I’ve stayed away from WordPress for the majority of the past month and of a half with a mixture of guilt and good intention. It hasn’t been for writer’s block or a lack of inspiration; on the contrary I have a running list of topics that’s grown considerably in the meantime. Lately it seems, however, that whenever I start to brainstorm an idea and flesh it out in my mind before I would theoretically go to type it, it turns into another rant that criticizes the way things are or the way other people go about things, and I don’t want to be a nagging presence in the virtual world any more than I want to be one in the physical and tangible world. I very much believe in “live and let live,” and while I appreciate a witty tongue-in-cheek diatribe, I find constantly self-righteous and/or wallowing people to be tiresome.
All of that said, on the eve of the end of the Mayan calendar I feel that it’s not entirely inappropriate to dispense some of my pent up distress at the state of things. I also hope that if I finally just purge my negativity, I’ll be able to resume writing guiltlessly on a more consistent basis. So if you inhabit a mental space of holiday cheer or otherwise generally optimistic anticipation, perhaps you ought to put off reading the rest this posting until a more sullen day.
The world we live in is a brutal place. Hurricanes. Wild fires. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Add people into the mix and you wind up with things like mass shootings, genocide, and nuclear weaponry.
All devastation aside, it seems like everything is increasingly commercial, too. We don’t celebrate for the sake of joy or achievement or loving camaraderie. Rather celebration anymore seems like just another way to show off: how can I make you covet what I have? Award shows and red carpet events are ways for celebrities to show off their dates, designer clothes, and, in many cases, bodies, while the actual talents for which the ceremonies are held appear secondary and even trite. And don’t get me started on all of the wedding shows on television. Again, the love, commitment, and long-term idea of marriage between the couples seems almost like a pleasant afterthought to all of the pomp and bling of the venue and dress and entertainment and food; bridezillas make for better television, after all.
And as much as insecurity-driven consumerism is at the forefront of “celebration,” politics is assuredly at the heart of tragedy. No matter the crisis, it seems that any and everyone with an agenda to push is immediately vocal and able to manipulate the tragedy on behalf of their cause. After the Aurora movie theater shooting, everyone had something to say about gun control. In the case of Superstorm Sandy, boy, thank goodness Romney wasn’t in office and hadn’t had the chance to privatize FEMA. It’s as though the people behind the issues forget and even consciously dismiss that there are people in the middle of the tragedies, too, who are struggling just to make their lives recognizable again. Now I do believe that crises and tragedies can point out vulnerabilities and provide opportunities to improve things, but sensitivity, discretion, and sincerity seem to be increasingly undervalued. This just ought not be so.
Now to get back to 12/21/12. I very much believe that balance is inherent in the universe, and I believe that when conditions become too volatile or unstable and remain that way for too long, there are (usually destructive) forces or elements that act to restore equilibrium. For example, this past summer was far and away the most expensive in Colorado history in terms of the wildfires that consumed so much of he Rockies. But the truth is that fire is one of nature’s ways of purging. Colorado is climatically a dry state anyway, and the 2011-12 winter provided less precipitation than usual. On top of that, bark beetle has been rampant and gaining prevalence for years. Thus, in a nutshell, there were increasing numbers of dead, dry trees throughout the mountains. By June especially, much of the state was a tinderbox just aching for a spark. While the devastating side effect was that hundreds of people were left with charred lots where their homes had been before, the fires did finally clear a lot of dead growth that had been accumulating for years and make way for new, healthy growth once more.
Do I expect the world to cease to exist tomorrow? No, I do not, but there are certain systems that are dysfunctional and have been so for a while, and I wonder if the end of the Mayan calendar in any way coincides with or portends the destructive catalyst that aims to set right any/some/all of these imbalances. For example, let’s take a look at the U.S. economy. Balancing the budget seems all but impossible, and the “solutions” so far have been to increase debt limits and print more currency. Now I’ve never taken an economics class in my life, but I recall from a high school history class that after World War I Germany started printing money like it was going out of style until the money was essentially worthless and they shifted to a new form of currency. And then that crazy Adolf Hitler fellow rose to power a decade later. Is it a coincidence that the deadline for the fiscal cliffs talks is, since Congress hopes to adjourn by then, December 21? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. We’ll find out soon enough.
And then there is the environment; “while a fragile environment becomes more vulnerable to natural disasters, the natural disasters also degrade the environment in a pernicious circle of causes and effects” (WMO). I would equate anyone who does not believe that global warming is a thing to the people of Galileo’s time who still staunchly refused to believe that the earth, in fact, revolves around the sun and not the other way around. Nothing is permanent. The world has been changing slowly for over 4 billion years. I believe that climatic cycles take place (e.g. seasons, El Niño/La Niña), but 2012 has been a year of meteorological extremes and anomalies. I’ve already alluded to a couple, but others include record Arctic ice melt over the summer and July, 2012, being the warmest month on record in the United States. How interesting that carbon emissions and the rate of increase of carbon emissions for the past decade are higher than ever before! Somehow and some way balance will be restored, but at what cost? Where is the point of no return, and how drastic will the repercussions be once that threshold has been crossed? The idea that we may be on the cusp of answering that question, whether we find out tomorrow or next month or ten years from now, has kept me from sleep on more than one occasion. I like breathing air that isn’t brown. I like drinking clean water. I would like for neither of these things to ever be a distant memory.
Lastly, to round out my doomsday fussing, I was looking through a slideshow of the world’s 20 most amazing volcanoes and was reminded of what used to be my “favorite” apocalyptic theory for what 12/21/12 would bring. Essentially the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming is a supervolcano that has erupted 3 different times in a little over the past 2 million years. According to the information in the weather.com slideshow, Yellowstone has the potential to erupt with 6,000 times the force of Mount St. Helens’ 1980 eruption. I don’t know how to wrap my head around that kind of force and destruction; a whole lot of North America would be decimated. Such an eruption would be unpredictable and largely inescapable, and it’s absolutely terrifying to think that it’s possible. It is possible.
On that note, I’ll take my leave. Hopefully my rant has curbed my negativity, and hopefully tomorrow doesn’t mark the end of history. Just in case, though, it might be a good idea to put some extra positive karma out into the world today. Be kind. Be thoughtful as well as mindful. Live like you mean it, because tomorrow you just might not have the chance.