March Madness: The Shadow Over Spring

I’m sorry I haven’t written you sooner. Life has been crazy, tenuous and suddenly full again. Let me tell you about it…….

It started while I was reading Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society. It brought back concerns that had occupied my thoughts as a teenager and that would eventually take me into anthropology:

“[M]any psychiatrists and psychologist refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not that of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.

The Sane Society, Erich Fromm


I’m standing in the supermarket; the strip lights are cold and bright, the consumers wittering away and all those check outs are going beep….. beep….. beep! I feel a little like Bruce Willis in Breakfast Of Champions when the tarmac turns to rubber. For a moment I see it all clearly, objectively, not as a shopper but as total of the human  journey to this moment in time. It has an aspect of madness, this lens of clarity, and it’s saying that this spectacle just cannot be normal. Humanity’s evolutionary environment has never seen something like this. It’s so very recent. There is nothing natural about this sci-fi utopia with its unimaginably vast amounts of choice in food, drink, clothing, medicine and nappies and cultured yogurt……

I take my Energizing Smoothie and Vegetarian Sushi rolls and get the fuck outta there……

At home I’m rolling my eyes as I wonder why the news on the radio wants to troll me every day. It’s just relayed an opinion that Trump should get a Nobel Peace prize for his North Korea diplomacy.

Wrong on so many levels…..

Meanwhile our glorious leaders have desperately tried to convince us to support them in their latest geopolitical posturing by cooking up some truly fantastical bullshit. It reminds me of the lawyer in Robocop 2 when he says, “whether the evidence exists or not, I know I can find it.”

Worse, these people have nukes. Lucky for me that they probably wont push the button just yet, although I recall an article that there have been around 12 near misses since the 50’s, once when a Russian radar computer showed incoming missiles that weren’t there, or when a US naval ship dropped a practice depth charge on a Russian submarine for a laugh.

One has to wonder what kind of sane society would stock pile such things. No wonder life is feeling tenuous…..

Anyway, most likely they won’t be using them just yet. They’ll wage their wars over the last scraps at the table first, the last oil and water and minerals. Then the loser can have the final word as we all disappear in a blinding flash.

Later I’m standing in the chippie waiting for an order of cod, chicken goujons, chips and onion rings because it’s Sam’s birthday. Someone picks up a paper, rustles through it while they’re waiting. The staff are shouting orders. The food hisses into the fat fryers and I think to myself, “please don’t let the world end while I’m in a chippy”. It would really put a crimp on the day to be hit in the face by a nuclear explosion without getting off a snarky comment.

This reminds me that some years ago I had a strange dream: I’m in the city, standing just outside some building when the person next to me turns and says “someone just let off a nuclear bomb”. I turn to the horizon and see the mushroom cloud, and just before I awake I hear myself say with exasperated disappointment one single word: “Meh.” (Perhaps my subconscious is just better at summarising).

The days go by and I don’t do myself any favours by reading about Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd fame). He claims to have been approached by a Saudi business man who wants him to support the White Helmets, an NGO purportedly created by an ex-member of MI6 and funded with millions of £ and $ of taxpayers money. They ask him if one of their representatives can take the stage before his Barcelona concert and give an address in the name of Syria’s children. Waters ignores the request and instead tells the audience that they’re nothing but the PR arm for the jihadi head choppers. I wonder at the notion of militant fundamentalists having a PR campaign. Later still I’ll wonder at the notion of Libyan rebels taking time out from fighting Gaddafi to set up a bank.

And the day before yesterday (last week or so) I heard that Iran just rejected the dollar.

Oh dear……


Sometime’s you should just turn Youtube off. That way you wont get to see a video where a scientist is telling a day tv host that humanity could very well be extinct in 10 years due to the severity of temperature changes that are occurring. They are exponential. The tv host is flippant, blasé,  but what can he say other than ask what is this guy going to do with the rest of his (short) life? The scientist says he’ll “live it as fully as possible”.

The shadow of mortality falls over me. It’s relentless, enervating, humbling. I’ve read enough to know that ‘experts’ call this era the Anthropocene Extinction. And those leaders I mentioned earlier, well they dont want to do anything to upset the markets, to upset the money men and the oil industry. No, all they can ask you to do be a bit more gentle, recycle and buy an electric car even as the crops are withering in the fields. They are the epitome of procrastination, literally putting off reality until tomorrow. If ever a species could win the accolade it must be us, number one for mass delusional procrastination, a metacrastination if you will. We are ‘homo procrastes‘ and we all know what’s happening, but there’s always something more important to do than worry about global auto-genocide.

And so the shadow darkens even as Spring is in bloom because the oceans will rise, the deserts will spread, the supermarket shelves will be empty and I’m suddenly recalling the horror of the Mountain People, Colin Turnbull’s account of a society self-destructing. There is no society, no family, no hope…… and it’s likely that I’ll starve to death with my son.

He’ll be 14.


Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.

A Tale Of Earthsea, Ursula LeGuin

Feeling heartbroken I took a break from working and a little later picked the little guy up from pre-school. That afternoon I took him for a walk over the local hill, the space and light and air providing a welcome relief. It was such a pleasant afternoon, not too hot with fresh air blowing over the slope. I stared out over the rolling green landscape. The sun was shining through gaps in the cloud and in the background I heard Bruce burbling about something that I didn’t quite catch. For a moment there’s that sense of clarity again, the perception of something real and natural that’s all so alive, so enduring, and I wonder “How can this ever end?”

I give Bruce a hug and remind him that I love him….

The truth is that no one can say how much time there is left, and even if it as short as might be claimed, well, the burden is on us to make the most of it. This doesn’t mean abandoning ideals or ceasing to give a shit about anything, but rather it is about finding a new motivation to live a full life without worrying. It is a continuation of the path that I started on in March (see last blog) and a development of the personal need for change.

So, more than ever, I’m getting myself out and enjoying what time is left. I’m done with hermitting away because faced with death I’ve found a great desire to live. Suddenly I want to be with people, even if we might not share the same ideas, but it’s healthy to remember that you’re not always right. Faced with possible extinction, does it even matter? It’s just so much pointlessness to care what anyone thinks when time is short. I’m not going to worry about the madness. Hell we might as well embrace it and feel alive instead of worrying.

So I’ll try to make the world a bit brighter, try to love a bit more and promise to stop wasting time being critical of everything around me. It’s time to make the most of the good fortune that I have been given.

And so, as I started with Fromm, I’ll finish with this from The Sane Society, written over 60 years ago:

“A new question has arisen in modern man’s mind, the question, namely, whether ‘life is worth living’, and correspondingly, the feeling that one’s life ‘is a failure’, or is ‘a success’. This idea is based on the concept of life as an enterprise which should show profit. The failure is like the bankruptcy of a business in which the losses are greater than the gains. This concept is nonsensical. We may be happy or unhappy, achieve some aims, and not achieve others; yet there is no sensible balance which could show whether life is worth while living. It ends necessarily with death; many of our hopes are disappointed; it involves suffering and effort; from a standpoint of the balance, it would seem to make more sense not to have been born at all……

On the other hand, who will tell whether one happy moment of love, or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies? Life is a unique gift and challenge, not to be measured in terms of anything else, and no sensible answer can be given to the question whether it is ‘worth while’ living, because the question does not make any sense.”

The Sane Society, Eric Fromm



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