Lonely Camping in the Desert
In the Desert, Camping is Real
We come from the ocean, and the desert is a dead ocean's floor, so maybe that's why being here feels like some kind of essential truth. Our kind has failed to overpower this place, and our powerlessness means something; means more than our powerlessness over our work, or over each other. Our mind and body are instantly reminded of our place, and especially of our impermanence, because without a single human this place would feel, look, smell, and sound the same as it does now; even as it gives way under our boots, it remains and persists, and always has, and always will, at least until the sun swallows time some countless, irrelevant billions of years from now. So yes we enter the desert, but how ludicrous is the idea that we are doing anything, that our presence, our grand entrance, is noted by anyone or anything. Truly being here is close to not being anywhere; to not-being; so consider this moment in our momentary lives the closest to death that we will find. We are gone, our entire race is gone; history is meaningless; and so, death-like and divorced from time, we can wander alone in a place that cares not if we are here, or not here, or dead, or alive.
Finding a Path
To Where? The Desert Doesn't Care
Dark or light, it matters not, because the desert offers nothing, even though we may think that is offers so much; what, freedom? Nature? We invented nature after nature invented us, and freedom is a meaningless word once we stop to think about it. Are we free now, crunching across the fragile soil, destroying thin skins that have been intact for thousands of years, that were undisturbed when Romans were feeding humans to animals for entertainment? Who are we to walk across this landscape, destroying history at every step, and congratulate ourselves for discovering something? We are infants crawling across the lap of an infinitely patient but ultimately detached parent. Our highest achievement is still poetry springing from brains of children. Who are we to define anything by our own experience?
Alone in the Desert?
No, not alone, we are never alone; we carry our reminders of culture, our umbilical connections to the cheap reassuring womb we left earlier this morning; we carry books, maps, instructions, support in a dozen banal forms. Alone? Nothing like it here, not the way we are moving now, not the way we have packed our cocoon inside our bag. Admiral Scott, in extremis in a broken-backed tent -- he was alone. We are soft and comfortable and yet telling ourselves we are doing something daring and special. Leave that alone; no-one cares; so what meaning is there here, or where is the meaning here? Do we bring it with us, or is it here to be discovered? And in our small, soft, safe selves, we imagine that our discovery of the desert is a rare and meaningful thing. There is no meaning here; all meaning is in us, and no planet ever cared less than this one; patience on a scale beyond heartbreak; waiting out this moment of pestilence and pollution. When we're finally gone (finally, to us; to time there is no scale, no context for ideas like "finally"), the desert will not move or blink or sigh or do anything; the moment will pass unmarked, and we can be sure that our passing will be unmourned. Who will remain to mourn? The desert we "discovered?"
Our feet fit into our footprints, headed the other way this time, pretending it matters that we disturb as little of the fragile shell as possible; it does not matter; it does not matter if we arrive in a tractor and scrape as much of the earth away as we possibly can, if we devote our lives to destroying this perfect, egg-shell-fragile topsoil; it does not matter to the earth, because the earth will persist. There is nothing that will keep us alive here for long; not an individual here in the desert, not a population in a country (such hubris!), not a species on a planet; we'll be gone eventually, and yes the planet, and the desert, can wait. Will wait. They are waiting now. They are waiting machines, and we are dying machines, the whole genome, and regardless of whether it's "soon" or "a long time" it will happen. Then the top-soil will be back, and our bones will be atoms in the multiverse, and the tractor will return to stardust. That's "leaving."