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    Dread in the Fall and Making Hay While the Sun Shines

    Twirling round with this familiar parable,
    Spinning, weaving round each new experience,
    Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this 
    Chance to be alive and breathing…
    This body holding me reminds of my own mortality,
    Embrace this moment, remember we are eternal,
    All this pain is an illusion…

    -Tool, Parabola

              Fall is quite the spectacular time of year here in West Sonoma county.   The temperature drops, the sun sets further south and earlier on the horizon, the first rains arrive, washing away some of the colorful foliage and inducing verdant new growth in the countryside and hills.   The farmers harvest the last of their vegetables before their farms fall dormant.  Rafters of turkeys wander through green orchards where lingering red apples cling to the branches, squirrels gather their nuts for the winter, and the hawks and buzzards patrol crisp blue skies through which white clouds billow and drift. 

              The fall serves as a reminder that life can be ephemeral and transient, and that we have a limited amount of seasons in our lives to explore, create, and improve ourselves before it’s too late and we’ll have moved on or become too feeble, decrepit, or dead to do anything exciting or constructive. Often in the fall or spring, when the landscape is lush and flowing with water, I remark to myself that I must venture through the nearby Mayacamas Mountains while the peaks are vibrant and the foothills are still green, thereby capitalizing on the brief window of time preceding the arrival of the dry season which desiccates the land.  Alas, I continue on my drive to work day after day, rationalizing my deferment by concluding that there’s always next year.  Similarly, I’ll watch a blazing neon sunset from the windows of my work and vow to be at the coast to bear witness to the next one, but that opportunity fails to surface.  The whales and birds migrate, the trees lose their leaves (I almost said feathers), dreams and goals pine away, ships sail over the horizon as twilight falls upon the wasted day, and the topsy-turvy world is plunged into utter darkness. The fall seems to brings a melancholy sense of closure to the year, proclaiming: “Better luck next time, buddy.”

              Yet there is another, more optimistic perspective and message bestowed upon us by the fall.  And that is that it is not the end of anything but merely a part of an ongoing seasonal cycle that has no beginning or end.  Instead of signs of death, the barren trees, decomposing leaves, and frosty mornings should be celebrated at harbingers of life, for they assure us that the cycle is underway and is operating correctly.  Furthermore, while dreary autumnal weather sweeps across the region, the sun is still shining above the overcast skies and basking over other parts of the planet enjoying their warm springs or hot summers. So in that sense, the message of the fall is: “Make hay while the sun shines, appreciate the rain, spring is right around the corner.  Here are some mushrooms.” 

              Underlying or contributing to any mistakes or poor decisions that we’ve made in our personal lives, a greater, more comprehensive sense of emotional dread and anxiety derives from the uncertainty of the stability and direction of our society, species, and its negative impact on the natural world. It is just a matter of time before a major economic crisis (perhaps related to an ecological one) or serious breakdown of order strikes, so the best we can do seems to be working toward securing adequate practical possessions (property and material), capital (both social and physical), survival supplies, and useful skillsets in order fend for ourselves and loved ones during any downturn or strife.  A sense of dread also lies in the frightful and somehow increasingly probable prospects of nuclear weapons being used by warring nations.  What then? If we do not die in the impact or aftermath of a nuclear blast or holocaust, how would we endure a nuclear winter?   (We can’t all flee to New Zealand).  The answer is we could not and would not survive.  Our species would have made the ultimate mistake and it would be game over.  While it is true that over 99 percent of all species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct, a nuclear slugfest would be the most efficient method of expediting the implementation of this statistic so that it would apply to homo sapiens as well.   With such great uncertainties looming before us and the many other marvelous creatures with whom we share this planet, what are we to do?  Due to my hypocrisy and selfishness, I’m the wrong person to ask. Instead of doing anything to resolve the issues afflicting humanity and Earth in my free time I’m riding a motorcycle around the countryside and taking flying lessons.  I did pick up 12 Rules for Life though, and I think Jordan B. Peterson is on to something in the advice he offers:

    How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other?  The answer was this: through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone the shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path.  We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world.  We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated.  It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking everything.  But the alternative – the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual – is clearly worse. 

                                                                                           -Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos


    Some footage from my flying lessons:


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