Having concluded a big round of work over the Samhain season, I've been content to enjoy the delights of Yuletide. I find myself like a mental gopher or other small rodent. I nod and relax in my warm den, and only stick a nose out if someone makes a noise. Dark out here…
World didn’t end…
I’m not surprised. I can only hope that this will be the last of these end-of-the-world routines for the century, at least. It’s all just tiresome.
Back in the early 80s, when Ronald Ray-gun was playing chicken with the Soviet empire, I adopted a little mantram – “No end of the world!” Having grown up in even warmer days of the cold war, including the shooting proxy-war in Viet Nam, the general opinion among freethinkers was not optimistic. The air and water were still visibly crap, police behavior was the sort of unreformed barely-above-criminality that would later produce reactions in LA and elsewhere, and the government was busy busting the union labor movement to make way for the give-the-money-to-the-rich policies of the last 30 years.
It was certainly a time when we dreamed of revolution. In those days we didn’t really look to some extra-human agency when we thought about changing the world. Back in 1970 the question was whether there would be a shooting revolution in the US – or so we dreamed when we were in that mood. The fact is that things never really got worse. Environmental regulation came along, and the air and water were improved. The social values of the young left – free sex, neurological freedom, social-role breakdown, became more and more normative. Punk came and went – in the US it was never a very political or even influential thing.
But over all of it, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, was the looming specter of nuclear war between the competing superpowers. All of our efforts, or reforming, our rethinking, would come to nothing if the Big Assholes at the top pushed the damned button. That fear trickled into esoteric (and what was becoming called ‘New Age’) thought as a variety of immanent eschatons. Various star-people, Jesuses, Kalkis and prophets promoted memes in which the Old World Order was swept away, to be replaced with something new. To me it was always obvious that this was largely a hope-and-fear reaction to the realities of life in that age. So my mantra became “No end of the world”, asserting that I liked it here, and that it would be just as well if things just kept going.
Maybe people will always feel that the age in which they come of age is fucked up. To me, the several decades of my adult life have generally been a time of increasing good and gain for myself and the world. Trends on the planet are mixed, but in general there is more wealth, more education, more health for more people on Earth than ever before. Wars are down to a very minor level, crime is decreasing in the developed world, and the choke-hold of late Christian morality (if not that of recent Islamic puritanism…) is in steady decline. Human rights continue to advance, if by fits and starts, and we seem to even have a shot at working around the end of fossil fuels. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed optimist, but I don’t see that the world particularly deserves ending, nor needs saving. See here for more on all that.
From a Pagan perspective, I think that we must abandon the idea that there is some plan for the world that is not being fulfilled, or that the original intention of things is not the precise world in which we find ourselves. I think that it’s leftover Christian myth that inclines us to think that the world would be a kind, just and safe place if not for our human sins. In fact, I don’t think that the world was ever meant to be different than it is. Wyrd weaves as it will, the Great Improvisation moves into a new phase, but the instruments and themes remain the same. Humans are tested and proven in conflict, including in war and violence. We’re a long way from replacing that natural part of the Web, even if we thought we should. Love, war, mystical vision – those were the powers that the Celtic poets said could bring wisdom and illumination.
I guess in the end I think that only individual humans can be “spiritually enlightened” or whatever. The world cannot. The world is just as it is meant to be – a Great Dance of fun and filth, wisdom and worthlessness that never ceases to turn. Those who seek a Way of Wisdom in that turning must find the way for ourselves – nature will never change to make it easier for us.
P.S. I'll get back to writing and experimental magic soon, I'm sure. This year's solstice feels like cocooning time...