The oldest gods (I know of) are of the sun, wind, and rain. The weather. Beneath all the verbiage and mathmatage around climate change, that’s who we’re fucking with. They’re obviously going to fuck with us harder.
No one since the even more ancient gods of cyanobacteria have ever even had the capacity to change the weather (on a planetary scale). Power is perhaps not the right word, because it implies control. I think the proper word would be hubris.
When that first photosynthetic algae harnesses the sun and started emitting oxygen it was godayata magic. Photo-synthesizers nearly killed all the other anaerobic species on the planet, but those microbes just couldn’t stop. It was too good. It was too powerful. Except that wasn’t the word, the word was hubris, and it came before their fall. The earth froze down to the equator.
What we burn as fossil fuels is also solar energy. All that oil and coal and gas are really batteries that store ancient solar energy, not energy sources in themselves. The ultimate source is the sun. You know, Ra.
Whereas the ancients had a healthy respect, worship, and fear of the Sun God, we don’t believe in anything but ourselves, don’t understand anything that powers our lives, and think we just got where we are by innovating and being smart. But all we did was dig up our demigod ancestors and light them on fire. Which is generally frowned upon. As the ancient Egyptian tomb of Harkuf says, “As for any man who enters this tomb unclean, I shall seize him by the neck like a bird, He will be judged for it by the great god!” And so here we are.
Photo-synths fucked with the sun god and got froze into submission, while we fuck with those long-dead demigods and get roasted for our hubris. There’s something cyclical and biblical about it. As the prophets said, fuck around and find out.
Fear of god and the gods and what’s above your head is considered a primitive belief in our rational times, but who’s reasonable now? In all of our abstract rationality we have stripped the planet, abused our animal family, and climate change is just one of our problems. And we’re not even happy. What is the rationality in a system that imagines infinite growth on a finite planet, and which disregards all morality beyond the profit motive? It’s just dumb.
All the ancient stories and allegories are meant to be taken literally, because if you hear them and believe them you get the right feeling towards life. Which is fear, awe, and worship. Whether the stories are ‘right’ in the details is about as relevant as the whether the scribble 7 represent seven objects. The point is not the shape of the symbol, it’s the results it outputs. The ancient stories and allegories were social encoding that gave people a sense of something bigger than them, which is true. We laugh and point at dung beetles and humans with animal heads and completely miss the point. Just look at the result.
For all the pride we take in industrial civilization, we still don’t have the power of even a lesser god. We can’t make it rain reliably, nor can we make it stop. All we can do is unconsciously unleash chaos, which is not what anyone was looking for. All of our great power and technologies are fundamentally parochial vanities. Just ask a cat. They do not give a fuck, they put their anus right on your laptop.
Nothing we do is actually that cool, and it is this hubris that is making it so hot. The opposite of hubris would be worship and submission, which we have forgot. It would be a healthy respect and fear of the gods, and sacrifice to something greater than us. But we don’t do that anymore. We consider it atavistic. And so we end up so predictably fucked.
When I listen to folk stories with my kids I used to wonder why they all have basically the same plot. Someone tells a kid not to do something, they do it anyways, and then everything goes to hell. The deep lesson seems to be listen to warnings, and the stories keep repeating it cause we just don’t do it. All of these protagonists keep getting into trouble (or dying) cause they’re greedy, lazy, or just forget, which is precisely what’s happening to us on a civilization level. I get it now.
We knew nature intimately once, and worshiped it and begged it to speak to us. We personified this feeling as gods, and feared and worshiped them too. We repeated the stories, we wrote them down, we carved them in stone, and passed them from mother to child, pharaoh to tomb robber. And yet we still fucked it up, because that’s just how the story goes.
Today we act like climate collapse is some complexity discovered by scientific priests (ie, the same people who got us into this mess), but it’s really much simpler than that. Don’t dig up weird, magic shit and light it on fire without understanding and respecting it. Because lighting shit on fire makes it hot. Don’t kill your relatives, ie all the plants and animals. And don’t fuck with the weather, that’s the domain of the gods. It’s hubris, and what’s the price of hubris, always? The fall.
Alas, I ponder and I wonder, what will be written above my tomb?
He was born in the age of fucking around.
He died in the age of finding out.