Oil spewing from the Deepwater Horizon's ruptured wellhead in 2010. (U.S. government photo)
As a general rule, musicians, artists, and writers, as well as those possessed of an ardor for self-awareness and a commitment to political activism have been advised to avoid a habitual retreat to comfort zones ... to take note of the criteria that causes one's pulse to quicken, brings flop sweat to the brow, causes sphincters to seize up, and delivers mortification to the mind.
In order to quicken imagination and avoid banality, it is imperative to explore the fears that cause one to awaken in the darkest of night to stare bug-eyed at the ceiling until dawn; to embrace discomfort; to shun crackpot complacency; to wander through the teeming polis of the psyche, and, in so doing, to not only stray and mingle among the outcasts, demimonde and mad, but proceed to the locked-down wards of the region's lunatic asylum, and make an exhausting inquest into the nature of the hopeless cases that have been hidden from public view.
My ruminations have been, in large measure, engendered and inflamed by the following: On Tuesday, Feb. 26, of this year, a son was born to my wife, Angela and myself.
August Franklin Rockstroh came into this world at a time when the planet he will inhabit is warmer than it has been in 11,000 years, a condition caused by the industrial production of man-made greenhouse gasses.
He arrives into an age wherein it is imperative that we as a species re-imagine nearly all we know. Thus far, from the halls of power to the floors of minimarts, our avidity for avoidance of the realities at hand does not augur well for humankind's chances.
Two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon, Macondo Well "spill" (what a dishonest word for that noxious, bleeding gash) into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I dreamed of a badly injured fish who had had half his face torn off by some brutal method employed by the practitioners of industrial scale fishing operations to exploit the world's oceans ... The fish had worked himself upon a rock on a craggy shoreline. Holding an eternity of suffering in his remaining eye, the fish turned to face me ... Ever since, this dream image has lived within me.
I carry the fish's suffering and I bear his dark rage regarding what our species has done to his/our home -- this complex, mysterious, beguiling, dangerous, sublime, monstrous, and magnificent world we were cast into ... My sense of sorrow, at times, seems unbearable; my rage ... bottomless ... Who will speak for the voiceless -- who will make amends for their suffering?
This much is clear: The means that sustain the present economic order not only defies moral justification (i.e., a culture dependent on the enforced misery of the multitudes and the wanton exploitation of nature) but the order has proven anathema to the balance of the earth's life-enabling forces -- a balance of forces mandatory to the continuance of the human species on the planet. The fate of the earth is inexorably linked to our personal destiny.
Deep down we know this to be true, but the atomizing nature of late capitalism inflicts learned helplessness. Social and political change seems impossible. Personal transformation is relegated to the realm of New Age snake oil. Human longing is deracinated. The Tree of Knowledge rendered a Chia Pet. The unruly call of destiny is bowdlerized into sterile careerism.
Yet, my newly arrived son, as we all do, will long to embrace his own authentic destiny.
The alienation at the mechanized heart of the corporate/consumer state's structure will present a daunting challenge to him, for it is difficult to live a life imbued with depth and resonance without meaningful human engagement.
Abiding bonds that bring the depth of oneself deep into life must be formed. A social milieu must be in place that allows for love and friendship, for coming upon mentors, for grappling with antagonists, whereby one is destroyed by catastrophic victories and enlarged by propitious failures.
Although every individual arrives at a fate uniquely his/her own, soul-making is a collaborative effort. Destiny only appears to be a solo act.
My character, like yours, is a composite of all the events, happenstance, and circumstances that transpired before, and after, I arrived in this world. It is resultant from the accumulation of my choices -- and the choices of those in positions of power and authority, over which, I am, all too often, powerless. But if you discern what I yearn for, you will know who I am.
One's destiny awaits just over the crest of the horizon. It is glimpsed in sublime snatches like a beautiful stranger who catches your gaze from a passing train. Yes, it sleeps within, but must be roused into being by interaction with the outer world. It awaits you in the vastness of life. The truth of your being is honeycombed into life's intricacies. As a general rule (Emily Dickinson accepted) one's destiny does not make house calls.
If character is destiny, the soul of the world is the catalyzing agent that conjures manifestation. While, to some degree, all who live are imprisoned by the past, it is best to be aware of what criteria brought about your incarceration to habit and circumstance.