Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Real Matrix, or What to Do Today

Today is December 7.
I don't know what to do today. I still need to nail down dates for booksignings and other events for Veggie Revolution, for when Sara Kate is back from Morocco in two weeks. But that means making phone calls and leaving messages, and all that. Sometimes I have the energy for that and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get in a mood where I can just keep plowing ahead, no matter what. Getting answering machines or "he's not here" doesn't discourage me, I just call the next number on the list.

But this is the kind of day where, if I had some woods outside, I would go walk in the woods. Even though it's cold as hell.

Maybe what's dragging on me is that I watched The Matrix this morning because one of my friends is very interested in it. I watched it years ago but I didn't really understand it before. This morning I couldn't quite finish it, I had to go take the car to get fixed. While I was tooling around in the cold house getting ready to go out, the movie was in my mind and in my mood. The house felt unfamiliar and unpleasant to me, like walking into a strange hotel room. A part of me had the perspective that my house and civilization in general is the Matrix, or a matrix of a different kind. I was able to view my whole street, my city, as an artificial construct that someone has created - an artificial reality that we have created that separates us from our original environment, which was nature.

I live in this cramped and cluttered house, insulated from the outdoors and all the struggles of the birds and squirrels and chipmunks to survive in this cold (that's all the remnants of wildlife left in my yard). We humans have built this whole world that allows us to live completely removed from nature. Completely removed. Maybe not as completely as the humans in the movie were, but still quite apart. We don't have to experience the weather, we turn on the tap to get our water, we buy our food at the grocery. For the meateaters among us, someone else raises these artificially bred animals and kills them for us. We are so detached from the natural world. What I really mean of course is, I feel so detached from nature. The part of the movie that really resonated with me is this: we have been removed so long from our predecessors' intimacy with nature and wildlife, we're not really conscious of being severed from it. It seems normal and inevitable now to operate in a world that is cut off from the natural world in almost every way.

I mean, this is no great revelation, anyone would probably arrive at the same conclusion if questioned and pressed. But I felt it so keenly this morning. Maybe something else that made me feel it is this book I'm reading called The Trees by Conrad Richter. It's about a pioneer family living completely self-suffienctly in the woods in the late 1700s. It's a very well-written portrait of pioneer life. It's made me aware of how dependent I am on the human community around me. A community that does a lot of things I don't like, or approve of, but yet, because I am so dependent, I participate. For example, using the car and burning gas in my furnace. At least I don't eat animal products any more.

I don't know. I don't want to be part of the matrix of modern civilization. I want to do more to step out of it. Changing my diet was a first step. Writing the book Veggie Revolution was a piece of resistance I suppose. What now? I want a place to live that uses fewer resources, that's more green, more energy efficient. I need some woods and wildlife around me. Although I know that living in multi-family housing close to the place we work is really the most land-efficient and energy-efficient and sustainable choice. I need to rethink some of the choices we made years ago when we bought this house - this house that separates me from the outdoors. I'm thinking about my friends Jim and Kathleen's passive solar house. The floor of their house is only an inch or two above ground level. It really has a strong psychological effect of making the indoors and outdoors seem continuous.

In his book An Unnatural Order, Jim Mason writes about the development of our destructive Western attitude toward nature, which he calls "dominionism." He's right on the money. That word about sums it up. We feel as a species that we are entitled to have dominion over all other living things, to use and abuse nature and animals as we wish. Although we're destroying our planet and all of our non-human companions in the process.

As the evil Mr. Smith said in The Matrix, humans are different from most living things in that we completely take over an area, then we move on to the next area, spreading everywhere and destroying nature as we go. He asked Morpheus: What is the only other living thing that behaves the same way? Morpheus didn't answer. Mr. Smith supplied the answer: viruses.

That's not entirely true. Lots of introduced species spread like crazy in their new environment, like kudzu or honeysuckle, or cane toads in Australia. Because the predators that evolved with them are missing.

But anyway. The human race has made a mess, no doubt about that. And with Mr. Bush in office, the darkness is spreading. But we can choose how much we want to participate. We can back out. We can try to remember from whence we came and have mercy on other living things and their habitats. We can try to make constructive choices in the future. Which reminds me of why I'm working on the next book, about how we can stop supporting the corporations that are trashing the planet.

Okay, now I know what to do today. Put away the "phone calls to make" folder and get out the "Power of Your Pocketbook" folder. Make some coffee. Get to work.

1 comment:

Lidarose said...

Thanks for being willing to talk honestly about issues that don't get aired much at all. There has to be a better balance than what we are collectively achieving at the moment, with respect to caring for the earth and nature versus human accomodations of every sort. I hope your books and your blog can be a catalyst for change, for movement towards the goals of a better balance and respect for the earth, our only home.