Tag Archives: religion

Books: “The Ministry for the Future”

It’s the middle of February, and we haven’t had much rain – four dry weeks across January and February, in fact. There’s a high-pressure system that builds up across the North Pacific sometimes in the winter. This is two winters in a row we’ve had it, but it’s hard to pin this down in your memory, because this weekend last year a terrible ice storm broke trees up and down the Willamette Valley.

Climate change is tough to buttonhole, because it looks just a little worse than last year. Maybe it’s a 60-degree day in February but hitting a warm day now and then is just the frog in the warming water pot.

I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Ministry for the Future,” which outlines an astonishingly pseudo-bureaucratic response to the human-caused climate changes of today with a storming Normandy approach to reshaping the planet’s economy around carbon reduction with a hint of terrorism for good measure.

Most folks struggle to see climate change as anything other than a set of obscure consequences someone way down the road will have to deal with. I’m guilty of that myself when I celebrate these warm, February days where I can ride my bike in short sleeves well before the summer riding season begins.

After reading Robinson’s book, I tend to get a pit in my stomach on these nice days, knowing that the blue skies are anything but sunny. They are a dark omen of what a planet without defenses becomes in the light of a merciless star.

I try to stay grounded around climate change, because I grew up in the Evangelical church, where I was taught that the world is going to burn away, and God will create a new heaven and a new earth.

Nothing about that ever sat right with me from the first time I heard it. It sounded like a selling point more than a spiritual promise. It sounded like an excuse for capitalism and coal mining and human-caused extinction.

It didn’t pass the smell test and was one of many issues that ground my religion down to a fine, powdery nothing over the years.

But here I am, a former journalist working in conservation communication who believes in science as a process and the process of documenting climate change, and there they are, the millions of people who believe in the inevitability of the world burning away in fire.

How do you reconcile any of this? It’s like screaming into the void or explaining why a mask or a vaccine individually doesn’t help but they do when everyone participates.

And that’s the point of “The Ministry for the Future.” It plays around with the concept of convincing the winners and losers to work together, until millions of people are dead as consequences of a warming planet. Then it’s down to brass tacks, the horrific violence, the massive economic ruin and rebuilding and the total shift in society necessary bring the threat level back down to Defcon 1.

What sucks is standing here looking at the future and knowing just how much people are going to have to suffer, because the people standing next to me don’t believe the future exists.

All in the name of a probable mistranslation of one Holy text.

It’s maddening.

I won’t give the end of the book away but suffice it to say there it’s an exploration of probable solutions that grow more probable the more desperate we become. They’re too expensive now, and you still have millions of people who believe the world is going to burn away anyway, so you’d never convince them to pay for it. The hope that I took away from the book is that there are solutions out there we could be doing. And we will likely get there at some point, and all my wishing we could end the culture wars and get on with the business of saving the planet is just the reality of many people dying over the course of the next decades of climate change until that cost outweighs the costs of the solutions to slowing it down.

Seven Billion Lonely People

Top of the Rock – New York City

I got up and read the news like everyone else did. I stumbled towards the toilet realizing in a wash of feelings, that another bright light had gone out of the world while I slept.

I felt a little lonelier than I had when I had gone to sleep the night before.

Anthony, Kate, Robin, my uncle Peter, so many other bright lights gone away leaving the night sky a little colder for the lack of their bright lights in it.

We are so damn lonely, we make it thirty two years, fifty five years, sixty one years, and we can’t make it another day. It compiles in remarkable abundance in some pit within us until it consumes us.  Continue reading Seven Billion Lonely People

Allegory of the (Easter) Cave

mara_cave

The incessant babbling is wearing on my mind
as we stand here chained to the walls of this cave

The shadows dancing on the walls around us give rise
to all the speculation that a mind ensnared is capable of

And we pick and choose our favorite lies from puppet masters
and the Old Witness in our midst, clutched tightly to our chest

But if I stretch my neck far enough, I can see by the blackness within
that the stone was long ago rolled away, and you’re gone so long

The shroud is on our face, in our eyes, a sacred relic’s profane
turn as we covered ourselves in it in your absence

We’ll kill the next sun-blind fool who enters the cave
without realizing the stone was rolled away

We have nothing but dogma, but we clutch it close
to our breasts until it smothers us in righteous fervor

The few remaining shrubs that provide us oxygen are cut down
and made into brilliant execution devices

To further cull the wheat from the chaff, because
when we find that door, we’ll find it very narrow

And we wait for a sign, as described by a madman
on an island of loneliness in a sea of regret

These are not chains that bind us to these walls
they’re fears that grip us tighter than any alloy

And the greatest irony  of all isn’t that you came back
to the cave to show us the way out of the darkness

It’s that the cave is the first place we went to look for you
when all hope was lost and despair fell on us like rain

There is irony in the fact the stone was rolled away
we walked inside and killed the messenger

And chained ourselves to these walls to wait
for god knows what in ignorance and grief

And all this while, over centuries and millennia
the fact remains, the stone was rolled away

By Timothy Alex Akimoff
4.5.15

 

 

 

 

 

What The Old Won’t Tell You

The Old Couple

The grandfather looks like a Czech version of Robert De Niro, as he sits across the table from us quiet except for the jingle of the spoon in his glass of Fruko Schulz.

A gold tooth catches the light from the chandelier, and for a moment, there is a disco in the china cabinet where the Bohemian crystal catches it in a myriad of sharp angles and throws it around with all the predictability of a beach ball at a concert.

The wife makes drinks in a plastic measuring cup and offers us cold cuts and apricot cookies.

The mother sits across from De Niro father looking not just cross but physically uncomfortable, but we didn’t yet know she had spent the last 18 hours in the hospital with kidney stones.

Continue reading What The Old Won’t Tell You