t have time to lose /

Burn with the fire inside, consumed by the groove /

My dog can sense it too, I know you got a bright side /

Let’s see it for once & a while…at least you can try /

Believe it or not there’s kids inside, so let them out /

You locked them up yourself when you gave in to doubt /

With no clout, just trust in clouds & four leaf clovers /

Following stars with your head below ground like a gopher /

Now easy over homie, don’t crack up on me /

I only got one moment to prove I’m not a phony /

Got a mind full of dreams, I’m pretty set on it /

That’s why when I hear a beat I let go & get on it …

 

Dig it in vibes & such:

‘Get On It’

myztic

UXOs (2015)

IMG_0410 - UXO Album Art 3

Trish & Other Things We Have Lost

I often walk my dog in the city’s central park. It’s no rectangular monolith of NYC, and in fact is diminutive compared to the expansive prairie parkland that encompasses it on all sides. But it does the trick. It has trees, it has trails, it has rabbits and squirrels and a lake stocked with trout.

I have been going to this park for years. I go even more now that I have a dog. I am kind of an old man in that way. My wife and I get up, drink coffee, then go to the park on the weekends.

And for as long as we have been going there, Trish has been going as well.

I don’t know Trish in any other capacity. You would think for a city the size of ours (population ~30,000) you would run into another person every once in a while. But we don’t. Trish is strictly a feature of the park.

Trish does not come alone. Nor is she a dog (in case you are trying to anticipate me). With that said, there is clearly something ‘abnormal’ with Trish. She is not a healthy human. It’s possible that most cultures would probably have shunned her after birth. I don’t know what ‘condition’ Trish has, and I am too embarrassed to ask her parents, who are probably in their sixties and take Trish for her park walk on weekend mornings, when we also happen to be out like sixty-year-olds trapped in twenty-something bodies.

I can’t even tell how old Trish is. She is small and scrawny like you would expect from a child, but she has a few faint greys spotting her dark black hair. She wears those giant wrap-around sunglasses you see for sale at pharmacies and wonder, at what age is it okay to buy these—hipsters, even the normest core of them, wouldn’t dare rock these glasses, because in reality we’re all sensitive pussies in our youth, and it isn’t until age/a mate/children makes us too weary to actually care what we look like that we could possibly don these sunnies. But that is Trish. She doesn’t care.

Her parents are kind folk. At the first few encounters, they seemed quite embarassed. They would step aside while Trish did her typical greeting—which I’ll get to in a ‘graph or two—and kind of look away, only to thank us afterwards. Which was weird. They never said hi themselves.

The next few encounters, they were far friendlier.They spoke with us. Chatted about the weather and our dog. Surficial, but friendly.

Now, about three or four years on, they seem tired about the whole thing. True, Trish is repetitive, and they are her caretakers who must spend all day every day dealing with this monotony and kind of sadness. They only smile, nod, maybe say hello, then take up their walk after our encounter is done.

Despite what medicine and culture has dictated for a long time, Trish is a beautiful human. And not in a fashion magazine or even Dove commercial kind of way, but she is beautiful in her proverbial heart—her soul—whatever you attribute to the capability of humans to connect in an emotional way. She is just so fucking sweet.

We have greeted her the same for years: she sees us down the path and starts to veer away from her parents. She usually says, “Can I pet your dog?” and we usually say “Absolutely.” She hangs her hands over the dog, and might touch it once or twice, but very quickly. Then she asks one of us, “What’s your name?” in an almost aggressive way. And we tell her and she says something like, “That’s pretty.” And then she hugs you. She hugs and kisses your cheek. And then, “OK bye.” Along their way they go.

That is all I know about Trish. But I would have to trade in my humanity the day that that doesn’t touch me. Some days, yes, we see her and I am in no mood, so I try to redirect our path if not awkward. But even on those days when I am in no mood for anything and we encounter her, that hug and kiss strikes me right to the fucking core.

It brought me to the edge of tears once. And today when it happened, I had a good think about it. I was thinking about how, on our South American and European trips, greeting someone with a hug and a kiss was not unusual. In fact, it would be unusual not to. But here, with our North American stalwartness and weird Christian hang-ups, getting hugged and kissed on the cheek is so rare that if you don’t do it with family or a romantic partner you may never experience it at all.

My wife riffed off my idea, saying that we encourage kids to show physical love when they are young, but as they get older we teach them not to show that same love, or at least to reserve it for family and romantic partners. And that is normal. And that seems reasonable, really, as we talked it out.

But what if we lived in a world where greeting each other like Trish was the norm?

Studies have shown that the physical touch can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, etc. But we also get transmissible diseases through touching. Use hand sanitizer and fist bump. Kiss your infants on the cheek because it helps socialize them…into a world where socializing means no touching. Personal space and special places. Perverts and priests. Physicians who need to check your genitals, but don’t let Johnny or Katie down the block do the same.

Maybe that is okay. I am not suggesting a revolution, because it is a Sunday and I’m tired. And really, if we were in an alternative history encountering Trish at the park would not be so touching.

And I wouldn’t be inspired to think about what we are missing out on, here on Turtle Island. What we all hope Patchamama would do to us, what our own mama would do to us—what we need on some of those days when you are just in no mood.

I should probably be happier that I received some lit-related mail that wasn’t a form rejection letter. I have other things on my mind, I guess.

Doesn’t matter. Art separates from the artist like spores off a mushroom, and goes on to colonize a new microhabitat.

Image

But this particular spore wasn’t inspired by mushrooms, as my metaphor might lead you to believe. The poem that is featured in From the Well House’s 2nd print volume, “Ecstasy: Adam Meets Eve, Again” is as naked as it reads, and bares its catalyst right in the title.

Before kids had Molly, pure MDMA was hard to get a hold of. Most of the ecstasy pills we gobbled up in the ‘00s were cut with a variety of easily accessible chemicals (for dealers, at least)—anything from cocaine to methamphetamine, to dextromethorphan or even more obscure fillers/adulterants.

So to get hold of a gram and a half of pure MDMA was hard to say no to, even if it was some time since I had dropped a synthetic psychoactive. That was a gram and a half split between two people—according to Erowid, reaching into the ‘High’ dosage range. 

And what perspired was an evening with my muse in the most intense and euphoric kind of way…a tantric orgasm in all the cells of your body, all at once and for twelve hours…

Anyway, the poem was not derived from that night, although I liked to say that I woke up naked with the words scrawled onto my skin. I accomplished or produced nothing tangible that night, although images and sensations still linger in my memory, even all these years later.

The magic of the poem was that it arrived in spontaneous epiphanies over the next week or so, embroiled and infatuated as I was with my muse, with the world, with the universe. It is probably how Rumi wrote–entranced and ecstatic and engorged with Love.

I do hope that you get to read it someday. Maybe not now…I realize ordering a print copy of a magazine you have never heard of can be difficult. I am told someday the issue will appear electronically on the From the Well House website. Maybe you can find it then. Or maybe it will find you as effortlessly and as beautifully as it found me. 

A Time for National Pride, Maybe (World Cup)

I

I am not a nationalist by any stretch. I used to be, when I was a kid. I would be like one of those over-happy actors in hockey play-off beer commercials, covered in gaudy maple leaf paraphernalia and swooning over anything remotely Canadian.

And, being the good bi-polarist I have been training to be my whole life, I was just as proud of being of Argentinian heritage. I waved the flag and was covered in sky blue-and-white when my mother and a number of other immigrants I only remember in photographs marched in some Toronto park during the final match of World Cup 1990, when Argentina was defeated by West Germany.

But I took leave of my nationalism, somewhere around the time when I became a psychedelic universal citizen, a human “in the world but not of the world”—an accumulation of star dust in this dimension of quantum vibrations. And I despised nationalism. I often quipped the quote I long thought was Freud’s, until I just looked it up to reference it now: “Nationalism is a form of collective narcissism” (Bryant McGill). And for a boy seeking egoless integration with the Void, narcissism was an enemy.

But now I am further integrating—as much as I am uncomfortable with Hegelian dialectic it keeps coming up in my thought, such as this one—the antipodes of my moods meet in the middle to synthesize a hybrid where I realize national borders are fundamentally bullshit…but in the same way I will small talk with a co-worker despite my dread clouding this empty talk, I will be a proud nationalist. I will wave a flag. I will swoon during Olympic hockey games and World Cup football games. I will get a maple leaf and an Argentine sun tattooed on my body. These are symbols of my identity that, no matter how far-out mystic I get, will always be a part of my unconscious symbology.

 

II

And what better time to become an ugly nationalist than World Cup? Argentina is poised to perform strongly in 2014, and in my opinion, will finish in the top four along with Brazil, Germany, and Spain.

And what better country to be a hard-headed patriot than Argentina? Their national character is inundated with pride. The greatest insult is to burn the flag, and it is high treason to suggest the Malvinas—or as those damn dirty English call it, the Falklands—are anyone’s but Argentina’s.

But beyond these easy surface stereotypes which can be found in any country, it occurred to me in my travels to my mother’s native land that pride is engrained in the social fabric. As gossipy and whiny as Argentines are of their politicos (what some call ‘political consciousness’), it is bad form to actually portray the country in negative light.

The government runs two news channels and continually portrays the country as the gem of the South American continent. “Lies and propaganda,” my Tio Beto told me. “If you want to see the real news, you watch the independent channel.”

Just one channel and it is a torrent of negative media covering anything from flooding to robberies to riots and rapes. A kiosquiero was robbed by gun point. Unmentioned by the state-run media, but covered like the greatest indignity by the independent channel.

“I can’t watch it,” my other Tio Jose Luis tells me of the independent channel, sitting back in the kitchen chair opposite the twenty-inch TV playing a River Plate game. Every few moments a government ad comes on the TV, spewing a slogan for one Ministry or another.

Sunday in the early afternoon as Tia Ana is preparing a hearty asado in the backyard, cousin Lily comes to visit for a few moments. There are about a dozen people milling around the kitchen, kissing, hugging and grabbing squares of pastafrola off the kitchen table while a maté makes its rounds. She hasn’t seen me for 20 years, like everyone else, and she asks about family first and foremost. But then she moves on—because, of course every is doing fine, they are in Canada.

“Why the hell would you come here?”

“Lily…” cousin Luis Emilio tries to temper her.

“No, but really. Everyone here would love to go there, and these kids come here. To see what? The crumbling concrete and the graffiti? What a disaster.”

“It’s not that bad…”

“Oh no? There are people living in rags and even if you make money you might as well burn it’s worth nothing. There are criminals running the street, and worse, they run the police too. You wake up one morning and your car is gone. Or worse, you get a bullet to the back of the head.”

“Ay! Lily! What the hell, you’re just telling these kids all these horror stories,” my cousin Rosanna says. And her sentiment is echoed throughout the room. Lily doesn’t stay long, she has to get back home. She is uncomfortable anywhere outside a security system, and even then, I can tell she is a nervous wreck. After she leaves they tell me she has been robbed three times in the last month. But they tell me hushedly, like saying it aloud would call the robbers to them.

But would the robbers get through the bars on the windows or the heavy ceramic vase positioned carefully behind the door? Would the retired police dogs in Tio Norberto’s yard scare away a stick-up kid?

Tia Matilde invites us over for supper on Sunday night. Her house is two or three blocks away. It’s warm by our Canadian standards and we would like to walk, but no one will let us. It’s getting dark. Tio Norberto comes just to drive us. On the way we circle to the house where my grandparents lived, where my mom grew up. About a block away from Tia Matilde’s, people crowd the street. A cop for decades, Norberto pulls up and asks one of his cousins what happened.

“That guy went to get in his car, and two guys came up behind him, smashed him on the head and stole his car.”

“Son of a bitch…” Norberto says. “And I was just telling the kids how tranquil this neighbourhood is.”

“But yeah. Of course!” this unnamed cousin insists, leaning into the car to shake my hand.

 

III

The only person who was straight-up with me was my Tio Beto. He is a retired butcher turned massage therapist to pay his bills. He drove us to the airport and we chatted for an hour over a café cortado before the check-in counter opened.

“Argentina had the opportunity to be great. It still has the opportunity to be great. But not when you have the negroes. And you know, my daughter gives me a hard time, because she thinks I am talking about black skin. But I’m not. I mean negro in here,” he holds a finger to his temple. “People are frustrated, but they don’t want to face the problems. They make a fix here, a patch there, and everything is fine. But the problems grow and grow. We need antiseptic, not a bandage. But people are too proud to actually change anything. They want to think that nothing is happening, that everything is going to be fine next year.”

There is a dark side to nationalistic pride, of course, beyond the narcissism. For Argentina, for now, it is ignorance. In Canada, it is a desperate grapple with a nebulous national identity, and on certain topics, that same ignorance (“If you don’t like it here, go somewhere else!” vs. “Yes, that’s a problem, let’s deal with it”).

There is a dark side, and not just in nationalism’s extreme, fascism. Even in something benign like the World Cup, there is something sinister about the Colombian defender Andres Escobar getting shot to death after an own-goal in the 1994 tournament. There is something surreal about people throwing bags of piss on the field. There is something downright absurd when the hundred or so people in Centennial Park stadium in quiet, affluent Etobicoke start to bubble into riot-mode as the two under-21 soccer teams representing Latino countries forget the match to rumble on the field.  And my Abuelo closes his hand over my head and guides me out of the stadium, telling me to forget the locos, the crazies, the people back there looking for trouble. “Eh chico? Come, Abuela will warm us up some empañadas.”

 

[ END ]

Fare Thee Well, Red Balloon (a poem)

FARE THEE WELL, RED BALLOON

 

I was on my home this late afternoon

When I saw the red balloon.

It had been raining all week,

And there it was, dribbling on a puddle

Where the storm water grates had backfilled

With a winter’s worth of garbage.

The balloon spun for a moment, then

The wind picked up and kicked it along the curb.

I thought, this balloon is going to pop.

I hate when balloons pop. It’s not the noise,

It’s the suspense that really irks me.

But I am world weary and know better than

A child’s faith in an eternal balloon.

So I could not leave the balloon to explode

Somewhere mysteriously around a blind corner.

I had to see it through.

Plus I had had a shitty week and thought

The surprise might make me feel something,

Something besides the career numbing-burnout.

I thought, that balloon is going to pop

At any moment now. I heard the pavement

Scuff the soles of my shoes, and I saw the balloon

Skiff across the street and thought,

That balloon does not stand a chance.

The wind shifted and the balloon turned a corner.

They had been warning about flooding, but so far

The earth had sucked everything the sky had pissed down,

Except for the odd garbage-plugged sewer drain, but

In that case some lazy asshole fucked up.

I splashed through the flooded puddles

That the balloon danced over. I crashed

Through its delicate ripple kisses. I chased

It, thinking, this balloon is about to pop.

But now the red balloon had turned purple in the night,

And a dull orange when it skipped under a streetlight.

I continued my pursuit, shielding my eyes

From oncoming traffic headlights that left spots

That looked like green balloons spinning in the wind.

Those retina balloons spun and faded away,

Leaving the balloon that hopped along the asphalt.

I thought, I am going to make that fucking balloon pop.

The wind shifted for the hundredth time

And gave me the advantage to cut a corner.

I grabbed the balloon between two hands and

Held it to my chest, squeezing my teeth.

Like that would make any difference. It snapped,

It exploded, I thought my ear drums had popped.

I stumbled backwards and let the shreds

Of red plastic drop. They floated on a puddle,

But did not skip or hop. They sort of

Hung there, shriveled and impotent.

I kicked the puddle and smiled at the wind.

There we go, I thought, I knew that goddamn

Balloon would pop. I raised my arms victoriously,

But there was no one to celebrate my success, so

I let my arms drop. And as I looked around

I realized I did not recognize the block.

I had chased the balloon for three hours

Without looking up. Now what?

 

Shake Hands With a Cop

I have been watching too much TV in recent months…probably since my drugs ran out in January and I stopped taking my psychotropic medication in February, my dependence on external entertainment has skyrocketed. I have been entranced by my free preview of Travel & Escape, so much so that even my real life trip to Argentina did not even feel real until I was sweating in their fall humidity. Goddamn, I hate the modern world. Someday the good old fashioned noose will fix everything.

But for now I’m a coward, and I live on like a model consumer in the information age. I peruse my smart phone while I watch hashed TV commercials. I consume there I am. I share, therefore I am. I am everything but am, therefore I am.

Not to get bogged down in mind-fucking philosophy. That is a domain I have no patience for. My engrained attention-deficit won’t allow for any analytical thought. Just sound bites and other one-hundred-forty character aphorisms.

To the real point: I was cruising TV channels, and stopped upon MuchMusic, a vestigal remain from my TV watching youth, back when music videos actually mattered. I caught the video for “Turn Down For What”, which was actually entertaining to my rum-soaked lazy brain, and I left the remote untouched long enough that the commercials ran on. And in a preview of upcoming Much shenanigans, they clipped the upcoming One Direction video—highlighting a clip where the blond one (or are they all blond?) shakes hands with a British cop.

And I wept in joy. Yes! Thank Dog! Pop music has finally become lame again! It is finally embracing its normality and mainstream nature! Enough of the fake rebel bullshit…I guess we all figured out Avril Lavigne was full of shit (Hello Shitty!) and that Good Charlotte were a bunch of poseurs who stole their mothers’ eyeliner. The jig is up, and we are right back where the 90’s started us, with a bunch of whitebread pretty boys who are so stylized they mean nothing in themselves. They are dolls, and I can’t be happier.

It brings me joy because there is nothing more alienating for an actual outsider than for everyone to pretend they are an outsider. It makes me fucking squirm. The rebel image has long been commercialized, lost to multi-million dollar clothing companies. That doesn’t bother me, because rebellion in itself is ephemeral—it is a dialectic against a specific idea or norm…it is not meant to be blanket-spread over everything…the epitome of this extremism is apathy, and apathy is bullshit. Point-blank apathy has to be among the most disingenuous behaviours humans can partake in. It is against our basic animal instinct and contrary to millenia of evolution. Everyone cares about something, even if they don’t want to.

But I’m straying…because I care deeply. I care so deeply that I am ambling aimlessly over this blog like I own the place. Like whatever I have to say at this moment doesn’t even have to make sense, it just needs to be said. But back to my first point in the previous paragraph: the fake ‘outsiderism’ was a pose that mainstream culture, by its very nature, could not uphold for long. They (the vague, amoebic mainstream culture I would like to piss on, if I could only find a place for my urine stream to land) tried to be ironic, and quite frankly, once an insurance company has caught on to marketing irony, it can pretty much be declared dead.   

Listen, you bandwagon hipsters: I am actually paralyzed by going to a party. I get mad social anxiety and have fantasies of going deeper and deeper into wilderness and never coming out. And when I am amongst the gentry, I do not feel like I belong. I don’t associate with them, I find it hard to communicate, I get jumbled in my speech and tend to just want to intoxicate myself to soothe any of the deep-seated self-loathing that mirrors itself in the Other. What is so fucking appealing about that? Why do you need to market to me? I don’t want what you are buying, and if I give you any indication that I do, I am completely fucking with you to give myself a sense of perverse pleasure.

So the last decade of pop culture aimed at commodifying the outsider, the periphery, the fringe…you will never win this battle. You might as well move on to the true values of your core audience. Take your faux-punk, and manufactured indie, and half-baked neo-hippie and rebrand it back to fun-loving bro-dudes who wink at girls and gel their hair and shake hands with cops.

Are You Down With the IPCC?

The United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its report on climate change.

Last year parts of the report were leaked, and some of the corrections made to the 2007 report were a win for climate change denialists and skeptics—the report contained adjustments to modelling predictions, and included tidbits that certain climate indicators were not occuring as predicted. Nevertheless, the report included its typical warnings about the coming climate apocalypse.

This year, climate change champions are hanging the report on their banners (unless you lend any credence to the NIPCC). News article after news article expounds how the IPCC is painting a perilous picture of the future of the world…if we don’t change our ways.

I will not be treading on ‘for’ or ‘against’ arguments [Note: yes, there is a debate…maybe not on the science itself, but surely on the meaning and implications of the science…this is its own blog entry that I won’t even bother to write]. I’m not a climatologist and I just don’t have the time to wade through the science. I am an environmental scientist, true, but I am far more interested in the small ‘e’ environmentalism that the charismatic big ‘E’ environmentalism. People ask me all the time about climate change—or, according to their bias, ‘global warming’—and, quite frankly, I have nothing constructive to say. My brain shuts down when I hear the climate arguments. I blame it on years of obsessive philosophical contemplation that has led me to an existentialist nihilism on the subject, for the most part. It’s not that I don’t care; I just don’t think it really matters what we think.

James Lovelock conceived the Gaia Hypothesis in the 1960’s. My ecology instructor avoided Lovelock at all costs. I brought it up on certain occasions, and I like to feel that if it wasn’t for me, my fellow peers might not have ever even heard the word Gaia (none of them cared, anyway).

But it’s an important theory, one that really characterizes my ‘nihilism’ (for lack of a better term, right now). The basic tenet of the theory is that the Earth as a whole is a living organism, named after the Greek goddess, Gaia. This organism is evolutionarily inclined to survive. It does what it has to do. Its component parts, including biological life, all interact to support the survival of the organism.

There are some quandaries with the theory—such as what’s the point to survival? and at what point in the formation of this rock in space did it become an organism?—but the idea provides a fractal-esque postulation of the macrocosmic globe as no different than the single-celled organisms that we figure first populated the Earth.

 But why wouldn’t my ecology instructor want to include this theory in his teaching plan? Well, he said, it applies too much of a nihilist view of the world, like there is nothing we can do. He was partially right—as much as the theory promotes interconnectedness and purpose to biodiversity, it also contains the idea that humanity really means nothing in itself. Humanity is merely a component part of a larger organism, an iteration of biological life that fulfills an ecological function at this current period of time. Apparently, this is a scary thought.

 But I’m not too proud to acknowledge that humanity is not special. This isn’t even a special thought in itself. We are animals, nothing more. We are not God’s chosen creatures, or the epitome of evolution, or even the beloved experiments of a race of hyper-intelligent aliens. That’s my take, anyway.

 Ecological function is a well known and studied aspect of ecology…but one that typically excludes humans from the picture. It is a common battle cry of the environmental movement that we are all connected—when something affects one aspect of the environment it affects every aspect. But, at the same time, the movement’s arguments typically distinguishes between ‘natural’ activities and ‘anthropomorphic’ activities, as if humans are not fulfilling a suitable biological function on the earth.

 So Gaia leads me to beg the question—what if ‘destroying’ life on earth is our function? What if, like Methanosarcina, the newly proposed culprit of the largest extinction in our fossil record, humans have evolved to reduce biodiversity in the Gaia system?

Cyanobacteria were single-celled organisms that are theorized to have been the first photosynthetic life-forms—they essentially transformed earth’s atmosphere into one that had enough oxygen to support a proliferation of aerobic life-forms. Were their actions unnatural? Could the (hypothetical) carbon dioxide-supported life pre-cyanobacteria have been destroyed by the selfish bacteria and their addiction to photosynthesis?

 There is an entirely different aspect of the climate change—the urgency, the redemption, the eerie religious undertones that we shall receive the utopian Eden-on-Earth if we shall only change our shameful, sinful ways. Don’t feed me end-of-days salvation bullshit. At the same time, the corporate-driven denialist movement is just as repulsive, feeding empty and desperate rhetoric for the purpose of profit.

 Taoism has a wonderful concept, wu wei, or ‘do nothing’. In essence, act natural. Do what thou wilt, in a way. And, it would appear, acting natural to the modern human is to act in a way that we see as harmful to the Earth (which is a weird dichotomy in itself, but one I won’t delve into because this is convoluted enough).

 Who knows. I don’t. Here again, my brain is shutting down. I’ve overworked these neurons thinking in circles, only to come to the conclusion that you just need to choose what’s your natural. And who even knows what that fucking means?

 Aldo Leopold was absolutely right when he said that the environmental question is fundamentally a philosophic question. The science is auxillary to the philosophy. That’s probably why there is logic to certain arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ climate change. I really enjoy engaging with people so embroiled in one view or another. They are unwavering. They are so fucking sure of themselves. It’s kind of like a form of yoga, to be so steadfastly sure of yourself.

 Unfortuantely I don’t have that reassurance. I have my ideas, but that’s all…par example: yes, the climate changes, and we are probably not helping it not change…but the morality of it, that is a tougher thing to chew. I’ll leave it in your mouth, mine’s getting sore.