Friday, December 25, 2009

The Canary in the Coal Mine

I feel I must post something sweet and uplifting on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, I have no interest in that, and not because I'm drowning in the depths of despair (I'm actually quite content at the moment.), but because it seems so boring to me right now. I'd rather expound on the difficult, possibly desperate future that lies ahead for most (if not all) of us, even though it isn't really in keeping with the season.

The pessimistic vision of the future held by most Peak Oilers holds more allure than any heartwarming stories about the True Meaning of Christmas. This may be due to the fact that the quasi-apocalyptic view espoused by most in the Peak Oil movement comprises only a tiny sliver of public discourse. When you're inundated with messages claiming the Great Recession is merely a bump in the road of infinite growth or, at worst, a temporary detour, you're more likely to cling to your Mad Max scenarios. It's hard to stay sane when you're swimming in a mainstream that has gone off the deep end.

But, with perseverance and the help of family and friends, I've managed to right my ship and am trying to embark on a sane course. For me, this means searching for a commune (or intentional community or ecovillage or whatever euphemism seems most apropos) that can function without fossil fuels and also meet my emotional needs. The quest for organic farming apprenticeships has shifted slightly to a journey for sustainable community. I've realized that, more than finding a way of life that achieves harmony with nature, I need a community that provides the emotional, spiritual and even material support to live happily. In addition to degrading the biosphere, our society has a destructive effect on the human spirit. There are many who can live well in this culture, but, in the decade (come May) since I graduated from college, I've proved (to my satisfaction) that I'm not one of them.

I could look on my sensitivity to loneliness and other emotional obstacles as solely a disadvantage. However, I also think of it as an advantage. I see myself as a canary in the coal mine of society. As conditions worsen, I'm forced to flee the situation and seek shelter elsewhere. If I'm right about the future and the economy collapses completely, then I'll have gotten a head-start on building a society that can survive this century (assuming Climate Change doesn't do us all in). (I know it's Xmas, but I just had to slip in that parenthetical qualifier. What can I say? I'm a doomer.) If I'm wrong, then hopefully I'll still have found a community where I can be happy.

Although my loneliness remains, I'm grateful for what my family and friends have done for me. (I have to be "grateful" instead of "thankful," because it's too late for a Thanksgiving message.) My parents have just accepted me back into their home (for what I hope will be just the fall and winter). My friends have helped me over the rough patches of the last few years. Without them I don't know what would've become of me. The next few months may be my Farewell Tour. I hope to see you all in the years to come, but if I were you I'd arrange a visit before I move on to my next great adventure. It may take me far away, and the chances of our reunion could be slim.

But for now there's still plenty of time to get together and enjoy each other's company, so have a Joyous Winter Solstice and a Happy New Year.


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