Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The End of the World as We Know It

Yesterday we had a great poetry lunch:  students showed up with favorite poems to read, plus a Short Story class came and was good-natured about listening to poetry in exchange for lunch.  I was happy not to have food going to waste.  I thought about Chalking the Walk, in the way that Sandy Longhorn describes here. But it was HOT yesterday, and no one wanted to kneel on blindingly white sidewalks for any reason.  Neither did I.  So, I'll tuck this idea away for later.

Then I read the Chris Hedges piece that my colleague recommended.  He talks about how the corporations have won and ended this way:  "Do not expect them [the elites, the haves, the rich] to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves. It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and culture values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global, corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one."

I was surprised to find myself thinking, not much of a choice?  It sounds like a great choice.  Small, monastic communities founded in the heart of empire, keeping alternative dreams alive--where do I sign up?

Of course, I've always lived outside the mainstream.  I've never felt that my values are reflected in the larger culture.  And even within my subcultures (like the Lutheran church), my view is oftenthe minority view.

I think it's interesting, too, that during his anti-corporate rant, there was no mention of the planetary changes barrelling down upon us.  I was intrigued by this piece by a professor who teaches what he calls comparative planetology.  He gives them glum news about the planet we're all inhabiting and he says this about how he tries to encourage them during the last class: 

"What I will tell my students today is that the choices they face hinge on where they live, what kind of community they choose to live in, and just as important, what kind of communities they choose to build for themselves.

If water resources are likely to become an issue then living in a region where water supply is already an issue may be a bad choice (sorry Las Vegas). If the loss of cheap energy is likely to become an issue then living in a region that can not support itself by growing the bulk of its own food within a few hundred mile radius may not be a good idea. If the loss of cheap energy is an issue then living in a place where personal automobiles are the only means of transport may not be a good idea either. Just as important, if the systems which support culture are likely to be stressed by climate, resource and energy issues then finding a town or city that has a long history of valuing community and innovation may be effort well spent."

It seemed like an interesting counter-message to the bleakness preached by Hedges.  Of course, the trick is forming that community while we still have some choice in the matter.

These ideas are ones that I come to again and again.  I've long been fascinated by the idea of intentional communities.  If one was ever going to buy land for such a venture, now would be the time to buy.  I'll keep my eyes open as I head towards my creativity retreat in the coming days.  Will I spot the perfect piece of land?  As I drive and my brain shifts into problem solving mode, will I think about a different way to create the community I want?  Stay tuned!


Kathleen said...

Fascinating, bleak, dire, and hopeful, all at once, as you say. I have great hopes for people coming together in real community, helping one another, but I am sad to think the haves might just clutch at it all, even in times of great need.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the link, Kristin. I understand about the heat and the sidewalks. We'll probably schedule this activity for April 1 and 2 next year, just to get it in as early as possible.

As for the rest, I have usually framed this in trying to live an intentional life, but you've given me much to think about in terms of community. Thanks.

Beth said...

I'm glad to hear that the lunch went well! Sorry again that I couldn't make it.