Dialectics of Transformation in An Apocalyptic Age

Dialectics of Transformation in An Apocalyptic Age

This post is dedicated to Dr. Michael Aquino, whose work and influence has been crucial in helping me understand myself and my path. I could not have written this piece without benefiting from his journey toward Point B. Originally published on April 28, 2020.

To engage in transformative work of any kind—from personal to social, political, economic and global transformation—is always to reckon with opposing forces. The initial desire to transform might, in fact, begin with a rejection of this fact and necessity, when a preference for the properties of one force is shown over those of its complementary opposite; a child begins to crave autonomy, for example, and so rejects all forms of authority, along with the supports that they offer. It won’t work that way, but it’s a start—and it’s the only way to get started from that point. It’s not the step that will take you home, but it’s the step you need to take to get there.

To grasp remote possibilities not yet manifest is a wonderful ability to have and, so they say, is one of the gifts of being human. In some form or another, all of history can be described as humankind’s endeavor to reach “Point B.” History is the tale of successive generations spending their lifetimes reaching, striving for something because they don’t have it yet, but believe that they can someday. This is pretty much who we are; take that away from us, and we’re no different from any other creature on the planet.

I stop short of considering this state of being a noble one in and of itself for one simple reason: Most people only participate because of that last, crucial part I mentioned. The belief that they could actually see their “Point B,” however they happen to define it, is why they do anything at all. Without that hope, I honestly believe most people would stagnate and stay put. We all want our brass ring. We often choose to eschew activities and decisions that push that ring farther back or don’t bring it closer, because why else would we waste our time?

There is a grounded, sensible practicality in such an attitude that has taken humanity far. The insistence on actually seeing, smelling, holding, hearing, or tasting the results of our work is essential and explains a great deal of human activity. As a standard of viability for ideas and systems, it’s a hard measuring stick to argue with. However, if this were our only standard, I don’t think humanity would have most of what makes life worth living. Civilization needs to satisfy certain material demands in order to continue, but that isn’t its sole purpose. Civilization is built on the visions of people who know they will never see the results of their efforts, but who make them regardless. Civilization is humanity simultaneously collaborating and competing to play the long game. The masters of this game know that they are only here for a round or two. It is only this wider perspective that allows them to make the most of the rounds that they have. Torchbearers were usually handed the torch that they themselves carry, and they carry it knowing that their contribution only matters if they pass it on in turn. They burn brightly but are one in essence with a larger flame that multiplies endlessly.

The human mind most easily grasps things in chunks as opposed to whole portions. We are generally obsessed with whatever our “Point B” is at a given moment, and secondarily, our mind might be cluttered with the concerns of various other points. Journeys, roads, the elongated spaces between these points, are trivialized. They’re the slog. They’re the sewage we have to wade through to get where we want to go.

Question: If I take a road trip from L.A. to Chicago, where is most of that asphalt concentrated? Where is most of my time spent? Where are most of the sights I see? The people I meet? Where are most of the opportunities? Where do I leave most of my car’s emissions? How many lives do I brush past and through? Whose “Point A” is my “just passing through?”

Where’s all the action? The potential?

I write this now because the current “human moment” on planet Earth seems to be screaming about it. Earth is currently a pressure cooker concentrating the energetic force of humanity’s entire history toward a culmination point the likes of which we have no cultural memory nor historical precedent. We have templates, “seed forms,” but what is crystallizing at present occupies a scale that we didn’t realize existed until its manifestations hit us upside the head. The Eschaton approaches; some people are supremely uncomfortable acknowledging it because of the extreme visions of catastrophe with which the idea is commonly associated, and another doomsday cult is not what we need right now. I get this, but that doesn’t mean the thing isn’t happening, albeit in a form somewhat less final and dramatic than the picture painted by the paranoid. As numerous as the stars in the sky are the problems plaguing humanity at the moment—and at no time in history has getting to “Point B” been such a seeming priority.

Point A: Cops are routinely beating and killing minorities and the disempowered and getting away with it. Another city burns in consequence. I agree, we need to get to Point B as soon as we possibly can.

Point A: A handful of people control almost all of the resources and they would apparently let civilization fall and burn around their ankles as long as they can live out the aftermath in style and comfort. Seriously! It’s happening! Point B now, please!

Point A: Donald Trump. Point B: ‘Nuff said, okay?

I like the number three, so I’m going to shut up about our problems. We need solutions. Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Man, it is getting HOT in here and I FEEL it.

Still, I say: Point B is a thing to carry gently, always. No matter what else is true, I feel in my bones that humanity is only here because enough of the right people realized this.

Point B gives us direction, something to aim for, and without that, we are but aimless wanderers (though even this is not as horrible as some people make it out to be). It would be folly to reject Point B entirely, polluted though its reality might be with undesired consequences. As we wrap our fingers around it, however, we must handle Point B the way we might handle a songbird’s egg, fragile object that it is. If we attempt to grasp Point B too tightly, we will smash it. On a deeper level, this is because Point B isn’t really ours to possess; its potentials and purpose will have unending ripple effects we can’t even fathom, if we recognize this and treat Point B in such a way that it serves its true purpose: Hatching, producing a beautiful, graceful creature with wings, one that will one day soar in the skies above our heads and routinely see the world in ways we experience but rarely.

If Point B is ours to enjoy, it’s meant to be a distant enjoyment. Point B is so much bigger than us—as individuals, as communities, as societies, and even as a species.

Paradoxically, Point B is also death. If satisfaction of what Point B promises were the ultimate objective, where would we be? Dead or bored shitless. If you’ve hit your Point B, you’re done, by definition. Who wants to be done?

Point B is ever advancing before us, a siren’s song tempting us onward, never to be touched. Point B is humanity’s muse. We want what we can’t have, even when we know we can’t have it. The Buddha saw this as a problem. I see this as the engine of creation—the spice of life.

When Point B is grasped gently, the truth can be seen: We are living in the apocalypse, ladies and gentlemen. It’s here, and those who are still breathing have front row seats. There’s no reason to panic—it’s not the apocalypse we’ve been sold. It’s a truly beautiful thing, an accurate reflection of the same exquisite torment that has always been humanity’s lot, only magnified and amplified so as to produce the conditions necessary for certain transformations to take place. It is a step in an ongoing, global, alchemical process; just as certain chemical transformations can only happen under heat and pressure, humanity is only prodded and energized in certain directions under extreme circumstances.

According to Merriam-Webster’s definition:

History and Etymology for apocalypse

Middle English Apocalipse “Revelation (the New Testament book),” borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Late Latin apocalypsis “revelation, the Book of Revelation,” borrowed from Greek apokálypsis “uncovering, disclosure, revelation,” from apokalyp-, stem of apokalýptein “to uncover, disclose, reveal” (from apo- APO- + kalýptein “to cover, protect, conceal,” of uncertain origin) + -sis -SIS

Along with the most popular definitions associated with the end of the world, the word “apocalypse” speaks of revelation, uncovering, exposure. When we look at the world around us, what better word is there for what’s going on?

Economic systems are revealing the extent of unnecessary and destructive human greed, manipulation, and conflict. Superficially, the particular weaknesses of our dominant and operative theories are being shown, but more deeply, the true spirit of humanity is being shown in ways we could never appreciate before.

The news and the entire zeitgeist at present have been forced to reflect on what is being revealed by COVID-19 and its consequences—I don’t even need to point it out.

Much is being revealed, and more is to come. One more time: Welcome to the apocalypse! Here we are.

Now where do we go? If we don’t figure it out soon, an irrevocable and permeating Point B will overtake us. Avoiding that is the only thing keeping most of us going these days. This is why Point B should never, ever be fully beheld. We don’t want Point B to arrive. Point B is like a black hole, shaping the material of the universe around itself, but consuming anything and everything that comes too close to touching it.

Just because we can’t see Point B, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We live within the field of Point B every waking moment of our lives. We are nodes within Point B. At a certain threshold of understanding, we internalize and become our own, self-contained “Point Bs,” grasped just as gently as any external Point B, and reached for with full awareness that we will never get there, and that’s not the point after all.

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