The Ball Has Hit the Building
I have this work of art that I made. It's a really gaudy mash up of paint and collage, with a little bas relief thrown in for good measure. The title of the work is "The Ball Has Hit the Building; How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love the Sixth Extinction" and it features a wrecking ball smashing a conceptual wall to pieces. The work was designed to flow, from left to right, with an array of risks and threats on the left side (there are images for a freakin' pandemic!), and a vision of what life would be like if one or more of the threats came to pass.
There's a story behind "The Ball". For me, it has a very profound meaning—not to be confused with our current circumstances. The point that everyone misses is this:
The pandemic that is killing us? That is not something that just started this year. This catastrophe had been in the making for generations. We are so phucking good at fooling ourselves, at believing our delusions, we don't see what's unfolding all around us.
A lot of people are about to get their noses rubbed in their own false beliefs. Bummer it had to take a pandemic to give people a wake-up call, but there you have it. Disbelieve at your own risk. Deny climate change at your expense. (All the information I've been receiving tells me the consequences of climate change are accelerating, it'll be along to kick our asses not to long after this pandemic.) Worship the coming of Artificial Intelligence. There's more than one vector of threat to our very existence, all as likely as the coronavirus to bring death and disaster and at any moment.
Follow the lies where you like. The truth is about to kill millions. Perhaps all the liars will be culled from the herd.
Back to the art-work, and that story.
I was in patient at the VA psych ward in Phoenix and I met a guy who seemed…sagacious. Poor bastard was also mentally ill to beat the band. He was not functional much of the time. But, boy, when he woke up and made it to the day room, he had some really cool shit to say.
On one occasion when he was up and about, we got to talking. I was rattling off all the ills of society and puzzling over solutions. Larry looked over to me and he said, "Nah, forget all that shit. It's too late. The ball has hit the building."
The words came out of his mouth and seared themselves into my brain. The ball has hit the building.
At first, I think the possible horror of his assessment made me want to run away from the concept. I didn't want to believe it might be true. But the more I thought about it, the more shots my subconscious had at it overnight, the more I knew—it is true. The shit is already well on the fan.
The trouble is…for too long, it was movin' so slow, we didn't notice it. The breakdown has already occurred, and Humpty Dumpty's team is on ventilators with Covid-19. There is nothing that can be done.
Oh, we will make efforts—because we fail to have the vision required to truly arrest the impending doom. We are gonna grind on the pandemic for a couple of years, tellin' ourselves if we can just get through this, things will go back to the way they were.
Forgive me if I sound pessimistic. I'm not trying to rain on your parade. But climate change is gonna make the pandemic look like a picnic. Oh, and don't forget about our big ambitions for AI. Ha! You know all the movies that have been made about a pandemic disaster? Well, they've made a few about the conquest of man by machines. If we put our heads in the sand, things are only going to get worse.
The point is, if we come out of the pandemic looking to go back to the old ways of doing things…we are pointing the gun) directly at our heads and daring ourselves to shoot.
And here's the scary thing. Do you think the people of this planet, all the people on this planet, have the ability to get real? Do you honestly think people can escape the thoughts and behaviors that have made society such a problematic concept? The leopard can't change its spots, people. If we want to survive, we are going to have to get way outside the box.
Hell, we might even have to think outside the corral.