I’m presently at the intensive for my Ph.D. program at at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, in the Transformative Studies program. The intensives themselves are held at the beginning of each semester at the Best Western Lighthouse Hotel at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, a suburb on the Pacific coast, just a bit south of San Francisco.
Though it is nice to spend time close to the Pacific Ocean, the hotel rooms are very nice, and it is nice to meet my fellow students, these intensives are not easy for me. They mean a week away from my cat, which she doesn’t understand; a week of enduring a roommate (both of whom so far have snored loudly, piercing even the better earplugs) when I’m used to privacy; and a week of trying to sustain myself on hotel-catered buffets which, as a vegan, I find completely inadequate.
This morning, I awoke early, realizing that my dreaming consisted of attempts to understand my roommate’s snoring as language. And as I recognized the futility of that, I turned to other seemingly futile questions: What will my area of inquiry be? What will be the topic of my dissertation?
I have recently been struck by a severe discrepancy between policymaking and what might be called a common reality, the latter being that which we share with each other and forms a common ground for interaction. And I have been struck by the unwillingness of our governing structures to respond to that reality rather than to a prevailing ideology which serves elite interests in the short term but apparently dooms all of humanity to extinction within 100 years.
As an anarchist, I should advocate that more ordinary humans should take matters into their own hands, but apathy and acquiescence seem to be our only answers to criminal regimes determined to retain power.
And so, as I contemplate that remaining 100 or so years, my thoughts turn to Easter Island and, if I remember correctly, the Mayans, societies which failed to respond to crises of unsustainability. As my roommate (who, for all I know, might care deeply about these issues) goes on snoring, I am wondering if there are any societies in human history that have responded adequately in the face of impending doom. And how we might extrapolate upwards from these examples to our entire species.
I am told that esotericists argue that the disconnect between reality and policy is in fact endemic to the human condition. If that’s the case, one might wonder if our species is even capable of responding to an existential threat.
At least this roommate shares my love of the ocean and an appreciation for cooler temperatures; he actually prefers leaving open the sliding glass door that overlooks the ocean. This beautiful earth which, for the moment and despite the abuses we have heaped upon it, continues to sustain us might indeed be better off without us. But my cat reminds me that humans have taken a lot of other life forms along for this ride; they too will pay a heavy penalty as the factors which now combine for our benefit recombine to produce a new order.
In a better species, that might be cause for reflection.