It was Earth Day recently—how laughable.
Wait, what? Earth gets one day?
On days like that, I tend to let the misanthropic, slobby, cultural pessimist in my mind get the better of me.
“All hope for humanity is lost,” the old man in the dirty wifebeater who lives in my head will slur. And “Our hybris is just too obvious in our arrogance in the face of so much suffering that we as a species have been causing!” He used to be a philosopher and uses big words, you see.
Still, he has a point. We have caused so much suffering, not just to ourselves and each other, but to our fellow creatures on this earth. And earth gets one day. This rant inside my thought disco has now bitten its own tail, and the old man, now satisfied, is shuffling back to his musty bedroom, chuckling as he draws the blinds, and me down with him into darkness.
Clearly, that won’t do.
I bet you’re no stranger either to the paralysis of doom and the lethargy of what the yogis call tamas (one of the three gunas or states of the mind). In fact, I deeply distrust you if you’re not. If you don’t have those moments or even phases when the only appropriate album left to play is Aphrodite’s Child’s “666,” especially the gorgeous track “The Four Horsemen:”
And when the Lamb opened the first seal
I saw, I saw the first horse
The horseman held a bow
And when the Lamb opened the second seal
I saw, I saw the second horse
The horseman held a sword
The leading horse is white
The second horse is red
The third one is a black
The last one is a green
And when the Lamb opened the third seal
I saw, I saw the third horse
The horseman held a balance
And when the Lamb opened the fourth seal
I saw, I saw the fourth horse
The horseman was the Pest
This hippie classic, with lyrics drawn straight from the Bible—more specifically, from the Book of Revelation—is literally the soundtrack of the apocalypse. Me and the old man often put it on and dance, but only in our heads, with our body refusing to cooperate.
To get out of that rut, I sometimes try to remind myself of my values—my why. To activate my self-pitying, egocentric ass again, in order to do something, anything, a tiny thing, that makes me feel better and that may be of benefit to others. It’s Eros fighting Thanatos, if you will. Pleasure and meaning pitted against the death drive, firing up the hotheaded hyperactivity of rajas, and eventually, the calm wakefulness of sattva, to kick tamas in the butt. Something like writing and even publishing to kindred spirits and hopefully creating connection, like here on Elephant Journal, also does the trick.
But when I think about my values, I struggle with the emptiness of buzzwords (especially in English, which isn’t my native language). Freedom? Integrity? Empathy? I wonder whether I’m a hypocrite for not doing enough in terms of trying to help save the planet; for example, I still own a car and am planning at least one trip involving a plane this year.
And does it even matter, anyway, given the sorry state the world is in. When all-out nuclear threat has become all too real again, and a song that haunted our 80s’ childhoods is making me “dance with tears in my eyes” all over again.
It’s five and I’m driving home again
It’s hard to believe that it’s my last time
The man on the wireless cries again:
“It’s over, it’s over”
Dancing with tears in my eyes
Weeping for the memory of a life gone by
Dancing with tears in my eyes
Living out a memory of a love that died
So, I guess the only value that really matters is love, true empathy—whatever you want to call it. Because there are millions who feel exactly like this right now: “I’m just one; I can’t change a thing.” But as German hippie singer Rio Reiser put it, and this is one of the examples where having the “wrong” cultural references might hold me back from hitting that publish button on Elephant once again (much more than the actual language issue):
I’ve woken up, and I have seen where we’ve come from and where we’ll be.
And that long way ahead of us leads step by step into paradise.
With his awesome band of 70s’ Berlin squatters, Ton Steine Scherben, Rio also reminds us:
We were born to be free. We are two of millions—we are not alone!
And together? Hell yeah, we can still turn this sh*t around. This is what art and music and empathy can remind us of: our true identity, limitless and powerful and always at peace. As Walt Whitman put it: I contain multitudes.
For example, how about this (and I’m not kidding): watching David Attenborough’s “Our Planet” must be made mandatory for every human on said planet. I’m convinced it would open our eyes to our disastrous anthropocentric approach at last, making even the old white men feel with our fellow creatures, and hence, stop the climate catastrophe now.
Seems that one of my strongest values might be optimism yet. What about you?
And please, let me know your soundtrack for and against the apocalypse in the comments section.