Last night the subway was a beast. The air was hot, stagnant, bloody. Passengers bumping, kvetching. Connections glutted and tedious. Trains inching forward.
You say the subway was not the beast. It is my conception of the subway that is beastly. Change your mind–DIY-style–and you change the problem. Belching into rose petals. Problem goes away.
On the ride to Brooklyn, I happened to be reading David Orr’s ecology book Earth in Mind. The drumbeat: that technology won’t keep industrial capitalism from collapsing. At some point, the Hail Mary’s will miss their targets. And that got me thinking of this thing we made: of the factory quality of this worm underground; of the men who broke their lives digging these immense holes; of the utilitarian nature of mass transit; of the stock markets fluctuating by day and smoldering by night; of progress halting; and of my friends at the Dark Mountain Project bending down to set up tents at Uncivilisation in Hampshire. The festival starts this evening.
“Really sad I can’t make it,” I told Dougald.
“Yeah, shame you can’t be with us – feels like it’s going to be a real gathering of the tribe.”
In the US, self-help presents itself as a panacea for all that ails us. DIY, 10 tips for…, new studies on… Change your mind, change your well-being. It’s that simple. No, it isn’t. For we are connected to the earth and to all around us. This means: the state of the natural world will impact us just as we impact it; and the social world, being one way or another, will enhance our spirits or crush our stillness. For these reasons, our inquiry into ourselves–an examination of our mental state–must also be an inquiry into nature, society, and morality, into their interrelations. Therapy just won’t cut it. But neither will those other ends-around: technological breakthroughs and self-help plugs. None of these can replenish us because none of it goes to the heart of the thing.
Only philosophy can save us.