Monday, November 23, 2015

Looking into the Vortex

Dahr Jamail, a freelance investigative journalist with Truthout, is extraordinary in his ability to look unblinkingly into the vortex, reporting back with relentless vividness and moral clarity on global realities that are so horrifying that they would send most of us into a catatonic fit of grief and despair, burying our heads in our pillows.

First he did us the inestimable service of reporting on the ground in Iraq during the Bush/Cheney invasion and occupation, as an "unembedded journalist" who, fluent in Arabic, was able to interview ordinary Iraqis and counter the pernicious lies and hype of the corporate media with soul-scorching accounts of the ghastly suffering endured by the citizens of that doomed and desperate land, racked with invasion, saturation bombing, collapse of infrastructure, insurgency, civil war, chronic mass murder/suicides, and destitution.

Since then he has turned his attention to periodic reports on the rapidly deteriorating state of the planet as a whole, due to what he properly terms "ACD" or Anthropogenic Climate Disruption--a more accurate name to replace the Bush regime's deceptive, self-serving, and dismissive coinage "Climate Change."  Each report makes the previous report look tame by comparison, and gives us a thorough, well-documented, and depressing image of a planet in freefall ecological collapse. His latest article in Truthout is not for the fainthearted--it could ruin your day, for it paints a global picture of ecological collapse so bleak and hopeless that it tempts us to throw up our hands and prepare for the worst

All of which poses a rather sobering question: When there is no hope, and the natural world--Gaia, as we have always known it--is going extinct , due to the greed, ignorance, and denial of humanity (and of large corporations in particular), what's left?

The theistic response is prayer for salvation, but that does not really work for me. The Gesthemane prayer was, perhaps, more apt: "Lord, please take this cup from me--not as I will, but as Thou wilt..."
But even that begs the question posed by Job: What kind of God would be so cruel as to create human self-awareness, only to have it behold its own inexorable self-destruction due to greed and short-sightedness?

I prefer not to speculate about such things. The Buddha, when asked whether there was a God, or what the origins and destiny of humanity were, remained silent.  We don't know and can't know such things, so what is the point in talking about it?

It is better, he said, to focus on the essential problem we all face, which is suffering--that is, wishing things were other than they are. We are of the nature to get sick, grow old, and die. So are our civilizations (for ours here in the good old USA is very sick indeed). And so is Gaia--particularly, that temporary interglacial phase of Gaia that has made possible the evolution of humans and civilization. Impermanence, as the Buddha taught, is absolute and universal.  Gaia may well survive us, albeit at a higher set point with a wholly different suite of flora and fauna, perhaps only microbial as it was prior to the Cambrian period.  Or our carbon and methane spike at this juncture could trigger a runaway feedback loop that will fry Gaia herself, transforming our planet into a lifeless, scalding wasteland like Venus. Perhaps the fragile and beautiful miracle of life itself is just a passing phase of planetary evolution.

In which case--let us breathe, observe, and let go--grounding ourselves once again in the present moment, cultivating compassion with Tonglen practice--and then get to work again, learning, teaching, healing, and creating, for as long as the Earth shall live...