The Appalling Meaninglessness of Being in a Post-Modern, Pre-Apocalyptic World
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 epidemics of gun-based mass murders and rise of the fascist right are caused by 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.
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.
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.