The slow suicide of the world

“And the answer, said the judge. If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes. This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons.”

— Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Yesterday Mia came home with an assignment. She had to Google the phrase “the most shocking plastic pollution you’ve ever seen” and watch the video it lead to.

When she saw the part where the seagull gulps down an enormous plastic bag — literally swallowing its own death — she looked at me. Not with accusation, or confusion, or fear; just with this kind of wounded awareness. It’s as though she wanted to share an acknowledgement that we had seen something awful, something that couldn’t be changed or undone. The scale of the damage is beyond belief.

I don’t believe that we’re going to fix what we’ve done to ourselves. I don’t believe we have the means or the will. The relationship we have with the world is entirely parasitic. We’re going to eat it until we all die.

But it’s hard to reconcile our collective guilt with my daughter’s glance. She is not guilty. Not for the world she was born into, nor the habits and behaviors she was trained to repeat. If we as a species are a cancer then I have to wonder if the individual cancer cell can be innocent.

I say yes.

Sometimes I’ll go outside at night and look into the stars. I think all the usual thoughts: how vast it all is, how much might be out there. How insignificant our place. And it’s that last thought that gives me the greatest sense of peace. It makes me happy that no matter what we do to ourselves here, there might yet be clean places in the universe; whole worlds free of the human infection.

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2 thoughts on “The slow suicide of the world

  1. Wow Nathan. That is a great post.
    And I feel bad for quoting the Matrix after you quoted the eloquent Cormac, but “what is the human race? A virus.”

    It’s simple: we’ve not been good stewards of what we were given. What we do to the world, we do to ourselves.

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