Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Church of Impending Doom

As some of you may already know, I've got a religious streak in me. I don't suppose I'm much different than most, but I don't really pry into people's lives, so I won't make any assumptions. I can only say that there is a place within me that wants to be "right". And by "right" I don't necessarily mean "correct", but I think I mean "in good standing." If eating something is going to do me harm, I'd like to know. If buying a product is going to harm someone, I'd like to know. If flossing my teeth is going to help me live longer and happier, I'd like to know. If I'm going to burn forever in a horrid hell, that would be good to know as well.

The passion and energy of our little community (what should we call it?) is admirable. Also, I find a great deal of tolerance and open-mindedness within this circle. Now, that isn't necessarily saying that people who are concerned about an impending crisis are all tolerant. I think it means that the ones I read are that way. It is just my way of unconsciously sorting out rigid, intolerant types.

The more I read your works, the more I feel like I'm back in church.

I love your passion. I love your enthusiasm. I love your desire for a better world. I love your humor and your candor. I don't pretend to know the sequence of DNA or the electro/chemical process of the brain that makes one "religious" or spiritual. But I do know that I get the same vibe from this community. Is it a psychological or anthropological predisposition? Do we learn this at home? Do we catch it like a disease? I dunno.

I only bring up this little point to be candid with you all. I've always wanted to be "good" (sorry for the abuse of quotes here today, but vocal inflection doesn't travel well on a blog). I don't want to do any harm. I want to be someone who builds up rather than tears down. I want to leave the place better than I found it. I am beginning to worry that my interest in our various topics may be a reflection of my deeper religious predisposition. I am not saying that this interest negates the valid arguments (or supports the invalid arguments) we bounce around. All I am trying to figure out is "what's my motivation"?

What motivated me to be a zealous Christian all those years ago? What made me so politically active at such a young age? What fueled my youthful patriotism? My wife and I have always been interested in a simpler life. We've always been part of the health-food crowd. Even when I was at my most conservative I was this way. Once I discovered my nation's sordid political dealings and general dishonesty, I felt free to question other things. When I questioned the motives of organized religion in general and my place in it specifically, I felt free to leave that as well. I touched on this in a previous post regarding the Communist Manifesto.

Once I was freed from the shackles of "must" and the pressures exerted by friends and family, I allowed myself intellectual and spiritual freedom. Please understand that I am not saying that I finally know any sort of truth. I am saying that I feel mentally and emotionally released to change my mind and listen to conflicting perspectives with true interest. If I latch on to a concept, I can let it go when I see it isn't what I thought it would be. It was hard for me to do that in the past. Since I was so burned by the right, I've really moved far left. Maybe if I'm burned there I'll fall back into the center?

As I wade through the writings of my many online compatriots, I find a broad spectrum of thoughts, but a common grounding is the idea of coming calamity. The more I read, the more I feel I'm right back in the church. You all bring such passion to the urgent questions of life. We study various scripture-like writings by holy people (Kunstler, Ruppert, Jensen, Quinn, etc.) and belong to various sects (Peak oilers, Global Warmers, Green Anarchists, Anti-civers, Anarcho-Primitivists, etc.) The ideals we espouse are often derived from a feeling that the coming crisis is due to our "sin" and "gluttony". We consume too much and waste precious resources. This is a crime against nature and humanity. We've been deceived by the evil one(s). Our sins are finding us out. Just as Christians have varying views on the end of the world, our little group does as well. Some feel the end will be swift and uncomfortable. Others feel it will be a slower and manageable. Some see war, others see a chance for Utopia. Some forums have comments decrying and accusing those who drive SUVs and have large homes. Others have compassion on the lost and pray for the eyes of their understanding to be opened.

Another commonality I observe is what I call the "gleeful anticipation of the collapse". I know that sounds worse than I intend but it is how I see it. There is an emotional undergirding that appears to want this end to come. I don't think people want anyone to suffer or be harmed, but they need to feel vindicated. The anticipation is too great for it to continue, so let's get on with it! I don't think this attitude is as deep as the apocalyptic attitude held by the religious right and their desire to usher in the "end times", but it is pronounced. Like many Christians, when the end doesn't come soon enough, faith begins to wane. People will "backslide" and return to their old ways.

It is best explained in the pithy saying, "To the man holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail." When you are a deeply religious person, everything you see, read and experience must, in some way, relate to your faith. I think for those who have a strong view of the future and how troubled it is likely to be, everything becomes tainted with those thoughts. A news story you read may not have stirred you a few years ago. If you read the same story today it is used to support your view that Peak Oil is real and is being covered up by shadowy forces in unseen places. If someone doesn't buy a hybrid vehicle, they are part of the forces driving us to annihilation. When a born again Christian reads a story about unrest in Israel, they think that these troubled times prove that Jesus is coming soon. A Peak Oiler would think that we wouldn't care at all about Israel if they were not in the Middle East where so much oil is located. The Christian may encourage political policies which actually incite conflict in order to usher in the new millennium. The Peak Oiler may encourage political policies that pull us out of the Middle East and free us from reliance on OPEC oil. Both act on their faith. Both groups pass the collection plate.

You see where I'm going.

While the religious people I use as examples may seem to be unreasonable or irrational, I am not intending that to be the case. There are plenty of folks in our little circle that may not always be citing facts to prove their points (like I am right here). I think faith is exercised here as well. We use supposition as well as facts to make our points. And besides, who the hell really knows the facts? Do you really know the numbers with Peak Oil? You are using faith. You have faith that someone has done the work, done it without prejudice, accurately evaluated the data, accurately reported the results and those results were accurately disseminated. I use the example of a package of M&Ms with peanuts. How do I know what is in these things? How do I know how many calories are here? How do I know there isn't some other cancer-causing property in there? I don't. The only way to really know is to buy the bag and perform the experiments yourself. Good luck. It is all faith. In my youth there were a large number of "experts" warning of the next global ice age. I remember a half-built bomb shelter in my basement. None of that every came to fruition (at least not yet).

What am I getting at? I have no idea. All I'm trying to do is sort out my feelings regarding what I think is the best way to live against what my religious predisposition may drive me towards. It is hard to step back to take an objective look at yourself and your motives. I think Ted is having a bad (good) influence on me. As I read through your blogs and see the different styles and outlooks, I am glad that there are people like you out there. I learn from Ted's soul-searching. I am inspired by Ran's practical and dedicated life. I enjoy Jason's scholarly examinations. I am moved by Casemeau's journey of self-discovery. I am excited by Kevin's farm life and informed by his news analysis. There are so many more of you who affect me in different ways. I am a better person for being a part of your virtual lives. Your synergy is appreciated.

The broad array of ideas and temperaments will have a modifying effect on my religious predisposition. The word "religion" comes from the Latin which is loosely translated "to be bound again". I prefer to translate it as "a return to bondage". I have no desire to be in bondage again. You guys help keep me free. Thanks.


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November 22, 2006 6:42 AM  
Blogger Theo_musher said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. It's starting to freak me out. I've had a lot of these same thoughts recently. I am beginning to think people want a crash even if it looks like there may not be one. How is that less dark than what we imagine to be the schemes being hatched in the pentagon?

November 22, 2006 10:22 AM  
Blogger Theo_musher said...

Snipehunter wrote about this, how thinking Jesus is coming back and thinking a crash is coming are remarkably similar.

November 22, 2006 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that a lust for a crash is really just a lust for freedom. It takes a lot of nerve and a lot of loss of security to truly become free today, so most freedom-minded people still can't bring themselves to break out. Like Ran said, "If you can just get 10% of yourself free of habit and conformity, people will call you "weird." 20% and they'll call you a genius, 30% and they'll call you a saint, 40% and they'll kill you." And that's not even talking about dropping out, it's just talking about freeing your mind. A crash would not only make breaking free more easy, it would make it necessary.

I think also that this can explain the fascination with and the popularity of "post-apocalypse" movies and novels. I have such a lust for freedom that I dropped out before I ever heard of a crash.

November 22, 2006 12:49 PM  
Blogger Theo_musher said...

I guess I think what I want to do is be free enough to enjoy life and still have enough money to enjoy some of civilization's friuts.

I find myself either drawn to the top eschelons of socio economic power as well the beautiful romantics at the bottom.

If ever get to the point of desiring above all else, to have a really good health plan and a beautifully well manicured lawn in the sub-urbs though, I pray someone will just shoot me and put me out of my misery...

I think the only free people are at the top and the bottom.

November 22, 2006 2:07 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

I believe God exerts his influence on Earth through cooincidences. The more things I learn, the more cooincidences appear, all pointing to one thing.... a crash within my lifetime.

Maybe it's faith, maybe it's lust for freedom, maybe I just want to be right, maybe it's simply bloodlust.... but I'm prayin for rain, prayin for tidal waves. I want to see it go right in and down, see her flush it all away.

and it doesn't matter, because it gives me hope.

November 22, 2006 4:31 PM  
Blogger Frank Black said...

I remember a time in my youth when I became fascinated with disaster. It started with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Not long after that was Bobby Kennedy. I sat by the radio listening for word of his state. It was like I wanted more. It snapped me out of my predictable little life and into something with meaning.

casemeau: I agreee completely. Freedom from the routine, freedom from the shackles of our culture. It is an excuse to let go.

ted: You and I share a similar background, so I know you understand where I am coming from. I don't know if there is freedom at the top, but I think there is at the bottom. I've known people who were very wealthy who ended up being regular people. One friend of ours had nannys and servants her whole life. When she married she went out on her own. I'll never forget the day she moved into her own place for the first time. She sat in the midst of all her belongings and sobbed because she didn't know what to do. Then there is the fear of losing everything. But, I will say that when you've got that much, it makes for fewer worries.

I think those coincidences are like energies that attract one another. We find what we need when we need it. I try to keep an open mind on all of this, but I can't help but think you are correct and that we're going to see some sort of significant event in the near future. I don't see it as all that bad either.

November 23, 2006 5:57 PM  

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