What are the chances?

by Yule Heibel on October 27, 2003

In the past weeks and even months, I’ve often felt this creeping sense of dread. It hasn’t stayed around long enough to be disruptive, but now I feel as though it’s beginning to stake out a more permanent presence. I don’t think I’m feeling an ordinary Monday blues — and I did have a fabulous Sunday, in which case a bit of a letdown could almost be expected. No, it’s more than that. For example, when I first noticed it, I actually thought it was my house manifesting malevolent intent. I’m not kidding. I imagined the first owner, the Widow Gibson, who only lived here for a year, hanging around. Or perhaps the Rabbi’s family had a bad experience here, and he or one of his family members is spooking around. Or maybe the Anglicans, who owned it at some point and turned it into a duplex, are pissed that they didn’t make any money off it, and resent the fact that it’s once again a single family dwelling. Since I do get attached to my home as a kind of expression of what and who I am, I suppose it’s inevitable that I should transfer any psychological trepidation onto my physical environment and, if spooked enough, start looking for ghosts. That might be the rational explanation. And this house, since we bought it a year ago this September, has been a gigantic renovation headache and has therefore occupied a major piece of my mind. Every project we’ve started has run into delays or fubar states. Every other contractor in Victoria seems to be a major basket case, or else runs into major problems (such as death or illness or injury), preventing completion of whatever is going on here. There’s no money coming in, yet major expenses seem to come up all the same. Of course I’m going to project unease onto my house.

But reno-problems have not been the cause of this creeping dread. I love being here, and my house is very liveable despite loose ends in construction, and we’ve all been able to develop in ways that seemed impossible in Massachusetts. The dread seems truly external, which is why it’s so weird. Nothing appears to be threatening me, all disasters appear to be occuring elsewhere, but while I can’t identify an external cause, I also can’t explain this feeling psychologically. It feels like a delayed fin-de-siecle malaise, as though something absolutely immense somewhere is rolling over, is turning without any regard to puny beings such as we, and I’m feeling this as a destabilizing movement whose source is a shape I can’t comprehend.

It doesn’t help that economic factors are dicey at best. Or that bloggers all over the place report similar emotional states, related to the economy or to shifting states they can’t quite grasp. But what really did it for me — what pushed me to blog about this, too — was reading The Extinction of Hope by the usually so energetic, kick-ass, and upbeat Briony Penn. Even as she’s ready to skewer some enviro-criminal with her words, you can tell she’s having fun. But when Briony writes the following, I want to sit down and hang and my head, too: “I no longer hope that we will pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat (unendangered or not) to halt the rates of extinction on this earth. Now I believe that it is too late.” She knows what’s at stake psychically, and spells it out: “But what was even more alarming was the withdrawal of spirit. (…) Who wants to join a bunch of losers who are depressed most of the time?” And with the current crop of political “leadership” out there, it’s all anyone can do to not go and hang themselves. If I didn’t have kids, I’d say, apres moi le deluge and to hell with it. As Penn puts it,

The straws that broke the proverbial endangered bactrian camel’s twin humps on my birthday were the images that came down the international wires (of a dozing pope, a whining United States president and a preening Terminator) followed by a real-life interview with Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, on his exhilarating plans for B.C.’s crown lands. Everything incomprehensible in life was reduced to these figureheads of sickness in body, spirit and mind, all of them disconnected from the environment that supports them. Who appointed these people as leaders, and is this a reflection of our collective disease as a society?

Indeed. Who appointed these people? And can we get rid of them and turn things around before collective burn-out paralyses us completely? And would we feel so burned out and hopeless if these idiots weren’t running the show? That might be “all” it takes, but it’s a tall “all,” and everything is rigged against us. “Wir haben keine Chance, aber wir nutzen sie,” was the motto of the alternative-left Berlin newspaper TAZ when it started in 1979. Roughly translated: We don’t stand a chance, but we’ll use it. It worked for the TAZ; pray it works for us.

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