March 15, 2004
Somewhere between the primordial slime that was our beginning and the drifting galaxies that we yearn to move toward -- we have lost our way.
Worse, if the latest data on the effects of global warming is accurate, this interruption of our journey will prove to have far more tragic consequences for the survival of our species than we ever could have imagined, even in our most morose musings. For it would appear -- that we have not only delayed our journey to the stars -- we seem intent on returning to the slime.
Can the coming catastrophe be adverted? How do you get the attention of a planet clamoring with easily distracted billions?
What kinds of terrifying visions, dreams, and prophesies might rise, like biblical leviathans, from the tempest-churned tides of our oceanic unconscious that might seize our minds and fire our imaginations, and, at last, cause us to take heed of the dire warning signs of the coming global ecological collapse? What forms of prose, poems, rants, or muttered incantations might convey the message that the present paradigm is unsustainable, that a new way of life must be risked, and that these changes must begin immediately?
Sometimes, a great shock, or a brush with mortality, as in the case of a near-death experience, can do the trick. In my case, this is how the disturbing visions began.
The story that follows is an account of my own grim and fevered imaginings garnered during my guided tour of the abyss.
You see: I was injured in a tragic, snow globe-related accident, while I was rummaging through the attic of generational memories.
As I was clearing the crawl space of the cluttered attic, I came across my old and forgotten "Lost In Space" lunchbox, inside of which, I had stored childhood treasures and keepsakes: a cherry bomb, a snow globe, a pack of Rat Finks, a Spiro Agnew Pez Dispenser...
Then: In a burnt orange rucksack I found paraphernalia and memorabilia from my teenage years: Zig-Zag rolling papers, a ticket stub for a Pink Floyd concert, and a Zippo lighter...
Later: As I started to open a leather briefcase, which held mothballed power ties, hair-styling mousse, a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and a yellowing stack of worthless junk bonds, the attic light bulb began to flicker then died...
I groped around in the darkness (my blindness compounded by the fact I had put on the Ray-Bans, causing my eyes to grow accustomed to the light-dimming effect of the sunglasses and causing me to forget I was wearing them) as I searched for the old Zippo lighter. Upon retrieving it, I discovered, remarkably, it flamed to life when I struck it.
Having decided to collect a few items to peruse later, I swiveled and twisted in the crawlspace, so that I could position the Zippo close enough to the contents of the "Lost in Space" lunchbox in order to illuminate the items I wished to collect. The glass of the snow globe flared orange in the Zippo's flickering luminescence... I crouched forward attempting to get close enough to scrutinize the glimmering glass orb, within which, held a tiny replica of the planet earth. I leaned closer in order to make out the globe's inscription, which read: "1964 World's Fair, New York City."
When I drew the Zippo nearer to the lunchbox, attempting to illuminate greater details within the globe -- it happened -- I ignited the cherry bomb.
The ensuing explosion caused the snow globe to fragment into shards of tiny shrapnel, which, fortunately, spared my eyes (due to my providential absentmindedness regarding the Ray-Bans) but lodged in the frontal lobe section of my brain.
I was knocked unconscious and thrust into a visionary state.
I saw: The snow globe reconstruct itself from the shards scattered around me and it rose as the voice of Spiritus Mundi, the sprit of the world. Furthermore, due to the fact that parts of it were lodged in my brain -- I could glimpse what it saw.
I peered into the Snow Globe of Spiritus Mundi and saw the collective mind of my generation. I watched a phantasmagoria of the objects and accouterment of my generation's earthly environs mingling with familiar objects from the past.
Toys from our childhood rose from the roiling: A Chatty Kathy doll, like the one that had belonged to my little sister, became the prophet Cassandra... Upon the tugging of her pull string, she dispensed bleak auguries of environmental catastrophes to come. An Easy Bake Oven appeared, inside of it, the earth was being roasted from the heat of the toy oven's internal light bulb, while Chatty Cassandra waxed cataclysmic about Global Warming...
I witnessed cities constructed of Lincoln Logs, Lego Blocks, and Tinker Toys collapsing, while the polar icecaps melted on the vast snow globe of the earth...
Using the objects of my childhood as symbols of warning, Chatty Cassandra admonished: "Imprint these dreadful images -- as if they were newsprint -- upon the Silly Putty of the collective mind of your childish, piffling generation."
Mortified, I asked: "These are visions of the future? They're so kitschy and so creepy."
Cassandra replied: "A generation raised on consumerism and its attendant schlock would have visions comprised of schlocky consumerism. I could continue to show you the truth -- but you'd just do what you've done throughout your life when confronted with that possibility -- reach for the remote."
"When you awaken, Chatty Cassandra warned, "You will be buffeted by lies and distractions: Idiocy such as right-wing nutters raving that the marriage of homosexuals is what most imperils your survival as a species. Forget Global Warming," they will inveigh -- 'gay marriage will destroy the world by undermining heterosexual marriage, humanity's most sacred institution... This will lead to anarchy and chaos. Next: People will desire to marry household pets, plush toys, inflatable sex dolls, lawn statuary, heavy machinery and major appliances.'"
Instantly: A vision of my toaster oven appeared before me and it attempted to guilt me into making it an honest appliance.
I asked Cassandra: "What leader will level with us in regard to the dire situation we face: That we are staring into the abyss, that our way of life is unsustainable, that it is all an economic and ecological house of cards?"
Chatty Cassandra laughed derisively and brought forth a magic Etch A Sketch and showed me a vision composed in this enigmatic imagery:
The image: A smog-cloaked freeway leading into a burning desert.
Then: The frame of the Etch A Sketch zoomed in to reveal three vehicles traveling the heat-scorched road -- vehicles being driven by George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Ralph Nader, respectively.
Bush was at the wheel of a speeding Humvee. He was weaving and erratically changing lanes, all the while, drinking heavily from a bottled labeled "Power;" the Humvee sported a bumper sticker that read: "Compassionate Apocalypticist."
Kerry was riding in the back of a ketchup-red, stretch Mercedes-Benz limo; it had a bumper sticker that proclaimed "My Other Car's A Prius."
And Nader was hugging the left-hand shoulder of the freeway, trundling along, at the reins of a rickety cart, drawn by a mule he had ego-maniacally named "Destiny."
The Etch A Sketch cam zoomed in to show a close-up shot of Nader's mule cart partially blocking the path of Kerry's Limo.
Behind them was a caravan comprised of Ford Pintos, AMC Gremlins, Chevrolet Chevettes plus various vintage muscle cars (G.TO.s, Grand Torinos, Trans Ams, Chargers) followed by a gaggle of pink, early-seventies Cadillac El Dorados adorned with opera windows and faux fur upholstery.
The Etch A Sketch panned across the pimps, who were proclaiming: "We are the McDaddies of Consumer Crack. Da planet is our ho!" They were strutting and prancing, decked out in plum purple, polyester pimp suits. Next: the Etch A Sketch cut to a frame that showed an image of the earth clad in the tawdry clothes of a hooker; her continents were stippled in the tacky bling-bling of shimmering commercial and residential lights -- that were shining and coruscating -- visible even from space.
Cassandra sneered: "Your dim and fantasy-prone president, George W. Bush, likes to pretend he's the hero in a white hat/black hat western -- but, in reality, such beliefs are more akin to silly, drive-in, b-movie schlock: You could call it -- an 'Earthploitation' movie.
"Being raised, weaned, fed daily, and subsisting on a steady diet of such pulpy images, every day of your lives, it follows that you and your generation would think and dream in cheesy, b-movie imagery.
"Such preposterous perceptions seem to be infused into your very genetic make-up: What else is your so-called Holy Bible -- but one voluminous collection of b-movie schlock? But, depressingly, it is devoid of the drive-in movie theater benefit for the opportunity of heavy petting in the backseat of cars. Although: This might explain why everyone in church is constantly thinking about sex.
"Only in the context of the fevered script of a b-movie would one be willing to suspend their disbelief long enough to buy into the over-the-top, cartoonish character traits that you attribute to the Christian devil. This trope also serves as a very effective method of avoiding taking responsibility for your own deeds and actions."
Cassandra elaborated: "A screenwriter dreams a movie: After much thought, multiple drafts, numerous alterations and revisions, the author surrenders his script to a movie studio, a director, a movie crew, et al. -- then, perhaps, out of his initial imaginings (combined with all the other intangibles of collaboration) a movie might flicker upon the screen.
"As is the case in the creation of a movie, we live amid our thoughts made manifest. And this does not even take into account the world that is brought into existence by our hidden desires, unconscious compulsions, and secret yearnings.
"For the ignorant, the effects of Global Warming will be literalized into delusions of divine retribution. This, of course, is nonsense: For it was you who dreamed-up this homicidal god of yours and you who built this death-besotted culture.
"To survive, you must kill them. Drive a stake through their hearts -- for they have become monsters.
"This is the world you made -- the only world you have -- the world you created through generational collaboration. You are a generation of world-destroying, b-movie monsters. You are a hackneyed-scripted, second-billed feature at the drive-in movie of the cosmos, laughed-off-the-big-screen of existence, box-office poison of a generation.
"You are soul-sucking creatures of kitsch. You are demons of conformity. You are road-rage werewolves. You are the rotting undead -- mummified in your reeking values of Judea-Christian beliefs...
"You are the fat, stupid Blobs That Ate the Planet.
"You have created a soulless void of a culture that attracts demons of tedium who rise from the Hell of your factories, sweats shops, and office parks... You are hungry ghosts wandering the aisles of super markets, convenience stores, and the food courts of shopping malls...
"You are shape-shifting vampires who take the alluring shape of images in advertisements.
"You are giant, mutant, radio-active, blood-sucking leeches of consumerism."
As she said these things, I saw vengeful wraiths rising from burning rain forests trees; I heard extinct species chittering, gibbering, baying, howling, and screeching out damning accusations... I saw sea monsters and decimating storms rising from the depths of overheated and dying oceans.
Chatty Cassandra continued her tirade: "You are Weapons of Mass Extinction: With your emptiness, selfishness, and corruption -- You are this eon's world-destroying comet.
"Instead of bestowing names on your cars, trucks, and your SUVs like 'Explorer' and 'Excursion' -- you should, more accurately, name them Extinction."
A commercial splashed across the screen of the Etch A Sketch: "Introducing the vehicle of the future: The 2004 'Ford Extinction.'"
Cassandra looked me in the eye and asked scornfully: "The universe has been a billion eons in the making -- and what has your generation given back to it in return? There has been a billion eons of evolutionary expansiveness -- and what did you bring to the mix -- fat-ass SUVs, Starbuck's coffee, and highly salted snack foods?
"I'm as serious as a tsunami -- what has been your contribution?"
Cassandra transmogrified into a game show model and said: "Answer correctly and you win what's behind door number one."
"Uh," I stammered, "I dunno... I'm only one person. Ask someone else..."
"That's correct: Your answer is a most accurate reflection of your generation's response to the most pressing and dangerous questions that they face.
"You win the vehicle of your dreams -- The vehicle you have earned -- The vehicle you deserve -- You win the "Ford Extinction."
· · · · · ·
America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).
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