Party Rule # 7: Respect the Host…
After requisite make-up Philly Cheese Steak omelets from the American Diner Pub, where we unceremoniously and unscrupulously scarf into our jowls copious amounts of thinly sliced sirloin, simply another regal animal sacrificed for humanity’s never ending hunger, Big J returns me to his rent-a-mansion and plays a movie he illegally downloaded called Encounters at the End of the World.
The movie portrays Antarctica during the summertime, where the sun never sets, the seals sing sweet melodies under the ice, and penguins rule the land. The movie’s filmmaker, Werner Herzog, was invited by the National Science Foundation to film the island during its summertime months to document the strange breed of animals residing there, including human.
Who knew Antarctica – the only land mass in the world not permanently populated by humans – is rife with life? The penguins wobble about, seals chill without fear, like fat Italian sunbathers on the Isle of Capri enjoying some sorbetto limone, and scientists shirk sleep in a summer camp-like atmosphere. Even the nomadic janitors are sophisticated philosophers possessing advanced academic degrees, in science, anthropology, engineering and/or botany. They search for truth, peace, friendship, all in the name of unlocking the mysteries life. By understanding life in one of the Earth’s harshest environments, they improve understanding of environmental change and life’s adaptive nature.
Accommodation: We are guests here, our time is temporary…
The movie explores fate and destiny: everything on the island, like everything on Earth, is constantly changing yet vitally linked. The animals, the people, even the ice are connected through the seasonal dance the Earth engages with the moon and sun. All forms are linked through the mutuality of matter and time, sharing in the collective knowledge and beauty of Earth. The distractions and zip of the modern world that seem to dampen our sense of connectedness are silent in the least inhabited place on Earth. There is a fellowship in the South Pole.
Extinction is a major theme. Typical of academics, they complain, but do little, opining that humanity’s injustice to the world are ringing loud and clear!
Like string theory, when objects interact and collide, the string enlarges. Humans are part of the Earth’s string, a larger history written in time that permits life to enjoy. The scientists in Alaska hypothesize that a system, as large as the Earth, will eventually revenge against the human parasite – large sink holes will emerge, like Guatemala, storms like Katrina, and the Earth swallows humanity, forcing down its pill. The Earth has more gravitas than the little flies that surround it and buzz about. Thus Karma dictates that the humans days’ are numbered, like the ice breaking away from the Antarctic continent.
Their argument, though emotionally appealing, is flawed. Realistically, humans, like an unchecked parasite that overtakes the host, may make their own environment uninhabitable, analogous to a virus or a cancer. The environment, in the end, may have no control. Through virulent petulance, the parasite exterminates the host and its other dependants. Both bodies are inevitably intertwined by time and space. Ironically, even the small can irrevocably alter the path of the large, reshaping its fate eternally. It is the law of the great parasite.
Romance, however, dictates that the Earth will best us and not vice versa, so at least our blue planet will not appear a dead red or yellow, like our neighbors.
Regardless, the movie predicts a bleak future similar to the Jetsons – a race of humans chasing from pollution into the sky in order to survive. The only animals are the Astros and other domestic slaves surviving in the air; wild animals extinct from the poisonous flood. What little animals are left reside underwater, in the dark. Markets have collapsed along with skyscrapers, and humans, lacking any credible currency, resort to theft and barter, bullets being the most valuable manna. Slowly, humanity dies from famine and a new Earth is born out of the ooze – slowly seeping. Hopefully, the critters return: with giant snakes, lizards, insects and fish, and the world starts over again, but with no humans, hominids, homosapiens.
Paradoxically, the world’s most sophisticated scientists and most fundamentally unscientific share the same dream: that of an eternal flood, the reckoning. Both fighting for hegemony, whether religious or scientific in world of extremes…
Ignoring the speculation – here is the truth from Encounters: A major era of human conquest is coming to a close. There are no longer physical the frontiers of land to conquer. Technology is the new frontier, guiding the journey into the human mind. Somehow in this new period of technological freedom that has the potential to end wide-spread famine and plague, humans find themselves and their nations increasingly clinging to the Western ideal of exploitation – ah mercantilism! This ideal has existed throughout human time, from Alexander, Rome, Hannibal, the Moslem and Christian Crusades, European Colonialism, and now Chinese Colonialism: a neverending history of exploitation of the weak in order to and gain fleeting wealth over the other. Now, man has set its eyes upon animals, the fish, the apes, and everything else that cannot fight our tools. This corporate monoculture of mercantilism threatens not only biological diversity but human diversity as well. At this point in our existence, our actions are effecting the global environment; the macrocosm. Destruction of the dodo bird was on an isolated island. The bubonic plague did little to threaten the world’s population because of the lack of airplanes.
The trillian dollar question is – will humans use technology to manage the planet, save culture, conquer the mind, physics, and space, or will technology catalyze the end? Doesn’t matter because I’m still standing here…and so are you…
The bus driver in Encounters, Scott Rowland, tells the story that he formerly worked as a banker in New York City, until, circa age 30, he looked at his life and realized he was not following his yearning. Quitting his job, he joins the Peace Corps, traveling to South America to support indigenous populations, whose blood lines and history have long been altered by that of the white conqueror. By traveling the world and interacting with humans across the globe, he has found peace with himself and his environment. In the summers, he drives the bus in Antarctica.
His journey made me highly queasy – having lived with the notion that I had chosen my path, chosen to toil my days high in an ivory tower, overlooking the masses, yet able to leave at any moment. This illusion looped as a tape in my head that seemed credible and coherent, and it justified my existence. Observing this traveler, who followed his impetus to allow the world to lead him where it may, made me highly uneasy. Suddenly, my life lacked more meaning and direction than it ever had previously, and, for the first time, I recognized myself as a slave to the American Dream.
I could not watch the end; I found it too depressing, not only because of the subject matter but also the principle the movie criticizes. For the first time, I recognized myself as a hypocrite and fraud, not a free man as lauded by our founding fathers, but as a slave to the system in which I reside, whereby my task in life is merely to print papers and further distort the face of the earth. Disheartened, I ask Big J to drive me to the train station – I have to go to a birthday party, beads and all, as the time was quickly getting away from me. Later that week, while at work, from a skyscraper looking down on the city and world around me, cars whipping around Logan Circle, whisking up 676 and flying to the Philadelphia Art museum, wizzing past the stolen artifacts surrounding them in a dilapidated former capital city, the Scott Rowlands of the world haunted me: your life is meaningless – so what will you do about it? I called Big J in a state of panic – I can’t do this anymore! I told him. That f—-cking bus driver in that movie freaked me out, saying that the corporate world is meaningless…
“Yes, but if all life lacks meaning, then what are you worried about.”
“No, you’re missing the point; I always thought that by working hard, you could get somewhere – make something out of yourself; that it would increase my freedom, but it’s done the opposite. I’m trapped every single day. I need to follow my dream. Do something that’s meaningful to me, like join the peace corps.”
“So you’re going to join the Peace Corps?”
“No! I’m going to do what I do best – I’m going to party! I’ve understood that my goal on earth is to become the world’s biggest party boy.”
“But you can’t do that – you’re not the world’s biggest partier. You’re not Paris Hilton. You’re working every-day at 8:30 AM, living at home, and can’t even afford to move out of your parents’ house.”
“You’re right, I would probably need a trust fund. Fuck that though. Paris Hilton doesn’t know how to party. She’s not an everyday partier. I’m going to take it to the people and show the masses how to party. The whole point is that you don’t party like Paris Hilton. She has everything taken care of when she goes out. People like you and me, we’re the real party people. Besides, if I can’t be the world’s biggest party boy, then I’ll document it. I’ll follow others and document them. I will teach others how to party, but not like some dumbasses, to party right. Respect the Earth, while fighting for the right to party.”