This blog post was sent to me by the author, Roy King who politely asked if this can be posted on this website and I have decided, why not. So here goes his narrative piece…
Wednesday afternoon I was low on fuel. On the way to drop off a friend (whose car was in the shop) at Elon University library I made a $5 gas stop at $3.99 to get me to a ‘cheaper’ station. I noticed the local Elon station was at $3.96 and made a mental note to fill up there, saving all of 36 cents on a $45 fill-up, when returned to pick up Eric.
A couple of hours later I pulled up to the pump at Kangaroo Pantry #112. My tank fills from the driver’s side just behind the door. I jumped out, leaving my door open, popped a card into the slot, pushed NO for ‘Debit?’ and YES for ‘Receipt?’. The pump is an old type with separate hoses for each grade, with the ‘regular’ on the far right. As I have done a thousand times before, habitually following the instructions on the pump readout exactly, I removed the nozzle (with my right hand) and (with my left) flipped up the ‘ON’ lever beneath the nozzle hanger on the pump, as I turned to take a short step and remove my gas cap. Suddenly the nozzle jerked in my hand and gas spewed forth, full force, all over my open door panel, over and onto my dash, steering wheel, seat, console, radio/cd player and floor carpets before I could divert the hose and unlock the nozzle. Over a quarter gallon right into my car!
In shock I threw the nozzle onto the pavement and ran into the station demanding towels. Fortunately the attendant, Sonja, was a very nice, calm person or I might have committed some unfortunate act of aggression. I mopped the gas pooled on my seat and dash first, wiped as much as I could from the rest of the car, then drove over to the water hose and sprayed the whole left interior with water, covering the window and door lock switches, radio/cd player, etc, as best as I could. I cleaned for an hour with water and towels.
Filling out an ‘Incident Report’ before leaving the station, I told Sonja I thought someone must have left the nozzle locked on maliciously, but she said ‘No, people do it all the time. They lock on the nozzle while pumping then turn off the pump by pushing down the lever. So the nozzle doesn’t turn off automatically when full, because they (not being wealthy) aren’t filling their tanks, and they don’t always think to unlock the nozzle as they return it to the pump’.
Driving the two blocks to pick up Eric, I felt sick. Walking into the library I reeked of gas. I was half hoping nobody would strike a match near me and half hoping somebody would. I was in the car another 15 miles dropping Eric back home and driving home myself.
I discarded my gassy clothes and bathed for a long time. I have felt sick ever since and still smell gas everywhere I go. My car, I was told by the dealer, will need new carpet throughout and a new seat and door panel, to eliminate the odor. The cost may be enough to ‘total’ the car, which I was planning to drive a few more years, since it’s in great shape although eight years old. Now I’m stuck with my old 12mpg van to drive until it gets settled.
Eric said, ‘all that trouble to save 36 cents’. I disagreed, and not just because I actually lost 70 cents, since $1.06 in gas went into the car, but because we could change world history by ‘what-if’ing. IF I hadn’t offered him a ride to Elon, or IF I had filled up for $3.99 at the ‘ripe-off’ gas station, or IF gas weren’t sky-high to begin with so I wouldn’t have ever been penny pinching, or IF – ad infinitum.
I do come away from this nasty little incident with a reinforced conviction that there must to be a better way than GAS. It’s easy to say: IF the American people hadn’t been collectively stupid enough to ‘elect’ our current moron-in-chief, or IF we as a nation had taken responsibility for energy efficiency (like the Europeans who have a comparable standard of living on half the energy expenditure), or IF Jimmy Carter’s energy policy had been kept in place so we would now be energy independent, having developed renewable energy resources, or IF the planet weren’t increasingly overpopulated with humans who most all want to emulate the America way of waste, er, life, and IF a lot of them weren’t becoming pretty good at it.
The question is, since we cannot relive the past: what do we do now? With the earth heating up, glacial ice melting, weather pattern becoming more erratic and extreme, and the world economy locked on full speed ahead, what do we do to prevent a real nightmare, a global nightmare, humanity’s worst or even final nightmare.
Do we just stick our heads deeper into the sand, vote for whoever tells us what they think we want to hear and then trust in our leaders? Drill every conceivable spot on land and undersea to pump a few more million barrels a day, to feed our gas habit a few more desperate years? Continue to carelessly drive, fly and steam all over the planet as is our America way and our American right, instilled and reinforced deep in our collective consciousness for a century now by our oil and auto industries and supporting governments? Continue to pump CO2 into the sky past levels not reached in millions of years, as the planet heats, unable to reflect enough infrared energy out of the atmosphere?
Not if we want to survive, want our children and their children to survive. Not if we want our species to thrive, and want life on our planet to thrive. If survival is what is important, then get serious about how much you really need to travel, how much you really need to transport, how much comfort you really require and how to do what is necessary most efficiently. On a personal level, and then on a national and global level.
Get serious about birth control, on a personal level, and on a national and a global level – as population control. If we don’t we are in for a nightmare more horrible than all the wars, famines and natural disasters in all our history combined.
The ancient religious texts do not address this issue. The world has changed since they were written. The ancient prophets could not foresee the twenty-first century. Our rock-solid conceit that we as humans are made in the ‘image of God’ or are the ‘pinnacle of evolution’ must be reformed to conform with the newly revealed truth of our limited place in the universe. We must reduce or egos to fit our brains.
The old moral laws must be adapted to our time. The prohibitions against greed must be adapted to include excesses of all kinds, including much of what we now take for granted. How much access, mobility, comfort, living space and power is enough? Is it ever enough? Are we hooked on a never ending spiral of more of everything? How much do we really need to consume? Just how fat do we need to be? And how much medical attention, pharmaceutical support and surgical intervention do we require to support our gluttony? How many children do we really need? Are we locked in a bio-cultural imperative to reproduce to the hilt, no matter what the consequences?
The laws forbidding theft must be reformed to include the peoples we are now reducing to abject poverty to sustain our excessive wealth, far surpassing even the kings and queens of older times; to include the future generations of all people who will inherit a world ravaged by our excesses. How will our descendants see the ruined monuments to our greatness, as they struggle to hang onto existence, in the aftermath of our reckless disregard for the health of our life sustaining planet, without which we are literally nothing, and from which we have no escape?
The laws forbidding murder must be adapted to include the life of all the creatures we are driving to extinction through our excessive consumption of their habitat to build more highways, suburbs, shopping malls, parking lots, churches, prisons, schools and armories, and through the poisons and garbage we spew into what remains of their natural habitat. And to include our own kind we kill in wars fought over finite territory and resources for our exponentially expanding populations. We must question the sacredness of reproductive ‘rights’ that fully exercised lead inevitably to heightened conflict and more horrors of war. War is both terror and murder, we must cease our denial, and end our glorification of war.
I look out the window on this fourth of July at my car, toxic from the fuel that drives it, perhaps an apt metaphor for the country itself. The original version of the Bill of Rights assured ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of property’. ‘Happiness’ was edited in, ‘property’ edited out. But I wonder how much the two are still equated in the American mind, and how well we have been served these twenty three decades by this ideal. I see we are a nation drowning in property, seriously lacking storage space for it all or landfill space to discard it. I do not see that it brings us much happiness. Perhaps we have focused so sharply on our liberty to obtain property that we have forgotten our first ‘right’, that is, to life. And if it has come to mean only the right of unborn human embryos, rather than of all human life, and of all extra-human life as well, then surely something has been omitted or become lost.
Life is all we have, our only possession, and life is limited. If a fraction of the energy spent denying this, the most basic fact of our existence, were spent identifying as life, celebrating life, preserving life, we would not face this self-created crisis of extinction. Fear is the destroyer. We fear death so much that we deny our own life, degrade all life, for an imagined life in death, life beyond life. Our imagination fails us, disastrously. We are so fearful of loss we deny what we have, what we are: limited, mortal creatures alive for a brief moment in an inexplicable, mysterious universe. This simple truth is heretical to the religious across the world. How deeply our fear has betrayed us.
Our materialism, although politically rooted in liberation from the tyranny of old European monarchs and popes, has become in America a failed substitute for our failed spirituality. In deep denial of the value of our physical existence, we compensate unconsciously by clinging to, almost worshiping, our private hoards of material wealth. It is, sadly, how we define our worth. And that we drive headlong, exhaust billowing, toward the precipice, unable to turn, or even to glance to the side at the life we squander, is a failure of the human potential for consciousness, for conscious allegiance to the underlying essence of consciousness, life.
We may suffer from the ‘design’ flaw of a semi-conscious animal unable to reconcile its new technological potency with its ancient, instinct driven hunger, reproductive urge, fear of danger and need for security. We can’t seem to integrate our animal nature and our explosive surge in awareness. We know what’s to be done, we just don’t do it. We know how we have to chance, we just can’t manage the transition. A kind of emotional paralysis grips us. We cling in nostalgia for a vanished fantasy of a world where we can do anything we want, be anything we imagine, with no limits to our power and no responsibility for its consequences. That world is gone, or never really was. Living it as real has been slowly catching up with us. The time of reckoning is now upon us, and we avoid the stark reality of it, each in our own way.
Can we pull out of the tailspin our ascent has become, level off and avert disaster? Perhaps the environment will give us a break. But with the data on global warming becoming darker almost daily, that doesn’t seem likely. And social chaos is already setting in, mostly where the environment is toughest, like drought stricken Africa. As hard as it may be for us to grasp, the ten millennium reign of mankind on earth, fully contingent on good weather, may be nearly over. If some remnants of humanity manages to survive culturally intact, they will at best be reduced to a shadow of our former glory. I suppose staunch Americans can still take some morbid pride in being the nation that lead our charge into oblivion.
And then, we still could drastically reduce CO2 omissions, maybe averting an absolute catastrophe. Will we? That’s up to us all. Not just the politicians, who are at best slaves to public opinion, but more likely to the corporate lobby. Not just the scientists who are mistrusted for being ‘biased’ and too good at math. Certainly not just the religious leaders who generally have their heads deepest in the sand, but are showing sighs in some quarters of awakening. The aliens can’t be counted on, even to exist. The old pagan gods seem to be in full disarray, as usual. The new head god, whatever you call him, has a damn big universe to manage, and has never shown any statistically significant positive influence on earth, unless you count the unprecedented ten millennium temperate spell we seem to be so abruptly bringing to an end. Maybe human freedom wasn’t such a good idea after all, which doesn’t bode well for divine judgment
So it looks like we’re on our own. I don’t know what else to say or how it will all turn out. I guess it’s up to you and me, as much as anyone.
Happy Independence Day,
I personally do not know Roy King, I feel sorry for what he has had to go through. We can see a lot of idealism in his words. Through some unfortunate events, sometimes this is all we need to trigger our innate drive to make things better. Yes the world sucks, and reading Roy’s post may sound like a wake up call towards moving into a perfect world, and some may argue nothing is really perfect. But that is just how the way it is. At least, just at least try to be as perfect as it can be. The reason why we are in a state of environment and economy of how it is today was all based on the judgments of our older generations before us. In the same way, the judgments we make today are what will mold the environment and economy of tomorrow. We are talking about our children. And if you love them as you prepare them to go to the best schools, to help them find the best jobs in life, might as well prepare a better world for them as well. Thanks Roy for the contributed post. – Benj Arriola.