Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't Be Scared

This past Saturday night, while semi-drunkenly riding our bikes back into Manhattan from Williamsburg, I semi-jokingly asked my buddy Nat if he wanted to join the "team" I'm assembling to ride out the apocalypse. After all, a man of his talents (just got his PhD in ethnobotany / can identify edible, poisonous and psychoactive plants in the wild / makes his own chocolate bars) would be highly useful to have around should shit strike fan.

He seemed a bit freaked out by my asking him, even if only in jest, because apparently several other unconnected people had also just recently asked him the same thing. Pretty creepy. Except for the fact that I am Mr. Zeitgeist, so it's okay.

Then I wrote up my previous blog post, about Burners surviving the end of the world as we know it, due largely to Black Rock City's remoteness, the timing of the annual pilgrimage and the unique resourcefulness of that particular community.

And here's my horoscope for today (honest to God): "You're focused on the future right now and ought to be able to plan things out much farther ahead than usual. It's a good time for you to recruit assistance that will come in handy later on."

Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like me putting together my team to ride out the apocalypse?

Now, I don't mean to alarm anyone. After all, the word "apocalypse" simply means "revelation." Of course, I understand that lots of people associate the word "revelation" with the Book of Revelations, famously known as the scariest shit in the Bible, but actual revelation of the truth is a good thing. A healthy thing. Depending on what truth is being revealed, it might be psychologically painful at first, but ultimately good for us. Better to know than not know, right? Obviously, the sort of revelation germane to this discussion is that of the true spiritual nature of things. Kind of like when Neo sees the artificiality of the Matrix at the end of the first movie and so realizes he can do whatever the fuck he wants within it. He, as an individual, comes to that knowledge only after suffering through some harrowing crap. And I think a common assumption is that for all of humanity to arrive at a similarly liberating enlightenment in this real world of our actual shared experience, we'd all first have to go through some pretty crazy fire-in-the-sky shit too.

But that need not be the case at all. Maybe it'll be as simple as the revelation -- on a mass scale -- of the truth behind what the greedy political elite have been doing all these years, which finally motivates the common people to put aside their superficial differences and come together in peaceful unity (instead of continuing to allow the greed-elite to convince us to keep killing each other). That would touch off a huge shift in consciousness. The heads (and talking-heads) of Fox News Channel might lose their lives, but their sacrifice would serve the greater good. A gigantic, paralyzing illusion would be dissolved and a new social harmony could be reached. Not that I advocate killing (ahem) Rupert Murdoch and Bill O'Reilly. And Sean Hannity. And Ann Coulter.

Of course, it is easy to imagine that if certain wings of the greed-elite maintain any sort of hold on popular opinion, we could end up with world-wide Biblical craziness. Fortunately, 80% of Americans already think we're going in the wrong direction. Which is only fitting after the last 8 years. Though, that last 20% does represent tens of millions of individuals who somehow still think things are on track. That's a lot of sick sick people who desperately need help (a small percentage may be beyond help). Not sure what will have to happen to reach them. Can you imagine what it's like inside their heads?! Good God!

Personally, on some level, I've been contemplating the end of the world since I was a small child. I don't think I was particularly morbid or anything, but I did used to have dreams about the end of civilization. Note I didn't say 'nightmares' -- except I do remember a particularly vivid and exciting one wherein I was being chased by mutants for much of it (apparently, they blamed me for the world-wide collapse -- and they were pissed). I woke up out of breath with my heart racing. Was probably 10 or 11 years old at the time.

I had other dreams about surviving alone in the woods or on a desert island, etc. And then I started enjoying many similar idle daydreams. At the time, I figured it was just my way of escaping the soul-alienating boredom of, say, junior high.

And I've always been especially drawn to / fascinated by people who strive to live as self-sufficiently as possible. My Side of the Mountain. Into the Wild. Etc. Any off-grid types. There was an old PBS documentary showing a lone guy building an entire house in the wilderness with nothing but simple hand tools and materials culled from the immediate landscape. And it wasn't some tiny run-down shack. It was a large comfortable house with a stone hearth/chimney. Serious shit.

And then there's my own uncle. During the 70's, he escaped from NYC's rat race and now lives in a super-insulated house he built himself up in the Catskills, growing all his own produce in two giant vegetable gardens. The land he lives on was purchased by his parents, my maternal grandparents, during the days of the "Borscht Belt" culture. They originally built summer-only cottages for Lower East Side tenement-dwellers who wanted to beat the city heat for a few weeks at a time. When gambling was outlawed up there and air-conditioners became more common and that culture died out, the entire resort-based economy of the region dried up. A great many bungalow colonies and almost all the large hotels were abandoned. Driving up with my folks to visit my uncle when I was a kid, we'd pass plenty of buildings that had quite literally collapsed due to sheer neglect. It wasn't unusual at all to see structures being sucked back into the earth by gravity, growing over with weeds -- former hotels, now compost heaps. Nature. I loved it.

My uncle spent years fixing up the abandoned bungalows on his family's property, making them suitable for year-round occupancy ("winterizing" them) which wasn't easy since the area experiences pretty harsh winters (though, as Nat jokingly pointed out, if climate trends persist, it'll all be balmy ocean-front property someday). Eventually, my uncle even managed to find a few tenants, as a huge yoga/meditation ashram opened up 5-minutes down the road, and some of the devotees wanted more affordable places to live. So, he's been able to really make a go of it.

When my grandparents passed away, the entire property (only a small portion of which was ever built on) passed down to their children -- my uncle, my aunt and my mother. My mother's portion consists of a few acres of nothing but trees right now. Barring the unforeseen, those woods will pass down to my brother and me. I don't think my brother gives a crap (he'd be psyched if gambling were re-legalized and the large casino-hotels all came back, possibly to have property near them, but possibly just because it could conceivably increase the value of our undeveloped land, which he might simply want to sell under such circumstances). I, on the other hand, consider the land the basis of my apocalypse contingency plan.

The Plan:

1. Make a ton of money somehow.
2. Spend some of the money on several modest pre-fab off-grid homes perhaps like these, and stick 'em in the forest upstate.
3. Install some wind turbines to generate additional electricity for things like: all-electric car, all-electric tractor, you-get-the-idea.
4. Build a greenhouse to grow vegetables year-round.
5. Invite people with right attitude and valuable post-apocalypse skills to come up and enjoy surviving in relative ease and comfort. Short list would clearly have to include folks like...
  • gardener/horticulturalist
  • multi-talented fix-it people/mechanics
  • engineer types
  • chef
  • brewmaster/distiller
  • musicians / DJ's
  • yoga instructor
  • healers of various modalities
  • surgeon
  • dentist
  • psycho-pharmaceutical chemist
  • writer/historian/archivist
  • artists of all kinds
  • dancers
and obviously
  • healthy women of child-bearing ability
  • zombie-fighters
But mostly, we're gonna need people who can simply live in the now and not be crushingly attached to all that will obviously be lost. (Materialists, shop-a-holics, etc. need not apply.)

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm no prophet of doom. If society keeps chugging along, perhaps making small incremental strides towards peace, nobody would be happier than me, after all, I'm Mr. Happy Fun Guy now. Of course, should my contingency plan be required, I am planning for my post-apocalyptic utopia to be an extremely fucking fun place. After all, we probably won't have any assholes breathing down our necks, and there's something undeniably sexy about surviving the end of the world.

So... who wants in?

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