Death Drive, Life Drive


‘The roots come out of the earth, fighting back against mankind’s concrete prisons. As if the soul of the world were pouring out again.’

These days, a lot is rightly said about the damage done by industrialized human society to the Earth’s environment. Global warming is melting the world’s ice caps; in time, this will raise the water level such that certain coastal areas will be rendered uninhabitable. Rising temperatures in Equatorial Africa will increasingly make agriculture impossible there. These issues and others to come will probably affect the entire planet, even to the point of killing off humanity in its entirety. We are caught in a self-perpetuating death drive.

As great as these problems are, they are limited to the human point of view. The Earth itself is indifferent to whether or not we exist. If things continue as they are, it will eventually rid itself of humanity – or most of it – and start a new drive to life of its own. A drive back towards growth, cleanliness and diversity. Any humans left would have to make do as best they could in a game where they no longer make the rules. Nature’s game.

The situation of a vastly reduced human population trying to survive after the collapse of technological civilization lies at the heart of post-apocalyptic fiction. Scavengers – people living off scraps of that previous civilization – are currently very popular, as are zombie-style chaos, but other reactions would also be logical. Trying to rebuild what was lost. Destroying all traces of it as evil. Or trying to forget all about technological civilization and following a new life trajectory, one that involves letting yourself be absorbed in to the Earth’s life drive:

‘I and the others like me are the human roots left after the Madness. We are like nature’s soul, small as we are.’

That might seem either utopian or dystopian, depending on your point of view. The difficulty of imagining that kind of life stems more from our total dependence on machines than from any real impossibility in living much closer to, and in tune with, nature. After all, our ancestors did so for many centuries. If enough time were to pass, or if the shift in mentality caused by the apocalypse were sufficiently great, it might be possible.

The end of technology and mass communication would mean the end of large ideologies, and various small isolated groups might experiment with different approaches to life, each one “ethical” according to its own rules. Among them, there might even be a group that works to bring back the best of technological civilization, while avoiding the errors of the past.      

Literature can – and should – try to imagine these different ways of living and of being. It can help us to understand what to look forward to. And what to avoid.

She could feel the life pulsing, life of a kind she had never felt before. Rich but impossibly ancient. She knew that these creatures had seen every kind of being come and go. They had been there long before anything else, and they would be there long after humans were gone.

 

Originally posted on fromthewastes11811.wordpress.com

Artwork by Eric Nyquist

Quotations from Children of the Different

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