City of Ruins

There’s a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church doors blown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregations gone.

Come on rise up!
Come on rise up!
Rise up!

———- Bruce Springsteen, My City of Ruins

When one thinks the day after the apocalypse one usually imagines such a scene as above in which everything we have known and loved is now just a giant nightmare of crunched metal: cars strewn along decayed highways, fallen skyscrapers, mashed bridges, impassable routes both in and out of the city. Faced with such a world as this what be your first thought? Survival? Death? Food? Water? Is anyone else alive? Am I alone? Is help coming? Will someone kill me for the little I have? One could run through the post-apocalyptic litany of themes and anti-themes, enough to fill volumes of madness and mayhem for even the hardened aficionado. Yet, what would one truly do?

Would you begin picking through the ruble and scattered remnants for survivors? Or, instead would you join the gangs of hoodlums running rampant stealing everything in site? And, what do they think they’ll do with all that loot anyway? Do we have a philosophy today that could help us to understand what is going on in such a moment of disaster? Or is the academic philosopher so busy with its own internal squabbles and refinements over process or objects that it has lost the true appraisal of just how bad things truly are out there in front of their eyes?  Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to someone like Slavoj Zizek who seems to be looking around him and repeating a song or melody about our present predicaments over and over again. Yes, he is redundant, repurposing his essential ideas and thoughts in new ways, asking questions that keep one looking around to see if reality is truly such a tragic affair. Yes, he returns to the dreamers of the nineteenth century to deidealize the Idealists and turn their dreams toward more material concerns. Is this not the mark of a great philosopher, not that he has the answers, but that he keeps asking the right questions? His is an action philosophy not some contemplative Platonic dream theory. One must embody one’s ideas not stand back and bask in the sun of their abstract light. Ideas are not independent mirrors or lamps, they are living movements and happenings of a collective action that we all share in the sociality of our lifeworld. No one exists in a vacumn, we do not withdraw in isolated solipsistic delight; no, we all share in this real planetary realm as members of one another who need each others broken and fragmented lives.

This is the fragility of time: that we are scared shitless, that we pretend with ourselves that everything is going to be alright, that the future holds promise, that if we just all work together it will turn out just fine. But, my friend, it’s no so easy as that. Things may not turn out at all. We may even now be facing unknown possibilities that even the troubadours of the apocalypse never imagined. But one thing for sure if we don’t begin to open our fragile hearts toward each other and begin to communicate and work together things will end badly for all. Wake up my friends the apocalypse is before you, behind you, all around you. How will you face it? Here’s my suggestion: take out a pin and pop that bubble of idiocy for good. Take off you rose tinted glasses and look into the abyss around you. Begin the long road of healing both yourself and the earth of this disease of dead civilization in your midst.  Rise up from the ruins of your personal life and seek one other person to walk into not out of that terrible city of ruins.

8 thoughts on “City of Ruins

  1. when I walked away from the ivory-tower and headed back to social work people on both sides told me I was nuts but far better to be working with the folks who know that they are fucked and want to make something else.
    Not that I really had a choice as I just can’t tolerate that kind of narcissism and disconnection, the academy is just no place for a prickly depressive-realist…

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    • Of course it is if it’s for you… only you can know if it is calling you or not. TBH I read things that speak to me… if something doesn’t pop my ticker after a few pages it doesn’t matter how great the author supposedly is I just toss it into the bin of lost treasures that I’ll never find. Why plunge through so many words if those words do not speak back at you and have a message for you? So if it speaks to you and awakens that indefinable something in you then go for it, otherwise ….

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      • oh yeah other than editing works of friends I only read for pleasure, was just wondering given the gestalt of your work here if it was a book that you found worth reading.

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      • I did… I read it back in the seventies and enjoyed it at the time. I’ve read it again a couple of times and get some interesting notions out of it each time. Obviously Pynchon was playing with the whole satiric tradition along with the masterful use of conspiracy theories as always… he enjoys spinning elaborate hoaxes as well. I think V is still a favorite, though. Not sure why, but enjoyed it even more as a prelude. I have his latest gargantuan book in kindle and plan on tackling it sometime soon… but realize it will take time I just do not have at the moment.

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