Part one of this essay was a polemic directed at modern life and Western civilization. To recap, if you don’t want to go back and read it: our way of life is doomed, period. All that is left is to decide how we’re going to meet that doom. Fundamentally there are two ways this can go. Because I’m given to overwrought metaphor, and with apologies to a pair of musical groups far more talented than I, I’m going to characterize these two ways as the “highway to Hell” and the “stairway to Heaven.”
The highway to Hell is the easy way, where we do nothing. We keep taking and taking and taking until there’s nothing left to take, until the skies burn and the seas turn to poison. In Hell, we end up fighting over the remaining scraps of arable land and potable water. Billions die as the planet heats and the coasts flood, and the democracies of the world devolve first into corporate oligarchies and then into violent, warlord-ruled anarchies. Our species, our world, comes to a bloody, screaming end. This is nearly inevitable if we try to cling to our old ways. It may take ten years, it may take fifty, but it’s coming. Everything green and good in the world will be used up, and humanity will have squandered its one chance.
I have argued previously that we, humanity, are God — and we are the only God that matters, for we are the only God who will act. The world, and the capacity to change it and shape it, were given to us. This is our responsibility, and it cannot be abdicated, try as we might. And we have tried. We’ve been trying for ten thousand years. The world has suffered for it, and we have suffered along with the world. Surely, we are the Demiurge — the blind, occluded God of the Gnostics, who has created an imperfect world. This cannot be rationally argued, for it is our blind, occluded choices that have led us to this cusp.
We are no longer blind. We have taken the first step needed to open our eyes — we have developed science and reason and ethics. We have the Light within us to illuminate our path, and if we follow that path, then there is still hope for us.
There are those who would assert that our reality is a prison from which we must escape. While there is some truth to this idea, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Our world isn’t a prison so much as it is an egg — it is comfortable, it is (relatively) safe, and it can provide resources to meet all of our needs. Ever since the sun shone on the first photosynthetic organisms, that energy has been stored in Earth’s ecosystem. The oil and coal that we burn is hundreds of millions of years of sunlight condensed. It is our yolk, our germ, our store of nutrients that sustains us in our egg, in our sheltering prison. But it is finite, both in an absolute sense and in the sense that exploiting this compressed sunlight is poisoning us.
In my last essay, I spoke of the meaning of life — that the purpose of life, the point of the “game,” is apotheosis. Learning to live with nuclear technology might have been the first hurdle, and one on which the jury is still out. But another hurdle, surely, is managing our finite supply of energy, using it correctly, investing it to create systems that will sustain us indefinitely. Oil and coal are transitional. They are the battery that stores the energy needed to start the engine that will drive us through the transition to a Type I civilization. This is a necessary step in our advancement, and is also one of the main drivers of this cusp. We’ve already burned through most of our inherited energy, frivolously and irresponsibly. We have only a little bit left with which to secure our future.
Humanity was born into the Garden, and lived there for a hundred thousand years. Then came agriculture, which led to surpluses, which led to hierarchy and, ultimately, to slavery. This was the Fall, when the Garden became the prison. This was necessary, for there were lessons we had to learn that we could not learn in the Garden. In order to fully realize our Godly nature, we had to disobey. We had to fall. But we’ve ridden the prison train long enough.
We are God, and we have the power to change the world. We have the Light to guide us, and reason, wisdom, and compassion to inform us. If we do nothing, we are surely hellbound. But there is another option. There is the stairway to Heaven.
We have the power to rebuild the Garden.
Imagine a world where nobody is hungry, where nobody has to do without shelter or clothing. Imagine a world in which you don’t have to work if you don’t want to, a world in which you certainly don’t have to work a job you can’t stand just so you can eat. Imagine a world where you don’t have to rely on a car to get you everywhere, where abundance is so prevalent you can walk to the park and pluck a meal from the trees on your way. Any entertainment or diversion at your fingertips, and travel to any location a simple matter of booking a ticket. Want to live on the Moon? On Mars? Take a trip to Saturn’s rings, or out beyond Pluto and back?
Imagine a world where survival is a given, not a struggle. A world where the drudgery of daily life is replaced with comfort and abundance, where the challenges you face are those of your own making rather than those imposed upon you by an external source. The Garden is a place where you can be your true, authentic self, living as you grok and fulfilling all your potential as a human.
Imagine a world where death itself has been conquered; where your life only ends when you choose.
This is the Garden, and it is within our grasp.
The way home won’t be easy. In fact, it will be the hardest thing humanity has ever had to do, because it will require all of us, acting in concert, to create. But it can be done. We haven’t yet passed the cusp. There is still time to make this choice, if only we can find the will. If only we can seize our power and use it to realize our destiny. We have seen the way, and we can see the consequences if we do not choose rightly.
This is the vision I am here to share. This is what I am fighting for.