What follows is a (perhaps) optimistic
rumination on 2012.  It is the second
of two essays on the topic, the
first tending
toward pessimism.

 

Well, it's all over. We have to start from
the beginning, asking one another what's going on.
–Umberto Eco

 

One of the minor indignities of being a novelist is that
periodically your publisher prods you into pimping yourself out to peer writers
to beg for blurbs.  As a
consequence of this, I once approached a favorite non-fiction writer of mine to
meek if he might be willing to offer a testimonial to my second novel, to which he curtly dismissed,
"I don't have time for fiction." 
Dejected, I thanked him and slunk away, and later, when I relayed this
encounter to my girlfriend, she told me I should have riposted, "Oh, you haven't
yet realized?  Everything is fiction." 

In the sense that all concepts are constructions, artifices reduced
from the onslaught of the all and everything, everything is inescapably fiction. 
And this makes us characters, incidentally — clueless characters, usually — and
the roles and identities we take so dreadfully serious are but the impassioned characters
of some all the world's a stage divine
drama. Our lives are bookended by silence, the pages in between are the only
opportunity we'll ever have to say anything, and most of us surrender our voice
before we ever realize that we have one. 
How's that for a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing?  If life is a fiction, it's a surreal,
dystopian, tragicomic satire that we populate, and the truth is stranger than
fiction indeed.

We're going to return to that notion, but first let us orient
ourselves.  I suspect that many
persons — in contemplating the prophecies surrounding the winter solstice of
2012 — have found themselves double-minded. 
I certainly have, and I think it's a perfectly reasonable response.  So that I don't waste time on exhaustive
disclaimer, I invite you to read the first
essay in this dyad
prior to this one. 
In it, I attempted to reveal the reasons for my own uneasy pessimism
regarding the ascendancy of the 2012 meme in millennial discourse.  In so doing, I hoped to voice my own
misgivings, as well as to soothe that side of the conversation.  But now let me also confess that I know
something of the sensation — perhaps the spirit — that has stimulated all of this.  I won't pretend to know exactly what
I'm talking about here, but yes, there is an inexplicable beckoning haunting
the human psyche.  I have felt it
myself, it has inspired my own writing, and it was quickening long before the beatific
blarney of Terence McKenna or the garish marketeering of a hundred different
writers on the topic.

Sociologically, there is every reason to recognize not only that
we are on the cusp of transformation, but that we are smack in the midst of its
maelstrom.  Social structures
conceived on the basis of flawed assumptions about the nature of reality are shuddering
asunder.  No less an institution
than the global economy — ultimately that system of symbols and social roles that
we depend upon to effectively distribute goods and services amongst ourselves — is
wheezing under the weight of its own contradictions, and like a bloodsnot
cokehead desperately snuffling booger sugar in order to inflate a decayed self-worth
and avoid a hard slam reckoning with a destructive addiction, our own governments
desperately inflate corrupted institutions in order to postpone their own rock
bottom crash.  Meanwhile, the
ecosystems of the Earth — for which our social structures are supposed to mediate
an adaptive relationship — evolve according to nature while our structures, again,
steadfastly refuse to admit their unbearable irrelevance.  From peak oil to global hotting, it
requires neither shaman nor social theorist to sense that the human species is
growing increasingly vulnerable to the obsolescence of its own adolescence.

Then, as if these proximate crises were not stressful
enough, far-flung catastrophes having to do with solar storms, geomagnetic pole
reversals, collapsing electrical grids, errant meteors, supervolcanoes, aliens,
and so on circle humanity
like vultures over a parched animal, wringing the hands of some and driving
others into the self-sabotage of apocalyptic apathy.  Simultaneous to all of this, however, the flabbergasting
pace of the emergence and evolution of new communication technologies renders
futures incomprehensible a scant decade ago.  As social structures are little more than emergent
properties of human communication, communication is where our novelty, and
hence our hope, must ultimately emerge. 
Our communicative powers are our species' greatest evolutionary
advantage, diffusing innovation much more efficiently than genetic adaptation.  In this way, we retain the potential
for astonishingly rapid evolution, and this potential lies in our inherent
responsibility as storytellers.  In
short, we need to tell ourselves a better story.

Every word is a magic word, and by magic I mean to indicate the
devilishly clever crafting of illusions. 
It is through words, after all, that you were cajoled into identity — your
social location claiming to be you — and it is illusions such as this that
prevent us from simply abandoning the anachronistic patterns of interaction we
have inherited.  What fascinates me,
however, is that despite these all-encompassing social structures, something incomprehensible,
something ineffable, got loose.  In my previous
essay
, I termed this counterculture, and by counterculture I am not
referring to bohemian and/or revolutionary identity postures.  Rather, I am referring to the domain of
consciousness that exists outside of and contrary to all cultural pretension. 
Counterculture exists between chaos and eternity and nowhere we can
point, and in the mid-twentieth century, born from the bang of war, counterculture
broke loose, surfing the shockwave of nuclear fission and gracing a stagnant
and staggering civilization with a tsunami of novelty, a tsunami that claims to
crest sometime around the winter solstice of 2012.

Despite the resentments of culture, counterculture provides
Promethean potentials to the human condition.  Counterculture is a chaos of information, and it is this
information that culture must access in order to evolve.  Culture resists counterculture, but
that's just human nature.  We quaff
a cup of chaos and immediately try to capture it, to knit it into our
hand-me-down veil of reality, permitting us to pretend that life is stable and
predictable.  But evolution is
neither of these things, and as this countercultural fringe frays further into
the center of a culture woven from nylon lies and polyester platitudes, the old
yarn that tangled us into this Gordian knot of self-interest begins to
disintegrate, and as the story unravels we discover all along that culture has
been a blanket, a security blanket, and that this scratchy, sweaty blanket has
grown quite threadbare, and thank god and thunder for that, for haven't we
suffocated long enough under the pretense that we are separate from one another,
that we are not lost in the same labyrinth?  Without that stifle, we are free, we can see, and we are
entirely unprotected from the dazzling sunshine of love.

For better or for worse, a spell has here been cast.  Whether by Mayan prophecy, astronomical
destiny, or the dilate and wild-eyed madness of chaos magicians, counterculture
in its various expressions has set before us evolutionary deadline.  In all likelihood — and especially when
we pretend that we are awaiting inevitability — this 2012 caprice is an
axle-groaning wagonload of bullshit, but then again, so is everything
else.  Language channels a deeper
magic than most of us know, and like it or not, this meme has gone mainstream,
and no amount of rolling eyes and heaving sighs will make it go away.  Welcome to the human condition, where
everything is fiction, and where just a couple of chapters ahead we have an
opportunity to write an unprecedented and unforgettable twist into our
story.  The question becomes
this:  Are we the authors of our
story or not?  Or more to the
point:  Are we going to finish what
we've started?

I don't think it's a bringdown to mention that nothing is
going to happen unless we make it happen, which is to say, in other words, that
the only true prophecies are self-fulfilling prophecies.  Certainly, obsolete structures will
continue to crumble as deeper, more fundamental networks of kith and kin continue
to surface, but this fantasy of global enlightenment, this notion of a
forward-escape, a shift, an awakening, a goddamn revelation — my friends, as much
as I would love to experience this, I sometimes wonder if such apocalyptic
romanticism is really nothing more than a desperate projection of our own individual
existential terror, taunting us with unfulfilled dreams. 

But then again, perhaps we are daring ourselves to be
something more. 

Consider the mutual synchronization of coupled
oscillators.  The term itself is obviously
abstruse, but the concept describes when pendulums in a row of grandfather
clocks fall into synchrony, or crickets fall into chorus, or fireflies fall
into sync.  It happens throughout
nature and at every level.  When
individual heart cells are placed in a Petri dish, for example, each heart cell
will pulsate to its own rhythm, at its own tempo:  some of them very rapid, some of them very slow, and of
course everywhere in between.  Once
a critical number of heart cells is reached, however, every one of the heart
cells falls into perfect synchrony with one another. We don't know how this
happens, not with pendulums, not with heart cells, but this synchrony is what
we experience as a heartbeat, and you can feel it right now if you put your
hand to your chest.

Here is where we find ourselves, then,
heart cells in a Petri dish, each of us pulsing our own maladroit egos, clumsy, alienated,
rude, confused,
until sometimes — typically when the structures of mind are sufficiently
shaken (as I have described elsewhere) — we fall into
sync with the universe around us, everything cascades into place, every
grief-stricken mishap makes perfect sense, and life sparkles with good fortune.  Such experience of synchronicity is the leading edge of an
expanded, non-local, universal consciousness, the Petri dish phenomenon writ
large, the macrocosmic reflection of the microcosm.  The dare, then, is this:  Can we trigger this Petri dish phenomenon at our
level of existence?  Can we hit
that critical mass where every heart falls into perfect synchronicity with
every other heart, right here, on this plane of existence, between the hearts
of billions?

I think it's worth a shot, and it's certainly preferable
to the alternative of continuing to fulfill the obligations of pointless
careerism perfectly committed to the systematic dismantling of the planetary
ecosystem.  The only real obstacles
to humanity's evolution are our own social structures, which are actually only
the habits of living that we inherited and which have little to do with our
current circumstance. 
Counterculture offers us a key to our proper future, and any survey of the
various incarnations of the countercultural impulse finds music at its center.  This is revealing.  Mathematicians brag that theirs is the
only universal language, but mathematics is only a representation of the one
language that never needs to be taught to be understood, and that is music.  Music is the language that transcends
culture, and music provides the rhythms that can unify our hearts.  After all, what would the countercultural
revolutions of the 1960s have been without music?

To wit: 
What would happen if we could arrange a hundred million people, at
thousands of parties across the planet, dancing at the same time, to the same
rhythms?  Might this trigger
transcendental chaos, the unified heartbeat of the human spirit?  Probably not, for I myself suspect that
this is all so much sophistry, but if nothing else we would have
succeeded in writing an unprecedented twist into our story, a localization of
globalization cultural touchstone sufficient to satisfy any prophecy.  We would have manifested a spectacle
equal and opposite to the vacant consumerism of the Superbowl or the thrilling horror
of 9-11, and we would have proven — if only to ourselves — that we are not a
species of insipid and uninspired hacks, that we are rather the courageous
authors of an outstanding story, that there is no script in this life, and that
we can do anything we want. 

It's a pie-in-the-sky utopian scheme if ever
there was one, but isn't that what this 2012 business has always been
about?  For that matter, if we're
willing to settle for one million ecstatic dancers the first time out, it's not
even far-fetched.  Actually,
it's a streaming webcast, some mirror servers, and some fine-tuning to account
for transmission delays across time zones away from what Earthdance already attempts with its annual
festival, though despite its impressive name Earthdance doesn't take it any
further than a synchronized prayer, and I hope I don't fracture any porcelain
butterflies when I say that a whomp heard round the world carries considerably
more fuck-yeah than an earnest and brow-furrowed Prayer for Peace or a
Rainbow-Gathering-inspired hokey-pokey Global Om.  Imagine every venue hosting its own regional event but
having the opportunity to download the rhythm of the planet at the determined
time, with every venue linked via live video feeds randomly projecting on to
the screens of every other venue.  Imagine
100 million people simultaneously dancing across the planet to the same rhythms,
baby. 

Or whatever.  Maybe it’s a stupid idea, or maybe there are technical
challenges I haven’t considered.
Admittedly, I've cribbed some of this from the climax of Nine
Kinds of Naked
, and as I write this my mind makes a surprise lateral
association to Martha and
the Vandellas
, but I don't actually care if we throw this party at the end
of time or not.  The point is that we're
going to have to do something, and we — and only we — must find a way to awaken
from the long slumber of our history. 
We sort of know that we are paralyzed in our sleep, we kind of hope for
angels or aliens to gentle us awake, but there is nobody in the universe that can
remember who we are except our own selves.  So as for the winter solstice of 2012, my wish is that we
don't sit around on fifty-pound sacks of quinoa cleaning rifles and pretending
that a piece-of-shit diesel Mercedes, a stash of hash and tobacco, and all the
money spent on kickboxing lessons are about to become supremely relevant in a Cormac
McCarthy war of all against all. 
My wish is that we abandon the patterns of the past, that we wake up to
the truth of our own love for one a-lonely-other, and that we realize that
there is no tragedy so tremendous that it will fail to find its silence in the
emptiness of this eternity.  Bam,
boom, and kapow, the rockets may fire, the sirens may wail, and all of it — and
all of us — never more than the echoes of passing shadows.

 

Image by [email protected], courtesy of Creative Commons license.