While there is still time. . .

Don’t wait. . . go!

Sunday I went to see the musical ‘Once’ at the Benedum Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I knew it was a love story and I only knew one song from the musical, the beautifully haunting ‘Falling Slowly.’

I was already in somewhat of an emotional state and the song, early in the performance caught me reaching for the Kleenex. It’s a beautiful, heart-achey song but it also takes me back to a bittersweet part of my life in the mid-2000s which I won’t get into here.

The whole performance, the love story, the Irish music and Dublin locale, were all a reminder of all that is good in the world. The performance was a thing of beauty and that also added to the tears.

I explained this to my wife on the way home. In the last 24-hours, two mass shootings had taken place in the country. Inside, my mind was also filled with information on the advancing march of climate change and what is just around the corner and knowing that we, collectively, through our choices, made it inevitable.

So much darkness, so much evil, so much disaster waiting to befall humankind.

And yet, in the middle the nightmare that is both my brain and the outside world, there is so much beauty that we should suck in like a Hoover (play reference!) given the time we have and the things we are losing.

The performance reminded me of all that’s right with the world; that human beings still create songs and performances that uplift the soul and show us what is, what was, and what could have been the best of us.

Also, the birds on my back feeder, even thought they fight amongst themselves for the suet basket, are gifts from nature and represent things of beauty and wonder. Add to that the squirrels, deer, moles, chipmunks, rabbits and all the other creatures that feed upon the seeds and food I leave in the back yard. When I watch them all mingling together, I feel a sense of peace and appreciate the beauty in front of me that may not last much longer.

There’s a Frank Sinatra song, ‘September of My Years’ on the album of the same name, that I have been listening to often this last year. It’s about a man who never took stock of the beauty of the world around him but now that he’s hit ‘a certain age’ he notices the children playing, is cognizant of his time left, and vows to ‘stop and smell the roses.’

As a man who has never paused at wishing wells
Now I’m watching children’s carousels
And their laughter’s music to my ears
And I find that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years

The golden warm September of my years

This is me. Slowing down. Noticing. No longer chasing dreams and dollars but taking stock of my life and the wonder and beauty that surrounds me. I look, really look around and appreciate it all – the way I did when I was a child.

It’s all still here. I want to remember. I want to smell the earth, touch the flowers, hear the birds, listen to the children playing down the street. I want to take it all in as I’ve never done before and hold it close to my heart.

I don’t know exactly what the future will bring, but whatever comes, I want my soul to be filled and enriched by the things I’ve taken for granted. It will be my own psychological armor against future woe.

I’m old enough to remember this Paul Anka song Kodak used to sell film. I still hear it today:

Reach back for the joy and the sorrow
Put them away in your mind
The mem’ries are time that you borrow
To spend when you get to tomorrow

Here comes the setting sun
The seasons are passing one by one
So gather moments while you may
Collect the dreams you dream today
Remember, will you remember
The times of your life

Now I don’t know if what I’ve written will have any significance for the reader or offer any coping mechanism. We are all different – ages, sexes, backgrounds. It is my way of coping. When I was rushing to grow up I never realized that every second we spend on this planet, ever interaction we have with other people, is precious and sacred.

I hope that by expressing some of why I’m feeling, perhaps it will inspire you to live your life to the fullest and stop and take in all the beauty that is there, even among all the hate and sadness. We know not the numbers of our days but the one thing we can control is how we appreciate the days we are given.

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice
You’ve made it now

***

Yeah dad, I cried. Like when you told me you were going to die and that was the first and last time I ever saw tears on you. You can be a man. You can cry. If you had done more of it, had you gotten all that anger and sadness out of you, it might have saved your life.

The little things – How green (is) my lawn

What’s wrong with this lawn?

Rain rain rain. All it has done is rain all last year and all this year. And when it rains here in Pittsburgh, it pours. The night before this video was taken, we had what looked like a small rain system on radar moving in.

Well, let me tell you, we had a wicked downpour. Five minutes after it began, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Allegheny County.

Now normally, we get some kind of forewarning before this – a flash flood watch, an advisory something. This was like going from 0 to 100 in a second. The rain came through the screens and hit the inner windows.

So what does that have to do with my lawn?

Most of it should be dry and dead by now. But thanks to record-setting precipitation last year and now this year, a verdant, beautiful spring has been followed by a rainy summer. So the grass, for the first time in five summers, has remained remarkably green.

It’s the little things you notice when it comes to what’s happening with the climate. Perhaps earlier springs, later winters (yes)? Things like that. Anyway, look at my (all natural) lawn.

How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the suck

As a person with mental illness, you would be correct to wonder how I respond to all the increasingly dire climate news. After all, although you wouldn’t know this, I’ve my periods of suicidal ideation.

I’ve found that I no longer have any periods of suicidal ideation.

How can that be?

To understand why that is, remember that each person with a mental illness will see and react to things just a little bit differently that someone who even has the same diagnosis.

Also remember, that the external motivations of those of us so afflicted work in unexpected ways.

I no longer have suicidal ideation since the endgame of abrupt climate change has placed an event horizon on my life anyway. I merely have to give in to every sybaritic pleasure I’ve ever wanted to indulge in and wait for the inevitable.

Having a 10-year (or less) event horizon on societal collapse, renders quite a bit of the things that deeply worry me, well, moot. In a way it’s like the tagline of my all-time favorite movie ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

The fuel that runs my conditions and all their attendant symptoms are the things ordinary people worry about all the time but get blown out of proportion by myself. Things like: worrying about keeping my job, whether everyone can be made to like me, will I ever find my purpose in life, am I going to die of cancer, whether I have enough to retire on, etc. etc.

The likelihood of social collapse due to global climate change has freed me from all that.

The one thing I have learned is not to worry about things that are out of my control and climate change and societal collapse are WAY out of my control.

And to add something else that must be admitted: the medications I am on make it very easy for me not to worry about things I can’t control. The downside is that I’m unable to experience joy.

It’s a necessary tradeoff, unfortunately. Me unmedicated is not good for myself or anyone else.

I have dark thoughts sometimes

I’ve spent a lifetime vainly trying to find a mission. Climate change and societal collapse has given me one: you’re reading it. And my podcast as well.

Why do I do it?

Because I can and do feel terrible for the people mentioned in this article because I used to worry as they do – to the point of being all but dysfunctional. It’s not their fault – worrying about having your future cut short is very legitimate.

Being something of an empath, I don’t have to personally know the people in the article to image the pain they are in. Everything I do now is an attempt, in some small way, to help them.

I believe we must not lie about what is coming. My greatest fear, one I still possess, is being blindsided by bad news. Setting people up to be blindsided by the sudden realization that climate change and its attendant societal collapse was not a Socialist plot by evil scientists is going to hit people very hard.

Not that people shouldn’t protest or do what they can on a local level to help the earth, but we need to be realistic: for every tree we plant, Brazil cuts down 30 and the industrialized nations pump untold millions of cubic tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the threat of a giant methane threat looms. And with Trump and Johnson in charge of the US and the UK, things will just get worse.

Physically, most people can bear a surprising amount of pain and stress. Mentally, things are a different story nowadays. Western societies, especially the US, have given their people the expectations that each succeeding generation will have it better than the one before, technology will free us from our mundane existence and provide us with so many wonderful toys, and human progress is measured in an ever-increasing GDP which will one day make everyone rich.

or not. . .

The whole idea that everything in that preceding paragraph set us up for this disaster is something people are not handling well. They shouldn’t be expected to.

This is not license for people like me to run around pointing at people and screaming ‘you’re all gonna die and you deserve it you bastard Capitalists!’

Most people simply believed what they were told. And why would the government and corporations lie to us? In the absence of other competing information, what were people to think? Surely a climate Armageddon seems so far-fetched!

Although I consider myself an agnostic now, I was raised Catholic. In Catholic school, while my eyes glazed over during most classes, it seems that Catholic social teaching, derided as it was at the time by many of my classmates, stuck. And the whole ethos of Catholic social teaching can be summed up thusly: ‘we are made for service to care for all men.’

The masses of people are going to have a hard time imagining their hopes, dreams and aspirations being cut cruelly short. They deserve our care and sympathy, not derision. The denialists, well, OK, they deserve derision, but ordinary people need care.

I’m 56 years of age. It’s easy for me to say I’ve had a good run. But for my sons, for your children, for those embarking on their adult lives, for lives of those being born now, this is a monstrous thing.

Even if we can hold civilization together for 10 years or more, our children will remember these times of relative plenty as they live on a globe radically different than the one they knew just a scant decade ago.

What will we tell them? How will we prepare people for this? How do we ease the pain of knowing, of realizing? How can we nurse humankind into their fate?

There’s an oft-quoted line from the movie Braveheart: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

And there’s another, just as important: “I’m so afraid. Give me the strength to die well.”

Pennsylvania irregular militia, c. 2039

Regarding the first quote it is imperative that we assist people, not to stand in frozen terror, but to go out and live as they have never lived before; to try everything they’ve ever wanted to do; go everywhere they’ve wanted to go. If you feel called to devote the remainder of your life to the Earth through Extinction Rebellion or another group – great! Bucket lists must be honored. Enemies must be forgiven. We must reconcile ourselves to whatever spirituality we seek. For the love of all that’s holy – live with reckless abandon. The future truly is now.

Climate dystopia? You’re living in it!

As to the second one, if what I have suggested people do in the paragraph above is done well, then dying well, whenever and however it comes, will come with satisfaction of a life, perhaps shorted than we envisioned, but just as well lived as any longer.

When I was in Catholic elementary school, we had a nun who taught math to the junior high grades. In our intentions said at the beginning of class, she would make us all pray for a happy death.

Happy happy death death happy happy death. . .

As you can imagine, this was quite a shock to 13-year-olds. But as she explained it, the concept was very important. In her mind, when the time came, we should look with favor upon our lives as servants to God and God would look favorably upon us and, thus, we had nothing to fear from death but only the grand expectation of an eternal afterlife.

For those of us not Catholic or Christian, a ‘happy death’ can mean being reconciled to all that is good in your life, forgiving yourselves and others of transgressions, and having a minimum of regrets to how one has spent their time on Earth. Or it can mean whatever the bloody Hell you want it to mean.

I know one day that I will face the fear that my medication and psychology has buried. Until that time, I must do what I can to help people with the transition.

So, I dedicate this to all of healers of the Earth, of humanity, the people in the helping professions, all those who believe they are their brothers’ keeper. We all have work to do.

Yeah, I know, it’s Doreen Virtue, but I wanted to throw some niceness out there