And don’t be so impatient: Rome wasn’t burned in a day, and if you’re looking for logic, forget it: The Ottoman Empire stopped functioning two hundred years before it actually died. Who knows how long this New World Order of ours can rumble, bumble and stumble along, a slowly sinking ship with a crew of fools duking it out for control of the wheel?
I’ve managed to managed to come up with a few bits that seem to make sense while peering into the roiling abyss that is the 21st century. First of all, if you see a huge crowd of laughing, cheering people running somewhere, head in the opposite direction as soon as possible, because in this era they aren’t going anyplace good.
Second, hire 10,000 of the wisest men and women on earth and slot them into a corporation or bureaucracy, and they will inevitably make the stupidest decisions imaginable; this is an eternal truth, like the Law of Gravity. Example: All the experts agree that climate change will soon result in the drowning of all the coastal cities on earth beneath rising seas; but when the icepack that covered the Arctic seas began to disappear, an omen of the catastrophe to come, the energy companies of the world immediately began fighting over the rights to drill for oil and gas on the newly accessible sea floor.
And ads run constantly on television, urging people to consume even more energy, drive bigger, heavier vehicles and a host of RVs, jet skis, ATVs, etc., and to play video games in front of giant televisions, while our cities leave the lights on all night in empty buildings.
When the rising seas do their work, our entire socioeconomic world, including energy companies and banking and monetary systems, will be kaput, out of business, forever. Evidently the big bosses, wise guys and warlords who currently rule our planet can’t wait to end it all; or, more likely, when you become part of a corporation or bureaucracy your vision shrinks, and only the welfare of the organization means anything to you; the rest of the world is either competition or food.
Remarkably, there is still a Benevolent Intelligence trying to guide us out of this roach motel we have trapped ourselves in. One manifestation of this are the so-called “crop circles” appearing all around the world: one just materialized in a rice paddy in a remote part of Indonesia.When they first began showing up in rural England, scientists made a feeble attempt to prove they were somehow a hoax, and when that didn’t work they decided to ignore them.
Now, not only have they spread, appearing in over forty countries around the world, they have grown more and more elaborate and strikingly beautiful. Some are based on the geometry of the Mayan calendar, or on the shapes of birds, dolphins and such; others contain complex mathematical formulae, computer codes and archaic religious symbols.
Aesthetically, they make the “art” being produced today in cities like New York and Los Angeles seem pathetically dull and devoid of true inspiration. Spiral Jetty? Cadillac Farm? Pathetic. Only Andy Goldsworthy seems to be brushed by the same kind of magic.
Why aren’t masses of people celebrating the circles’ appearances, delighting in the existence of mysterious intelligences and powers beyond our understanding?
Beats me. Sometimes I think we were all born crazy, us modern human beings, or else we have been so effectively brainwashed that wonders can occur right in front of us, but we don’t see them. I suspect it’s probably the latter.
There’s a lesson in all this: Don’t take the things of the world too seriously. War, politics and the accumulation of great wealth and power are the most ridiculous pursuits imaginable. Take the case of two famous conquerors. Alexander the Great ended up ruling the entire known world, but after he died, his followers didn’t even take care of his body. Today, no one even knows where he was buried, only that it is somewhere between Baghdad and Macedonia, in an unmarked grave. The empire Alexander put together was already disintegrating when he died. Babur, a nomad prince from the Ferghana Valley, conquered eastern Afghanistan and northern India all the way to the Himalayas; his reign gave birth to the Mogul Dynasty, which ruled India for over two centuries. But his greatest joy came from designing gardens and writing poetry; after he died his wife followed his instructions and had his body taken to Kabul, his favorite spot on earth, and buried in the garden he created there, in a hole in the ground with no marker or monument. He stated in his will that he wanted only earth between him and the grass and flowers, the rain and snowmelt. The garden where he lies buried is still beautiful. Babur himself called it “The Light Garden of the Angel King.” Even though he carved out a great empire, Babur never lost his sense of perspective; his autobiography, the Baburnama, is filled with joy and a sense of humor. Alexander, by contrast, lived a life filled with nothing but fighting, insurrection, furious energy and monomaniacal ambition; he murdered his best friend in a drunken rage, and finally drove his army of faithful soldiers to rebel against his unquenchable desire to own the world.
Both men ended up in the same place, the earth, but Babur was happy with that; Alexander was obsessed with being remembered, honored; he named over forty cities after himself as he swept across Central Asia; today, all but one either lies in ruins or promptly renamed itself after his death.
Afterword: When I was studying in Dharmsala, a fellow student asked one of the wisest high lamas in Dharmsala what he would do if me met a tiger on a lonely trail; the lama said, “Why, I would run away as fast as my legs could carry me! Wouldn’t you?”