Meaninglessness Vs. Rewilding
Depression ain’t just for the economy. It sucks. I haven’t felt this depressed since age 20. At least, I haven’t felt noticeably this depressed since age 20. Age 21-24 I self-medicated using alcohol and cigarettes so I can’t clearly say what I felt during that time. But now, I don’t medicate at all, legal, illegal, prescribed or otherwise. I drink coffee for the occasional boost, like right now, in order to write this.
My mom asked me today if I always feel either up or down, with no just normal “hum-drum.” I told her that I never feel good if I don’t follow my heart. That when I have to do something boring that I hate, over a long period of time, I always get depressed. Since I rarely have the opportunity to follow my heart (aside from living off the now-extinguished inheritance for the last year and a half) I almost always feel depressed. She said that working a job she didn’t like felt hum-drum to her. I said it feels like slavery to me.
At the moment, I miss most of my friends in Portland. I miss drinking, club-hopping, dressing up, bumping into friends at bars, dancing, feeling like part of something bigger. I wonder how much of all that filled sincere social needs or just worked to distract me from my deep seeded depression. The last time I felt this depressed, I ate a healthy paleo diet, exercised a ton and didn’t do any drugs, but I did work at a shitty coffee shop wage-slave job while working my ass off trying to create a non-profit that went no where.
I often have thoughts about suicide. It seems a lot easier than existing sometimes. I’d probably have done it at age 11 (thinking of all those times I fell asleep with a knife at my wrist, eyes red and tired from crying myself to sleep) if I didn’t feel a stronger need to save the world. I hate this feeling of meaninglessness. Hopelessness. Despair. The regular, all-to-familiar bouts of anxiety that feel like a knife up under the sternum and lungs full of water, drowning in grief. I think about all the factors that add up. Moving out of the inner city, losing frequent contact with my best friends, working a wage-slave job that doesn’t use my best talents (even though I respect the company and support what they do), not speaking with my dad for seven months now. Add the weight of the world to that, and the grief gets too heavy to carry. I slip and fall, and I have trouble standing back up.
I often say that I come to rewilding regardless of collapse, and I do. I also come to it because I strongly believe that it works to stop environmental destruction and restore it. I rewild because it works as a means to an end, whether that end means surviving collapse or creating a better way to live or both. But when I read about ice caps melting and methane and positive feedback loops of climate change and that we can’t change things now, that it will all melt and release methane that will heat the planet up more and kill us all, wild or domestic, it makes me feel a kind of hopelessness and despair that I can barely articulate. While I no longer freak out about the apocalypse, I still have a ton of anxiety about the future. You won’t find me screaming on the street corner, but you’ll find me having trouble putting my clothes on in the morning. No matter how good or complete my life gets, no matter how much fun I have rewilding, I still struggle with a huge sense of impending doom and the feeling of meaninglessness.
On a large enough time line, everything happening in this moment has no relevance to the whole of time. Some day the earth will merge with the sun and everything alive today will have died long before. Does that make my life meaningless? If we look at life in a linear fashion, yes, it looks rather meaningless. If the methane heat apocalypse happens in 20 years, does that make this moment meaningless? In a linear sense, yes.
Civilizationist’s find purpose in progress, which they see as endless growth and expansion. We measure this progress with linear time; from “stone age” to “space age.” I find meaning and purpose in maintaining quality relationships with humans and other than humans. Ironically I also perceive this purpose through linear time; from “domestic” to the eventual “wild.” Most of the time rewilding still feels like a kind of progress to me, and that makes it feel meaningless when I hear that I may never live a wild life because the methane will heat up the planet so hot that we will all die, and all that “progress” towards creating cultures of rewilding mean nothing.
I don’t always struggle with this. For some reason when I sit on the earth in a quiet place and feel her with my hands, I imagine my death. I see my body decompose and return to the soil. My connection to any kind of progress slips away and I fade into cyclical time where humans don’t exist at all. I only see matter and energy constantly changing form. I realize that I don’t care about the survival of humans, nor any kind of life, we all came from the same source and will return to it. When I die, my body will change into something else. When the earth and the sun unite, the matter and energy that made me will become one with the sun.
Wild, animistic hunter-gatherers do not experience this purpose of maintaining quality relationships in a linear fashion, but in a cyclical one. This way of perceiving linear time vs. cyclical time feels a crucial part of rewilding to me. If I don’t see rewilding as a kind of progress, but rather making and maintaining relationships, it doesn’t matter whether or not everyone burns up. Of course, that would suck and carries its own grief, but it doesn’t lead to meaninglessness because life (depending on your definition of life), matter and energy, will continue. It feels difficult to see rewilding as non-progressive, since we feel so strongly the chains of domestication, and moving away from that feels like progress towards an end goal of living wild. I would say that rewilding means maintenance and not progress. Even indigenous peoples spent their lives “rewilding,” renewing their landscapes and psyches.
Animism, because it seeks to relate and converse with the world, rather than to define and control it, always renews itself. It wakes up every morning fresh and alive, and every evening it tucks itself to bed to dream again for the very first time. Since animism involves a relationship with the world, a living being that exists in the now, the present moment, what more relevant perspective could you find?
– Willem Larsen, The College of Mythic Cartography
These thoughts help me with the meaninglessness, but they don’t help me in the moment, because I still have to get up and carry the grief of civilizations devastation with me to my wage slave job. I see no one mourning for the collapse of salmon populations, though I spend hours sobbing over it, too sad, frustrated and hopeless to take action, legal or otherwise. Honestly I don’t know how people make it through this fucked up culture. I just don’t. A best friends death I can handle (for the most part). The death of the world? The threat of the death of the world? I don’t think humans come into the world equipped to handle this kind of grief. That any of us wake up and continue to live should show us our beautiful inherent resilience (or our great ability to deny reality!).
I wish I knew how to get over depression, how to process all this grief. I wish sweat lodges, tinctures, prozac, massages, acupuncture, alcohol, video games, television dramas, diets and blogging did more than temporarily relieve me from the pain. I mean, I know that if I got paid to rewild I wouldn’t feel as depressed. But I don’t know how to get paid to rewild, aside from what I do now. Of course, not having to pay for clean water, a place to live and store things, and all of my food would kick ass too. I think this grief and depression will just exist until civilization comes down and the stress of this system will no longer lock us in jobs we hate. I don’t know.
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