By Eric Le Roy
Content 18+ As time goes by, I get more nervous. And fatalistic. I confess to suspecting that some of it is just my age. 73 as of 8 May 2022. I measure my future in terms of every new sunrise experienced, and this is good because it encourages a sharp focus on matters at hand.
But it also breeds fear, and for now I am not speaking of fear of death. That too of course, but it's something else, and this is what brings me to the question: is what I am about to discuss here based on accurate sensibility or just my faulty perception? By this I mean the foreseeable end of civilization.
Which in turn causes me to question the authenticity and durability of civilization itself. We trust our human ‘ingenuity', many still have faith in ‘God', and even more are certain that technology will come to our rescue no matter what.
The whole idea seems to rest on the invincible sustainability of the homo sapiens.
Maybe I am wrong, but I think that most people trust in the notion of ‘progress'. They see it as an upward curve, or maybe a slowly rising and never ending driveway on which we can ascend to the stars and beyond in our special vehicles. This is why we desperately need people like Elon Musk to assure us that it is true. That, literally, ‘the sky's the limit.'
I have always taken a different view. I believe that the hardwiring in our brain evolved in the pre-caveman days and has changed very little at the core. Most of you may disagree, but try to recall the times when human endurance or security was driven to some kind of limit. Eventually people revert to a primitive state. A power outage, and the city lights are snuffed; the looters go on a rampage. In war time, good boys of solid virtue and high potential – the apple of their mother's eye – will murder and rape the moms and daughters in distant villages. Earthquakes and tsunamis, in their aftermath, produce scavengers and hustlers as surely as Red Cross volunteers. Strip the body, pluck the gold from the teeth, move on, the shadows will hide you.
Behind closed doors, the human race has always been a quiet monster. Imagine them, even those who are dear to you, making gargoyle faces in the mirror, frantically masturbating, eating snot. Imagine the most beautiful woman you have ever seen, hunkered over a toilet bowl, gasping and grunting as she tries to wedge out the last crunching turd to the tune of an air-splitting fart. Then introduce her to Mom and Dad, who have probably just put the vibrator away when they heard you knock at the door.
Imagine all that and it is hard to take anything seriously.
Yet, and amid all other truly wonderful things that are just as valid, it's what we are. The same gazelle girl who makes miracles of light when she walks on the beach is also a bundle of other stony, slimy ingredients, her psyche full of the serpents of primordial human existence, her unconscious mind filled with an albatross flying across ancient skies. Primitive rivers still roar in her brain. And in ours. Carl Jung understood this; the preachers of dogma, the priests of orthodoxy, all the religious jailers with their biblical law-books and punitive gavels don't and never have or ever will. O, maybe they do in their way, but they try to externalize it by saying it's the devil. If we want, they tell us, we can exorcize this devil like an abscessed tooth.
I say, No, We Can't.
The preachers say ‘the devil attacks the soul.' I say he is the soul, a soul he shares with all the first and early gods.
As a writer who has lived both the dream and the nightmare, I understand that the human mind is full of ordinary demons, but demons of great psychological mayhem nonetheless, that merrily go about their crazed business even as we sit under the elms enjoying a summer picnic. It's the nature of the beast, and, frankly, it is what causes life to be interesting. It's why ‘Heaven' would never work for me: An eternity of…doing what? What could be duller than flawless streets of golden brickage and perfect angels with their frozen smiles? Love, music, poetry– why? There would be nothing to say. So I am happy living with the subtle monsters in my wake, and, as such, I fit right in. I am specimen 1,000,000,000,000,000 – nothing more.
And, at 73, I'm almost done. It is a great thing to close out your days concluding that in the end you neither cheated yourself nor let yourself be cheated by others. I am mostly content on that score.
But as I look around, I see new generations that are going to have to deal with a world that for all its pretensions to advanced ‘civilization' is really just a house of cards, a glass bulb vulnerable to being shattered without much effort. I do not have to be a doomsday-spouting soothsayer to register a good wager that sooner or later the lid is going to blow off the pressure cooker. All the signs are there.
The climate and subsidiary environment is, of our own making, a bowl of shit soup with bits of plastic floating on the top. We've just had one pandemic and more are probably on the way – and as for the one we are still trying to hold at bay, no one really knows if it came from the bowels of a bat or the jolly chemical warfare lab on the corner that you thought was a hardware store recently gone out of business. We now have so much information that nobody has any idea what the fuck is going on. We think we do, but we don't.
We talk about peace and yet, across the globe, we find off-the-chain dictators threatening to light up the world with their nuclear weapons. We speak of women's rights and yet in Afghanistan we see a bunch of obscene fanatics forcing women to wrap themselves up in curtains, stuff their heads into football helmets made of black cloth, and lock themselves in the bathroom all day lest Muhammad of the Ten Wives be gawking at them and actually see their eyeballs.
Above all, we witness hyper advanced, exponential technology developing with all the innocent gaiety of cancer cells. Will the robots that are taking our jobs one day take our women? Or will they become our women? Of course they will. One day before long you will have an artificial wife, a mechanical dog and cat, and printed food to go along with your plastic Christmas tree. You will not even have to rise from your chair to have sex with your ‘partner'. You can just push a button and a mutually satisfying orgasm will flood both of you like sharing a needle full of heroin mixed with fentanyl and cocaine. You will just kind of shudder with delight, and hi-tech suction cups will lap up the mess in your boxers.
In time to be, you will love these machines. Depending on their wiring, they may even love you. You will worship the artificial, and the artificial will sing computer-generated love songs back at you. Digital violins will play.
Meanwhile the nuclear weapons are out in the parking lot pointing right at your front window. But don't worry, the delivery robot will soon be there with your molecular pizza.
It's all going to happen one of these days, you know. It's just a matter of time.
I'll probably escape and maybe you will too. To the nearest cemetery or crematorium. But not your grandchildren, maybe not even your children. The gasket will be blown by then. It's inevitable, the way we are subsisting, and it will not change because we have not changed. We Choose to Forget that the juicy red steak we purchased at the supermarket, garnished with green and yellow peppers and sprigs of parsley, was recently a screaming cow at the stockyard, eyes bulging, throat slit, gore gushing. We forget that when we leave the ballroom or the floor of the pricey restaurant dining area to go piss and shit, we are No Different from all the other animals. We chant algorithms as we squat.
Somebody, some thing, some Ultimate Rescuer will save us, we imagine.
Maybe the dinosaurs thought as much before their Armageddon evening.
We are but a precarious species, no more, no less, without guarantees, without sponsorship, without interstellar buddies. We are on our own. Part of us wants to plant flowers; part of us wants to set fire to the neighborhood.
My mom used to warn me, when I would go to walk the dogs under clear, sunny skies: “Be careful, son! The weather forecast says there will be a thunderstorm soon. Don't let lightning strike you.” I would look up at the peerless blue and snort.
I would alternately ridicule her or snap at her, depending on my mood.
I am still waiting for that fatal lightning bolt. It will come of course. But in the meantime, Thanks Mom. You've been dead since 2006, but somehow you get smarter every year. The clouds are gathering.
In skies that seemed blue and full of miracles once, the lightning bolts are lining up in marching formation behind the cloud-shadows, sharpening their bright lasers. But in my brain, O holy pagan temple, the albatross is circling the dark shrines, gliding above the deep forest on mammoth wings.
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