The Appalling Meaningless of Being in a Post-Modern, Pre-Apocalyptic World

There is nature.

There is nature

Nothing really seems to matter much when your Planet is needlessly collapsing and dying. Big important ideas to base your life upon are in short supply. Pretty much god myths, stuff, and tribes are all we got. There is nature. And she needs us.

“The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is…42!” – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

“Lady Presenter: Well, that’s the end of the film. Now, here’s the meaning of life… M-hmm. Well, it’s nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy…” – The Meaning of Life, Monty Python (1983)

“The meaning of life is nature, and universal embrace of an ecology ethic before the biosphere collapses is all that really matters anymore. Bathe in the forest. Grow plants. No more burning. Stop bulldozers. Howl at the moon. Know how much is enough. Be one with nature or die.” – Dr. Glen Barry

By Dr. Glen Barry, EcoInternet

Living in an era of precipitous environmental decline, it is hard to know what to do with oneself. Most choose to just muddle through life, spending all their time working hard in order to be able to enjoy the last ill-gotten fruits of ecological devastation.

What a meaningless existence to be concerned only with the stimulation of your nerve endings, to love only a relatively small group of family and friends, and have no further connection with the profound wonders to be found in the natural order.

Humans evolved from the same genes as all life and are utterly one with the natural world. Whether we know so or not. Our evolutionary history goes back billions of years. We are part of a miraculous web of life, whereby life begets life, and the sum total of all life – the biosphere – is itself a living entity. Flowers, genes, meadows, wildlife, ecosystems, and landscapes are our kin.

Sadly, this living global ecological system is collapsing and dying as human industrial growth systematically destroys the very habitat necessary for our shared survival and well-being.

Most have been more than willing to trade this epic eco-evolutionary lineage for a world of toxics, violent video games, mindless television, perma-war, wage slavery, and ongoing and intensifying ecological diminishment. Resource scarcity, a global economy, and the rise of artificial intelligence mean middle class bourgeoisie lifestyles are shrinking fast. Dwindling natural ecosystems continue to be tilled and paved. All the violent, misogynist imagery in music and movies definitely coarsens and cheapens the real world of plants, lovers, stars in the sky, and wildlife.

Who can blame opioid addicts for seeking to numb the existential horror of meaninglessness found in the post-modern era? Similarly America’s epidemic of gun-based mass murders and rise of the fascist right are a direct result of an emptiness found in contemporary society. These terrible epidemics are the direct result of fewer opportunities for personal gratification as profoundly inequitable consumer violence murders a living Earth.

More stuff is not the answer

More stuff is not the answer

To be ecologically and socially aware is to be constantly confronted with dilemmas. What are we to do when the doctor says to eat more fish and you know the ocean’s fisheries are collapsing? How has perpetually having more as many have nothing been universally accepted as development? How does one go to work in the modern economy knowing your actions in sum with others are killing Earth?

How tragic that relentless modern techno-optimism’s quest for human comforts has spawned an ecological apocalypse.

Primordial, pre-modern humans were part of something that mattered. Like a cell in an organism, indigenous ways of being were part of the larger whole. Imagine the thrill of being the hunter as well as the hunted, knowing your bioregion intimately and how to use natural materials to meet your every need, lifetime intimate loving relationships with your kin and surrounding life, sitting with friends around the fire pit in the forest peering out to boundless endless stars and trying to make sense of it all.

Now as we seek to make a sensible, satiating life on a dying planet there is very little if anything that is special and of real truthful importance to care about. By and large we live empty, atomistic lives, cut off from each other and our rightful place enmeshed within a vibrant, living natural world. We live programmed, brain-washed lives in service to non-existent gods, fake countries, and illusory consumption.

What is there to believe in that matters? What is the meaning of life (other than popular entertainment’s silly suggestions of 42 and pictures of penises)? How is one even able to find any sort of profound meaning, sense of purpose, and righteous intent and action in a post-modern, pre-apocalyptic world? What can possibly matter when the mere act of being is destroying your host and 3.5 billion years of naturally evolved life, the only life of which we are currently certain?

To bring a child into a dying world is an act of negligent homicide to the child and our shared Planet. Unimaginable horrors await all of us, indeed already afflict hundreds of millions of fellow human beings and countless members of other species, unless we end war, learn to share, stop destroying natural ecosystems, and end burning of fossil fuels.

Howl at the moon

Howl at the moon

We must find our way back to the garden. Our only hope, and the only meaning for remaining human being, is to be part of the transition to a sustainable, just, and equitable world. A glorious, truth-filled existence can best be found in service to nature.

Personal efforts to cut consumption and be green are of course justified but they are far, far from sufficient. The only means of achieving global ecological sustainability is collective action to immediately stop biological diminishment and restore nature. That is destruction of nature must itself be destroyed.

The magnitude of change required to avert biosphere collapse is mind-boggling. There are innumerable environmental and social movements doing good work (but watch out for greenwash). Join with an established effort or start a group of your own. Being part of #TheResistance to a charlatan demagogue is worthwhile but we must think bigger, and come together in mass action to stop the ecocide of nature that is killing us all.

We have to stop the cutting, lashing, puncturing, burning, and lacerations occurring to natural ecosystems – the water, soil, oceans, air, forests, animals, and plants that sustain us – or shortly we face painful and enduring utter ruin.

Stopping ecocide at all costs is the only justification for existence at this pivotal moment in the human family’s being. Even as you earn a wage to pay off debts, work to transition yourself to an ecologically righteous existence as you go back to the land, and make sure to come together as one human family to say no to the end of nature.

The meaning of life is nature, and universal embrace of an ecology ethic before the biosphere collapses is all that really matters anymore.

Bathe in the forest. Grow plants. No more burning. Stop bulldozers. Howl at the moon. Know how much is enough.

Be one with nature or die.

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Glen,

    It is very depressing knowing that humans are living unsustainably. However depressing, know that earth will survive without them.

    Yes, many non-human species are going extinct and many mammals will die. However, know that there is a reason and a cause and effect. No one ever gets away with anything. Even if you don’t believe in God, there is still is mathematics, energy.

    All we can do is the best we can do. As of know, I swear I am not going to reincarnate unless I am a Buddhist in a temple, meditating or so rich I can save the world. How pathetic is that? I dare them to give me a terminal disease. “Give me something good to die for to make it beautiful to live.” I won’t randomly kill people, I will expire the bad people.

    By the time I was 12 I decided I wouldn’t procreate because I thought humans were that mean, cruel. 30 years later, there are soooooo many more reasons. I am not a fan of humans, overall.

    Sincerely,

    Michelle

    Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not. ~ Theodor Seuss Geisel

  2. Anonymous says:

    We would be OK if we had gone Tesla’s way.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Glen,

    Another well stated discourse on the sate of the world and humans’ apparent blindness in understanding the situation or at least admitting it as we rush headlong towards inevitable apoclaypse. I’d be most interested to know how much of a following you are receiving statewide and also globally. I for one am doing what I can here in my native New Zealand aand we now have a much more enlightened coalition Government that is making some long-overdue changes/efforts towards realising the relevance of sustainability, and we have ~32% of our country formally protected to retain a representative range of natural ecosystems, though a range exotic plants and animals remain a serious challenge. But keep up the goof fight Glen; you are far from alone and some of us are certainly with you!

    Sincerely,
    Alan

  4. Anonymous says:

    Glen, send me a permalink for this essay. I want to send people there in the next issue of Bobbing Around.

    🙂
    Bob

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Glen

    Thanks for all your fantastic work, especially as the planet seems to be in the grip of an irrational and collective refusal to believe what’s happening in front of their eyes, and that humans are the cause.

    Many thanks

    All the best

    Anne

  6. M McLauglin says:

    Lost, untaught, absent in the understanding and minds of most humans in this present overarching culture, are simple recognitions that led to hundreds of thousands of years of human intimacy with the rest of life.
    Both science, from physics and chemistry to biology and the life and behavioral sciences, and our natural ancient traditions, some still healthy and existing, tell us clearly how deeply a part of nature we are.

    I can cite numerous language names used to identify the basic processes of breath, which permeates all flora and fauna. Spirit MEANS breath in your language – you, other animals, plants, all inspire, expire, respire, in all their meanings.
    When you breathe, you exchange CO2 for oxygen, which you use to make energy to move, sense, break down and absorb food. The CO2 so directly useless to us animals is eagerly taken in by plants from the microscopic single cells of the great oceans to the massive redwoods just outside my window.

    The word spirit, which has been so misused by out-of-touch fabricating minds, is just that – breath, the invisible (hopefully ) air that moves in undetectable as well as hugely visible ways in tornadoes, waterspouts, clouds (sometimes appearing to emanate from cold breath).
    THe Algonquian & Ojibwe languages use the word Manitou, and the gitchi manitou, the great wind, was translated by missionaries to mean great spirit a cognate to their source of life, which they, the proselytizers, called “god.”

    But from Cree to Lakota, this sometimes borrowed word manitou always meant ineffable carrier, distributor, giver of life.
    They knew that all things that live required air,and saw how growing, eating, shedding, death, all redistributed both this invisible property, and the visible constituents of solid bodies.
    Without microscopes, they knew that organisms dissipated into translatable parts that were picked up and distributed , mixed and becoming part of EVERY other sensible part of life.
    This in fact is how they imagine the presence of ancestors – as everywhere in the air, the land, the water, in all plants and animals. Thus they recognized that the mind itself senses traded presence, that the past still forms life, taking observing and influencing ever-new part.

    Worldwide, other nations, other tribes also recognize this.
    In far Siberia, I heard a tale of how humans long ago forgot their relationship with the other animals, and how that dissociation led to mistreatment, and taking of too much, including space and the lives of other beings. They desperately sought to find a way to once again communicate with the humans, who had forgotten the natural language that all share.
    The Great Sky is the Mongol and high Asian prime mover – it includes the air and weather, the sun, which can be accurately described as sine qua non – nothing grows without its radiation.
    Humans cannot directly contact it, as it is pretty equally interested in all its children.
    But the animals found a way through its wisdom to once again enable humans to understand. You might envision this through the use of your senses and observation powers to see life springing from the earth, and the animals eating of it, and the animals eating of them, and of reproduction and seeds and warmth and seasons.
    The tale is not for this discussion, except to describe a few, whose place in society it is, to keep us in this caring discourse with our relatives, the other life of earth.
    There still exists a tribe I know of, who caution that we should not dig into the earth, for it is a wrong which may release more death than we would prefer – now there is an allegory with validity!

    With enough ecological and biological education, combined with pure observation of life and death, we can perceive that we have ALWAYS known our deep relationship with all that exists. Uncounted centuries of attention and inference, characteristics shared by other organisms right down to single cells and the molecules they sense and avoid or make use of, or commensally live among, led many organisms to functionally depend upon all who surrounds them.

    You are not different, and your life and death, and ALL your processes parallel the processes of all others. This is the basis of respect and of reverence; for all who ever lived, and all that will ever live, participates in this giving and taking of the gifts that all give.

    Although I am just a single organism pursuing understanding of biology, ecology, behaviors and cognitions of living organisms (the molecular processes of nucleotides and neurons, of RNA and enzymes, of hormones and pheromones, of dopamine systems and caudate nuclei accumbens, of ears and eyes, and fleet wings and feet, of slow migrations by remarkably accurate abscission of seeds and pollen to the katabatic winds of advancing and receding glaciers in the vast seasons of their increase and withdrawal), I am very acutely a part, a young relative to all, from the electromagnetic warmth of the sun that brought forth our senses, to the necessary cold and dark of space, which cools and tempers our daily and yearly lives.

    You, too, are participant, like the deciduous leaves who for their time, gather energy, breathe, and one day fall to dissipate into what becomes air, water, others.

    I lived with a wolf, watching his astonishing quickness of sense, motion, taking, shedding, and mutual giving with the natural world he was so made to balance and share, communicate and absorb. Some dawns we would lookup at the Turkey Vultures spreading their wings. They, too, silently took what was no longer of value to past self-creators, and pass those constituents beyond our ability to ever completely know. For me, he was the great teacher that all is change, as I saw him take and give life, communicate concisely and more quickly than the incomplete narrative of words. You may look to the lives and deaths of lovers and offspring, to finally find that great flow and the delicate and vulnerable pricelessness of each being, and their passing of gifts.

    Nothing is unworthy of reverence; all that you ever see has importance and beauty beyond the scope of your imagination.
    When you see a totem pole or read or hear of clans (totem itself is from the Ojibwa – ototeman: “he’s my brother”) or wonder why purposeful offering is made to the earth, to some spirit of bear or shark or seasonally-swelling river, now you know that it is a reaffirmation of our participation, equally , integrally, with all others.

    So, inherently, life is mysterious, as mystical as clouds parting for coyotes racing on a ridge, for only an instant, or the twisted agile shape of high bristlecones who have lived and gathered and given for longer than human civilizations. They seem to be still, but are never so.

    Without mortality, we could never have evolved the complex molecules and neural communications we feel as love. Such vital impulses as they transmit should be recognized and embraced by you every waking moment, for without this, we will merely sink back into that destructive state the Buryat tell that the rest of the animals, the rest of life, desperately desired, we abandon, returning to recognition for the survival and amicability of all, including ourselves.

    At every moment, with every breath, notice that you are breathing in atoms once held, shared, passed on by dinosaurs, stromatolites, trilobites, jellyfish, eagles, waving grains, hurricanes, and your and my very human great grandparents. Feel yourself giving out what was once you, eagerly being accepted by ancient cedars and sequoias, to become themselves along the wild waves of time.

    You can be a theoretical physicist or a waiter, a writer or a sailor – most of what you perform will be this process which I’ve tried to describe. It will be your most important work, your gift of greatest value to life – to have sifted and accumulated it, and shared it.

    What you manufacture for humans is insignificant compared to this participation. Take wonder and pleasure in it, and consciously give equal respect to all that lives, all that as, all that will.
    And starting here, you’ll fix the missteps we have made!

    Breathe.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Glen,

    You’ll be glad to know I’m dedicating a major portion of my time to fundraising for conservation groups. Short of a full out nuclear war this is the biggest issue facing humanity.

    Bill

  8. Peter Hirst says:

    to put a slightly slant to your topic, Glen it’s said “All good men or women have to do for evil to prevail is nothing”. We must trust and there is some evidence that or descendents will do better than us in caring for the planet and its ecosystems. Tread lightly and hope to leave the world better than when we came; nothing more is possible outside the sphere of persuasion that is best done by our own actions.

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