Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Doomer's Art; Or, Why Bother? You Should Be Learning Simple Dentistry.

Good.  The image got your attention.  It always gets mine.  ("The Moon's Rapture," indeed.  Thank you, Frank.)

A recent back-and-forth with another Doomer at Guy McPherson's site Nature Bats Last (NBL) inspired an unusual amount of brain activity on my part, which may be responsible for the headaches I've been having, and not the allergies I had ascribed them to.  As I prefer to continue believing, as I always have, that I am of a superior nature, and not prone to trifles such as allergies, I will assume it was the discussion at NBL that triggered the discomfort.

Actually I chose the image above for a Real Reason (RR).  The gist of the conversation at NBL was about books; specifically, their usefulness during and after the bottleneck of Collapse, and the possiblity that some knowledge contained therein could contaminate the future with the knowledge that Did Us In in the first place.  The wonderful book A Canticle for Leibowitz was cited.  Of course I read it years ago, the "of course" having no real meaning here, as there are many, many books of import which I have not yet read, and likely never will, even if they sit on my bookshelf, looking for all the world like "Why, of course Chris has read us," until a closer inspection reveals smooth (that is, un-bent) spines, meaning I have never actually read them.  (Damn you, Oliver Twist and Go Down, Moses and Other Stories!)  Leibowitz basically is about a post-apocalyptic future where some knowledge from a previous civilization (ours) is found by a monastic order, a new civilization is created based upon the knowledge of the old, and is destroyed, by (again) the old knowledge.  (Why do future civilizations always seem to have as a cornerstone a giant block of Stupid in their foundations?  But I digress.)

Now I argued for the use of books as storehouses of information regarding a post-carbon lifestyle, with stuff like the Foxfire series in mind.  My friend argued that book-larnin' (my words, not hers, there) got us in this mess to begin with, and we basically need to start over.  Other voices chimed in to support things like poetry and philosophy and other artsy kind of stuff, to which she said, basically, that the beauty of Nature was all she needed.  And really, who can argue with that, especially with the sights, sounds, and smells of Spring, whose tapestries are -- I must admit -- intoxicating? 

In the week or so since that online conversation, I've done a lot of work on my current fiction project, which is set in a post-apocalyptic future.  I don't know what inspired me, but I finally finished Chapter 1, and have moved on to Chapter 2, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I cannot remember having such a good time with my writing.  (That may or may not be a good thing.)  But I got to thinking:  does any of this even matter?  What if -- aside from the fact that it likely will never be finished, anyway, and aside even from the fact that no publishing house in this Quadrant will care to pick it up, if it actually gets finished -- what if things like novels, and paintings, and sculpture, and screenwriting, and songwriting, vanish along with industrial civilization?

Seriously, how am I supposed to reconcile these two parts of my psyche:  the artist/Creator part, the one Tolkien spoke of as having the instinct to create as part and parcel of being made in a Divine Image of The Creator (which, incidentally, makes all Art divine, according to My Man J.R.R.); and the Doomer part, the one who has accepted the direction of events, and who has for some years now been adapting his meager mental processes in anticipation of said events?  In other words, do I keep writing; or do I finally get around to reading Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits, and generally focus my energies on continued prepartions for the permanent Grid Down world that is, without a doubt, coming?

Honestly, what good will another novel be in the world of Jim Kunstler's World Made By Hand?  Who will have the time to read one, even if it survives getting gnawed at by hungry rats, exposure to rain as buildings crumble, and/or used as kindling by people trying desperately to stay warm? 

In all honesty, I don't think I've been asking myself the right question.  It is not, "How will my Art benefit anybody, now or in the post-Collapse future?"  Rather, it is, "How does my Art benefit me, now and post-Collapse?"  And the answer, I believe, lies in the making of Art, as I was reminded recently during my own burst of creativeness.  I did not, as I wrote, envision riches that would come of it, or critical praise, or notions of my own immortality (well, maybe a little of the latter)(well, maybe some of the former, too); instead, I found joy, the joy of creation, surely the same spirit which Tolkien saw as divine.  Maybe it is, kind of.  Maybe we don't really have a word for that feeling of putting together something that we and other people can recognize as universally beautiful or meaningful, or both.  We are quite as capable of weaving our own tapestries as Nature is.  And maybe in that, more than anything, we are shown by our own Art to be truly one with Nature the supreme Artist; as we of course are.  So as both Nature and the artistic impulse transcend Collapse, Art becomes a matter of course, as does Nature.  We need not wonder as to its use; it simply Is, and we are as much a part of it as we are of Nature.

So I imagine that, as long as Nature has its Springs, so too will people have their Art.  When either end, humans will not be around for long to mourn their passing.

Of course, I could just stop asking so many damned questions.  And now Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits is glaring at me, saying it will be no preening Oliver Twist on my bookshelf"You will raise rabbits," it whispers suavely (and, oddly enough, with a Russian accent), "and I will show you how."


Wassail, friends. -- C.

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Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"