Countdown to December 21, 2012

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‘Incense’ by Mayank Chhaya. The illustration has no relevance to the post just as the post has no relevance to anything. I have used it because this is my latest artwork, if you can call it that.

Starting today I have set this wholly artificial weeklong countdown to December 21, 2012, when, according to a hazy Mayan prophecy, Earth is supposed to end.

In order to give it specificity of time I have told myself purely out of a macabre sense of amusement that Earth would end precisely at 3.12 p.m. on December 21, 2012, my time. By my time I mean whenever the clock strikes that hour and minute at whichever place I am.

As the firs piece of this countdown, I would like to reproduce what I wrote on July 30, 2012 because I think it takes a view beyond the immediate destruction supposed to have been prophesied by the Mayans. It also sets the mood.

Many of my friends found the post unsettling because they thought it was bereft of natural human sentimentality. Being devoid of natural human sentimentality, I would grant them that point of view. Here is that piece:

I don’t think the purpose of any celestial body, particularly planets and moons, is to engender, nurture and perpetuate life.

Life may be an incidental byproduct of complex processes and fusions taking place between naturally occurring elements but I have never been convinced that it is a deliberate outcome. The notion that creating and supporting sentient life, namely you and I and everything that is alive on our own planet, is fundamental to why the earth exists is absurd. It is not as if we are the primary concern of our home planet.

I have thought about this theme for quite some time but lately my interest has been intensified by, of all things, a particularly strong summer in America. When the trees in my yard started shedding brown leaves some weeks ago and the grass turned scraggy yellow because of the temperatures remaining steady in the 90 degrees F. it struck me that the earth has no vested interest in preserving itself in our best imagination. It is nothing but one relentlessly unstable system that is forever responding to its most unstable features at any given time. There is no grand destiny built into it.

The ease with which it can create and destroy itself in part or in whole ought to be profoundly unsettling to those who believe in the larger purpose to not just the earth but everything that surrounds us in the universe. I never believed in the school of thought that attributes a larger purpose to our existence and, as I grow older, I do even less.

The near drought-like conditions that many parts of America are experiencing merely tell me that the earthly climate does whatever it needs to to respond and adjust to the conditions prevailing at a particular point. It pays no attention to what its consequences might be for the glorious sentient life that envelops it. It can never be an equal or emotional relationship between the planet and those who live on and off it. For instance, unremittingly beautiful flowers can wither in a matter of hours because of the heat wave and the earth will be none the sadder for it.

Respect is not mutual in the earth-life equation in the sense that simply because we respect and even worship nature there is no guarantee that she will return the gesture. It is because the general time scale over which things unfold is so vast that we mistakenly attribute a degree of permanence to it all. One can always say that for all practical purposes we do live on a planet that is by and large stable in relation to individual life spans. However, there is no unique reason that in those individual life spans something enormously disruptive cannot happen which is big enough to change the course of this planet in a very real sense.

The fundamental point of this odd rumination is that the earth does what it does without any particular regard for what it may mean for sentient life. That truth has to hold everywhere in the universe as well. The destiny of the universe is not necessarily to conceive life and then do its absolute best to sustain it and ensure that it attains a higher level of existence. To put it succinctly, the universe does not give a damn about our feelings and aspirations. It does what it does because that’s all it can do.

P.S.: It would be pointless to look for anything cohesive in this little post. I just wrote it off the cuff.

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About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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