Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thoughtless


From The World Without Us by Alan Weisman ...
Les Knight is the founder of VHMET - the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement - is thoughtful, soft-spoken, and quite serious.

"Suppose ... that one virus that would truly be effective strikes, and all human sperm loses viability. The first to notice would be crisis-pregnancy centers, because no one would be coming in. Happily, in a few months abortion providers would be out of business. It would be tragic for people who kept trying to conceive. But in five years, there would be no more children under five dying horribly."

The lot of all living children would improve, he says, as they became more valuable rather than more disposable. No orphan would go unadopted.

"In 21 years, there would be, by definition, no juvenile delinquency." By then, as resignation sinks in, Knight predicts that spiritual awakening would replace panic, because of a dawning realization that as human life drew toward a close, it was improving. There would be more than enough to eat, resources would be plentiful, including water, The seas would replenish. Because new housing wouldn't be necessary, so would forests and wetlands.

"With no more resource conflicts, I doubt we'd be wasting each other's lives in combat. Like retired business executives who suddenly find serenity by tending a garden, Knight envisions us spending our remaining time helping rid an increasingly natural world of unsightly and now useless clutter, in pursuit of which we'd once swapped something alive and lovely.

"The last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet as close as possible to the Garden of Eden."


Now, I know that's a lot to dump here out of context. The book I took that from is one I am enjoying, if you can call it that, one which postulates in a number of ways how the planet would respond if humans suddenly, one day and for no particular reason, either ceased to exist or simply dropped dead. So it is a book filled with all types of extreme theories about how resilient, or not, nature truly is to our overwhelming effect on it.

And yet, in spite of spectacular descriptions of New York City reverting to a wildness or my house disintegrating (in detail) I found the previous passage to be the most disturbingly shocking idea in the entire book, and the stupidest, least intuitive or well-reasoned concept I have been exposed to in some time.

"It would be tragic for people who kept trying to conceive." You think? And by "people" Knight seems to suggest there would only be a few of them, people who can't see reason, and keep trying.

"But in five years, there would be no more children under five dying horribly." Oh well, I can certainly understand - buh what?! That's like the joke about the guy who dies and his doctor tells the family that at least his condition has stabilized.

But of course, Knight's point is that humans are nothing special. I'm an open-minded guy. Maybe we aren't. But his theory, like a lot of collective society theories, assume everyone thinks the exact same way, and want the exact same things. When would resignation sink in, exactly? Ever? Those people who can't accept human extinction, which is to say most of them, won't go away, leaving behind those few who are okay with it. And wars aren't always started for "good" reasons (like resources) but sometimes for hateful and murderous reasons.

Maybe it's because I'm such a fan of the movie Children of Men which suggests a human race on the brink would be morose, helpless and vicious, and nothing like peaceful "retired business executives."

I mean, wasn't everyone who started the Iraq War a retired business executive? Honestly.

(Oh, Happy Thanksgiving.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fun & Prophet

Love a good pun.

Toni shared this review of Kahlil Gibran’s Collected Works with me this morning.

We share a mutual scorn for The Prohpet, each for our own reasons. If you are a true lover of this book, please move onto your next blog and do not let me offend you (and do not read the aforelinked review.) Especially if I have been to your wedding.

God, it's hard to write about Gibran without sliding into some kind of faux-biblical syntax.

The first time I was exposed to Gibran was at a cousin's wedding in 1983. The passage was from "On Marriage," where the teacher instructs the young couple to be the same tree, but not the same tree, to drink from the same cup, but then again, don't. To walk together, yet apart.

I was fifteen. I thought it was brilliant and moving. I was fifteen.

Since then I have heard the exact same passage at every single wedding I have attended in the past, lo, this quarter century. Following 1 Corinthians 13 - which remains my favorite treatise on love ever written - this chapter from The Prophet is the single most popular refrain in any marriage ceremony.

I assume it's because people want to include something secular, and Gibran has claimed the throne of the most Bible-like modern writer. It's too formal to be mistaken for a pop song lyrics, and so the grandparents won't be offended. But it's, you know, progressive. Women can accept it, it's about freedom within commitment.

Hell, I even alluded to it during the first marriage ceremony I conduct. But that was it, I alluded to it, I didn't say it. It was like a private joke between me and Toni.

Because she outright despises that book, in large part due to the fact that her biological father gave it to her as a gift. "Here, child, this is a book of wisdom." Stupid f***ing hippie. Stupid f***ing hippie book.

Ackshodry, that wasn't my first exposure to The Prophet - no, I first read The Profit by Kehlog Albran, a parody by the people who make Mad-Libs:

A priest asked,
What is Fate, Master?

And he answered:
It is that which gives a beast of burden its reason for existence.
It is that which men in former times had to bear upon their backs.
It is that which has caused nations to build by-ways from City to City upon which carts and coaches pass, and alongside which inns have come to be built to stave off Hunger, Thirst and Weariness.
It is that which has caused great fleets of ships to ply the Seven Seas wherever the wind blows.

And that is Fate? said the priest.

Fate... I thought you said Freight, responded the Master.

That's all right, said the priest. I wanted to know what Freight was too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls' Night