Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Musings On Pending Insolvency

I've written about 40,000 words, the last seven days, of a novel that popped into my head about two weeks ago. I've rarely written fiction, and I've never been very confident in my ability to write living, visceral characters, though I can say I've fallen in love with the characters of this latest effort, and they are leading me in directions I hadn't seen when I started. I'm estimating there are another 100,000 words to this story, maybe more, so we will see if I can maintain the momentum, and steer the book away from the shallow waters of the illogical and inconsequential. Whatever the case, I've never had this much fun writing.

When I think about it seriously though, writing seems a peculiar thing to pursue, considering the difficulties humanity is about to face, in the ongoing decline of global economics and modern civilization. But writing is about the only thing that has ever been almost entirely my own, outside of my body. It's not like I make the paper, or build the pens I use, but I don't require anyone's permission to write, and it's about the only thing I have ever enjoyed unequivocally, aside from gardening and otherwise engaging with nature. It may be a stretch to say, that is why I'm here, the reason I was born, but it seems as good a reason as any I know - other than to simply be, in communion with people and the earth. Then again, I am so far afield with so many of my ideas, and nothing of mine that I have ever written has ever been officially published on paper outside of one regional, obscure journal (and that was edited beyond recognition), that at 38 I hesitate even to call myself a writer.

I suppose this latest writing splurge has been a partial response to necessity. There is no logical reason I should not be hunting aggressively for a job. If the current trajectory holds, I could be both broke and homeless by the summer solstice. (It rhymes!) I make light of it because what else is there to do? Aside from job hunting being about the most demoralizing, depressing thing I have ever experienced, it is also the case that about 98% of the jobs available, I am either technologically unqualified for, or I'm qualified but the job is merely to be a cog in some great machine churning the earth into consumer goods and mountains of garbage, or I am ridiculously over-qualified and the work is demeaning and/or not offering a living wage. Throw in my attitude about impending collapse, and it all seems like a whole lot of a waste of time.

How many different jobs have I had? 35? 40? I've worked on flat roofs, in warehouses, in a foundry, in a bait shop, in landscaping, in houses as a home remodeler, in a Fortune 100 as a copy writer, in a Halloween store, etc. I work as hard as anyone I've ever worked with. No one can rightly accuse me of not having a strong work ethic. I know one hell of a lot more about the dignity of work, than most of the fool suits running the global economy. Working is not the problem.

The problems is, those 160 energy slaves I mentioned in last weeks post. It's not like I feel guilty about it, especially as, if I am to be compared to the average American, I have about – and I'll be generous to myself – maybe twelve energy slaves. Mostly because I do not drive a car, I could heat my house better with a hand saw and a wood stove than with the very little natural gas burned to keep the one room I heat at 55 degrees, and my water hot, and I eat and drink my own and local as I can. Still, natural gas is burnt to run the lights and my computer and radio, the coffee I drink ain't anywhere near local, nor all the food I eat.

My point about that is, if I take a job that pays for the mortgage to this house, and the taxes and the bills, in all likelihood, I'm going to have to be a lot more like average again, in terms of energy consumption, and I don't do average well. Not anymore. I don't mean to disparage anyone, for their energy slaves, though I'm not not going to use that phrasing, just to make people feel better about it. Because every energy slave I use is one that won't be available for future generations, and the energy slaves we are using the way we are using them, may be making the future climate inhospitable, for those future generations.

There's all that, and then there's some recent work, spurred by Dimitri Orlov at Club Orlov, which Ugo Bardi has called the Seneca Cliff. Those who are familiar with peak oil are familiar with the bell curve, popularized in the field by M. King Hubbert. Taking a cue from Seneca,

It would be some consolation for the feebleness of our selves and our works if all things should perish as slowly as they come into being; but as it is, increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.

Bardi leads himself to assert that the collapse of modern civilization could resemble not a bell curve, but a quite literal cliff. Most in the Peak Oil scene, lean toward a step-down process taking two or three centuries, which John Michael Greer has called “catabolic” collapse, sharp contractions in the economy, followed by periods of relative stability, in cycles, until we are living a kind of proto-Middle Ages lifestyle.

I've long suspected collapse could come in one great unraveling, in a very short period of time, from a few years to less than a decade. I can think of any number of scenarios by which that could occur, and I wonder sometimes if all the talk about 2012 being a time of prophetic apocalypse, is merely the outward manifestation of an unconscious understanding, of ecological limits? I'm also aware this could be something like twisted wishful thinking on my part. If a collapse is to come, part of me would like to see it happen in a short bit of time, and then we can be done with it and move on. Another part has zero illusions about what such a collapse, or any, is likely to look like, and that part of me is a little like most everybody else, wanting to avoid it. But then, maybe even the bell curve model of collapse is a kind of wishful thinking. I'm inclined to think, anyway, the only truly wishful thinking in this regard, is faith in progress, that no collapse can ever come in my lifetime. (We are already in it's vise-like grip, in case you hadn't noticed.)

So I write. And as to paid work, I haven't had to look for it the past four years, it has found me. Not so often or enduring as to fully afford my own house, but enough not to starve, or freeze to death, or have my house condemned because I didn't pay my utilities. Such is the virtue of real skills. No matter where I am, no matter what happens to the culture or how, I will be useful. And as long as I know what I love, and how to love, then potential reduced circumstances are not such a concern. Thinking about it, I may be even more free to truly love, if I'm not working so damn hard to be average, or Goddess forbid in this regard, above average.


Candice said...

Your comments on the difficulties of finding a job and how much of a waste of time it seems definitely hit home for me. Most days I just want it all to collapse already so I'm not forced to live in a materialistic consumer society, forced to look for a job that is only to contribute to this mess and contradict my morals and ethics.
I currently work at a gym selling memberships, and although I believe in fitness and exercise there is still a lot of shadiness that goes along with my job. I hate salesmen. Now I play the role in which I hate and dread going into work every day. Every day I go in I ask myself, "Why don't I just quit?"

William Hunter Duncan said...


Quitting any job at this time in America, is to set oneself up, knowingly or not, for a potential radical life change, with potential consequences one cannot anticipate. If one goes into that radical change intentionally, open at least or with some kind of plan, it might work out exceptionally. To quit for the sake of quiting, because you hate it? Better, perhaps, to work on the hate first, and a plan? Throw kids in the mix, and a partner, and it gets a lot more tricky. Here's a question to linger on: What do you want?

Luciddreams said...

candice: do you have family with spare room? I quit my corporate job and moved in with family and it's working out exceptionally so far...been here about a month.

WHD...somebodies got to write even in the worst of fact that's when the best writing is written.

Candice said...

Thanks for the advice. I am lucky to say that I got a job offer with the Montana Conservation Corps starting in May! Although it is not a permanent job, it is something I will enjoy a lot more than my current job.
I am actually living with my parents for free right now. It's the school loans that make it more difficult for me to be completely free! I am grateful that I do not have any other financial obligations or a kid to worry about.