Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I’ve found it hard to maintain my journal writing over the past months.  Writing is an important way of gathering thoughts together – bringing them to a discipline and organization that can lead to insight or clarity – but maybe I don’t want clarity.

Because the issue is that I’ve lost faith in a normal future – that is, I’ve lost faith in the agreed-upon future that serves as the channel for all the narrow decisions we’re supposed to be making – preparing the kids for college, setting aside something for retirement, paying down the mortgage, entertaining ourselves with mildly enriching hobbies, continuing to build up that paycheck, or whatever.  The belief that the future is going to be like the present – just a little better or maybe a little worse.

I’d like to believe in that future, banal and comforting as it is, but I’ve had to admit that such a future seems utterly chimerical.  I’m saddled with a scientific conscience, and to believe in that future requires me to believe too many things that simply don’t make sense – to accede into something that feels like a mass delusion.

That future requires me to believe that climate change unchecked isn’t going to wreck our ever more brittle food system; that it won’t roil the country with refugees from newly uninhabitable regions; it requires me to suspend my understanding of physics and thermodynamics, to accept that with a few tweaks we can perpetuate our lifestyle into a low-energy future.  

It requires me to believe that this economy, which can imagine no future but one of infinite growth, will somehow magically transcend the end of the cheap oil; that it will hum along though the foundering retreat of the bankrupt American Empire;  that it will not crush most people’s livelihoods into its gears as it ratchets down to a serious contraction; that the utterly corrupt and rapacious ruling classes were not already well on their way to draining out the wealth and vitality from the once mighty American middle class.  

It requires me to believe that we are going to solve our problems with some sudden, un-heralded burst of ingenuity or will – even though every trend is toward denial, willful ignorance and passivity; toward cynical pessimism or febrile and unfounded optimism.  It requires me to believe that we will rise to the occasion, and it requires me to ignore the fact that the occasion has probably already passed un-marked by any rising-to or by anything but cheerful denial.

I take a close look at the sources for complacency and optimism, and I see numbers that don’t add up, obvious caveats that aren’t applied, inconvenient truths swept under rugs. 

Maybe I’m wrong, as doomsayers have often, though not always, been wrong.  Figuring some of that out is what writing’s for, if I can stick to it.