Heat and Absolution

The storm clouds that hovered over this summer are finally dissipating. I’m very happy to report that my family member, who fell ill in July, is making a banner recovery. Everyone’s thrilled at how well she’s doing, not least of all her. If you were one of those who sent thoughts, prayers, and offerings to The Goat God, then thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Those manifestations brought a good person back to her loved ones.

It’s alarming how emergencies constrict our lives. Suddenly, everything else comes second. We humans are engineered for crisis situations and we adapt to them without much of a second thought, at least, when they’re right in front of us. We don’t do so well with abstract, huge-picture stuff that requires us to think long-term. I think that’s why it’s so hard for people to realize what a dire situation we’re all in right now. We’ve lit a fire under ourselves and now we’re cooking. Things are heating up fast.

I mean, of course, that we are global warming ourselves to possible extinction. And that I’ve got a full head of steam.

The exact fire that is happening under my ass right now is fueled by the 500-page environmental report, originating from the Trump administration, that explains the following line of logic:

  1. The environment is completely fucked.
  2. Cars are cheaper if they have low fuel standards.
  3. Since the environment is fucked anyway, let’s eliminate fuel standards and all get lots of cheap cars!

WaPo does a pretty good summary in case you don’t feel like slogging through a Robert Jordan novel’s worth of sniveling capitalist nihilism. Want to hear the craziest part? Fuel standards save so much money in the long run that it’s actually more economical to buy a pricier car with better fuel efficiency up-front. So standards actually help the consumer. Dude! It’s like they don’t actually care about how these things impact us!

Because the car bit is definitely the crux of that story.

I kid! The crux, my friends and others, is that our government has decided that we may as well just lie down with paper bags over our heads and await the end. Because they do believe in the end. Seven degrees of warming is the end for large parts of the Earth’s surface, the end for millions of human beings, the end of our comfortable lives as we know them. It’s also a beginning of a world of hurt that could ultimately snuff us. But hey, let’s sell some gas! Priorities, people. The quarter’s ending and the shareholders must be appeased or they will reveal their fangs and desanguinate us all.

I want to signal-boost this appalling craven perfidy because I was raised to believe that giving up is not the American way. It’s not even the human way! Even when things are hopeless, do we throw up our hands? Do we go quietly? Obviously not. As a species, we’re notoriously pugnacious and obstinate. Is this going to be the one and only time that we fail to fight something? Are we that greedy, that short-sighted, that cowardly that we won’t stand up to the people who care more about the profit-go-round that they’re stuck on than about the future of their species?

Let’s stop arguing with each other on this and do something about it. Climate change is clearly real and clearly caused by humans. The White House just said so itself. So let’s bug our governments and raise hell in the streets. Let’s ditch our cars and take the train. Let’s not be taken in by “natural” gas, which is methane, which is a way stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Let’s demand, demand, demand. Time to be super obnoxious about this!

And on that note, allow me to get a trifle religious on you.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I’m a pagan. I believe that Nature is the closest thing we’ve got to a god. It rewards us like a god, and it punishes us like a god, and it doesn’t listen to human appeals. If we screw up the climate, it’ll let us snuff ourselves with no sentimentality either way. I don’t expect a chance to ever explain myself at a set of pearly gates. This is it. This is what I’ve got. So for my part, I want to make it count. I want humanity to see another five hundred thousand years. I want us to survive this. That’s why I care about climate change.

However, I also grew up Catholic, and I think I know why some people resist the idea that we could wipe ourselves out. I’ve heard more than a couple Christians argue that none of this climate change nonsense matters because Jesus is coming back soon. OK. I acknowledge that this could be true, and I could be wrong, and God could be a real human-like person who is right now coming to get his buddies. But what if he does come back, sees the mess we’ve made, and decides we’re too damn immature? Is he going to let the good Christians go trash Heaven? Why would he tolerate irresponsible slobs whose idea of a good time is screwing all the other Earthly life forms – you know, the ones they were given responsibility for in Genesis 1:26? Why would he have compassion for those who did not have compassion for their own great-grandkids? It just doesn’t seem like behavior that a responsible parent would appreciate. Why would a parent reward a child for fatally messing up their room, killing their pets through neglect, and causing floods that left them huddled on the bed screaming about how none of this was their fault?

Just food for thought.

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Water vs. God

One of the interesting things about keeping company with pagans is the reaction of non-pagans when they find out. I have heard more Wicker Man jokes, I swear to God, than I have nickels in the bank right now. When I mention that I have pagan friends, others have adopted a frightened, froglike attitude, leaping mid-conversation into the pond of Hollywood and coming up with this gem: “They worship Satan?!

Know what? Some do. Why not? As far as I’m concerned, he’s just as made-up as the other guy. But most pagans I know take what I think is the healthiest of all possible approaches and worship nature. For example, water. I know people who worship water. Let’s face it: God’s not 70% of your body. Satan isn’t, either! If those guys exist, then they are basically powerful versions of yourself who don’t choose to talk to you. Do you not have enough of that in your life? Water’s there for ya, baby. Have a nice cool glass and thank those wonderful little molecules of H2O. Water water water. Delicious source of life. Mmmmmm-mm.

The best part is that water doesn’t care if you dance around and have a ceremony. It just wants you to be part of the great Water Cycle. Your worship can be as simple as a nice, chill lemonade on the front porch followed by a pleasant and satisfying bathroom run. On the other hand, you can get super intense: the quality of water can be destroyed by thoughtless human actions, including farm runoff and hydrofracking. You could campaign for water. Protect water. Save water! When did you ever get to save God? Never, that’s when. God insists on saving you but can’t take it in return. Red flag much? True: you can try to shout down people who are anti-God or try to convert people who dislike God, but theoretically those actions aren’t going to endanger God’s safety because nothing can do that. God literally doesn’t need anything from you. He wants you to do stuff, but if you don’t, it’s not him who will suffer for it.

Nevertheless, he will magnanimously save you from your own wickedness and idiocy time and time again, though he doesn’t actually do anything to stop you from making bad decisions. In fact, the more bad decisions you make, the more contact with God you get to have. Or have to have. It’s unclear what God gets out of all this. If he had an equal amount of faith in you as you have in him, he might actually talk to you now and then, but the deprivation experience sets you up for an undue amount of anxiety and the very real potential that you’ll be exploited by someone who says they’re talking to God when in fact they just want your money. Furthermore, I don’t trust the savior shtick. My experience suggests that people who continually engineer situations where they get to rescue you from a danger of which you were not aware often have something else going on that involves tapping into your inherent sense of obligation. Why not just come right out and ask for what you want? Unless, of course, what you want is horrifying. If you do successfully make God the center of your entire life, he might (might!) let you spend the rest of eternity praising his name. If you leave God alone and try to live your life on your own terms, he’ll get mad and torture you for the rest of time.

Suffice to say that God is not my cup of tea.

Water, on the other hand, just wants you to be hydrated. And to be nice and clean, of course. Water is my cup of tea in every possible way. I am drinking water in an actual cup of actual tea right now. Water is currently making me feel absolutely great in exchange for my active participation in the ecology. And I even get to steep tasty stuff in it! Hail water!

I realize that not everyone’s concept of God is going to focus on the deranged omnipowerful narcissist model that I outlined above. God loves us, God wants us to be happy, God is a construct that maintains a social structure through personal accountability and large monetary donations to religious institutions, etc. Believe it or not, I grew up with God, so I do understand the draw. It’s an awesome feeling when the guy in charge of your parents says that you’re absolved of all your personal flaws just because you really want to be. It feels great to know that God loves you even though everyone at school calls you a dorkus and your parents are fighting all the time. If you can imagine God watching you all day long, maybe you’ll have an easier time hanging onto sobriety, marital faithfulness, or your diet. If God works for you, matzel tov. God has many fine qualities.

However, I’m sticking with water. It’s tastier and has more interesting chemical properties. It’s more versatile than God and its wisdom is in its very nature. I feel like I can learn a lot about going with the flow from water, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. And I’ll keep my personal flaws, too, thank you very much.