Today my friend Carolyn sent me Derrick Jensen’s essay “World Gone Mad.” I am a big fan of “Loaded Words,” his piece on writing and activism, and I also like that Jensen is so polarizing.For every reader who finds his work too strident or too nihilistic, another seems to feel relieved that someone is finally telling the truth about what is happening right in front of us—the wholesale destruction of the natural world. Jensen’s thesis in“World Gone Mad,” reminds me of the central idea of the documentary “The Corporation:” if corporations are legal people, than as people, they fulfill the clinical definition of a psychopath.
As I walked home today, trees on St. George Street shed scarlet leaves. A cool breeze sent them skittering into the gutters. An October feeling, an autumn event, in the gathering darkness of a December afternoon. Then I remembered how hot October was this year, and perhaps the year before, although I confess time has always seemed more blurred in California where the seasons are mild. Now that climate change has made the weather and time itself more scrambled, coherent patterns seem even more elusive. But I remember for the first ten or so years I spent in California, the winters brought torrential downpours. Now rain is rare. The hot days stretch far into fall, and seasonably appropriate cold ones are often followed by afternoons of blazing heat and relentless sunshine whose cheeriness seems slightly eerie in the wake of what we know is happening to the earth. The weather is crazy everywhere this winter.
And as I passed the leaf-strewn gutters with their smokey-sweet, vaguely nostalgic smell, I remembered Jensen’s essay and how he questions the refusal (or inability?) of most people to mourn the death of a species or the decline of the oceans. What, I wondered, does that sort of mourning entail? If grieving the loss of a person involves the shattering and rearranging of the self, how might mourning the loss of a river, of lions, of snow, of wolves remake us as people?
This blog sometimes feels as erratic to me as the recent seasons. I write about sharks and ocean conservation and I write about mourning my father and the anticipatory grief I feel about losing my mother. I write about loss of place. The death of great artists. Maybe many of these threads are just variations on a theme—things that are going away. Which brings me back to Jensen’s essay. While it may not be brimming with holiday cheer, his piece, if not a seasonal wish for peace on earth, is a plea for sanity that will save earth (and ourselves) from destruction. Let me know what you think.
Seasons winter summer earth sun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the sublime to the absurd in no particular order:
Cover of Lolita
1. John Lennon singing Instant Karma!
2. Torn between making art and taking direct action? Read Derrick Jensen’s essay “Loaded Words: Writing as a Combat Discipline”
3. Fall in love with the English language: Listen to Jeremy Irons reading Lolita
4. It’s so awful, it’s great: Russian Shark Attack Tampax commercial
5. The always wild, beautiful and strange art & literature at biblioklept.
The title is a quote from the great Vladimir Nabokov. I always think of Nabokov’s words when I have a particularly lovely experience. Today I went on a hike led by my friend Dan, an intrepid urban explorer. These hikes are always a surprise, as Dan has mapped so many forgotten and unseen places—odd urban pathways between hotels, a gorgeous park that smells of mountain sage hidden in the middle of a desolate nameless neighborhood between downtown L.A. and Echo Park. Exploring the unknown heightens the beauty of the familiar city places: the gorgeous Victorians of Angelino Heights, the lotuses and lilies of the reborn Echo Park Lake.
I met so many bright, interesting people on the hike–professors of Latin and Math, a fellow English instructor and a guy who told me about rescuing a small blue shark from a reactionary mob of Santa Monica bathers during the height of “Jaws” mania/paranoia. Even though the poor shark was only about three-foot long, the hysterical swimmers and even the lifeguards were ready to beat the creature to death when it beached itself until this kind man set the shark free again in the ocean.
This anecdote is a nice transition to the benefit–using “Jaws” as a tool to save sharks rather than argument for their destruction. In Elysian Park, Dan introduced me to the hikers and I gave a brief little spiel about the JAWS benefit for Sharksavers.
Talking about my shark project, I always try to balance the humor with the dire truth about shark extinction, which is sort of tricky. While I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, we tend to forget that we are living through a mass extinction event. As Derrick Jensen once wrote, “there is no roll call on the nightly news” for the 200 plants and animals that disappear from this planet every day.
But this entry was about joy. Surprise.
I usually write about “forgetting” in the context of human denial and selective memory. But I’m just as guilty of picking and choosing.
It’s easy to remember the angry mob on the beach and forget the solitary guy who saved the little shark.