Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI

Some rather random musings as I sit in the semi-darkness.

One moment, everything is going along exactly as it has for years, and then, suddenly ... Nothing!

In this case, the power went out. Here where we live, it happens so often that I have the PGE Outage number on my cell phone and can quickly call to report the outage, and also call back to see if they have an expected time for the return of power. Today, they estimate about two hours. It's the middle of the day, we have the woodstove going. Basically, no big deal. But one person here as already headed for the city to their more comfortable place. I'm typing this on my computer; of course, I won't be able to post it until power is back on and I can again connect to the internet.

But each time we have a power outage, I am reminded that there are many things that can be finished - Just Like That! Life for one. Civilization for another. In our situation, we are relatively okay in a power outage. We have a propane stove for cooking; we heat with wood; we have our own well (although we need electricity to pump it); we even have a composting toilet and an outhouse, should we need it. But nearly all these things, which would make us far more ready than 90% of the US population, would all still be very temporary if such an outage was permanent. Wood would be relatively endless, but depending on where we were in our tanks, propane would run out in a few months. Without a generator or some other means of creating sufficient electricity, we would quickly be forced to carry water up from the stream, or set up some kind of rain collection system from the roof.

But believe it or not, this is really NOT about the end of civilization. This is more about just the end - Death, or any other manifestation of..

If you're not familiar with TEOTWAWKI, don't worry. It's not a real word. My friend Linda chanced upon it in writing me an email. It stands for The End Of The World As We Know It - TEOTWAWKI. I love it. It sounds like one of those indiginous words that they name movies after. So, every time we have a power outage, I am reminded of TEOTWAWKI. It could come at any time. Any moment. And go on forever. I know, for instance, that there are many, many more ways than most people want to imagine for the end of the world as we know it to suddenly drop on us. One would be a cataclysmic power outage that would simply be un-fixable. Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI. No more computers, TV, gas getting pumped. It would be an immediate and permanent end of everything we know. Once it became known what had happened, grocery stores would be emptied in hours. Within days, there would be massive looting and murders. Within weeks, thousands, if not millions would be dead.

Again, this really isn't about that. This is about the other big Just Like That - DEATH.

The point I really wanted to make is that no one is really ready for death, because on one level, no body believes in death. Although I've told the Most Wonderful Thing story a gazillion times, it can bear another quick retelling. It is a story from the Mahabharata, where the King Yudhisthira is in the woods and is accosted by the God of Death challenging him to answer 100 questions. One of those is "What is the most wonderful thing in the world?" Yudhisthira responds that, "Every day people see that relatives or friends or others die, but they think that they themselves will never die. This is the most wonderful thing in the world."

I am currently reading Aghora by Robert Svoboda which is the narration of Vimalananda, Svoboda's guru, who was an Aghori - one who follows the "left hand path" to God. Much of that revolves around sitting on human corpses and praying to God or Goddess. It is the complete recognition and surrender to the reality of death. Most people want to avoid death at all costs, just like they want to avoid suffering, 'negative' emotions, and anything that is even minorly unpleasant, at all costs. But his is simply utter foolishness. It is literally choosing to be blind and stupid. It is like the child covering their own eyes and going, "You can't see me!" But we can, and simply hiding from the miseries of janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi -- birth, death, old age and disease -- will not make them go away. In fact, truly seeing these very four things is what led Siddharta, the then future buddha, toward His Enlightenment.

Here in the West, we live in a culture that does EVERYTHING possible to hide the truth. Everyone wants to be pretty and young. Fifty is the new twenty. Don't have old age. Don't have poverty. Consume, consume, consume. It's almost as if we know that our car has no brakes, so we might as well go full throttle and end in a blaze of glory. Elders are no longer sought for their Wisdom, but shuffled off into 'facilities'. We hide birth, illness and death in hospitals away from relatives and loved ones. When the God of Death comes for us, we are helpless and alone. Electronic beeping and buzzing surround us, and very possibly not one individual who cares will be with us. Of course, we all make that passage alone ultimately. Especially if it happens Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI. I have known a number of people who have died instantly. One simply fell down dead and was said to have been gone before he hit the floor. Imagine that. Perfect health one moment....dead the next. And that can literally happen to any of us.

So, it's been 2 hours, and we have reached the time when the power company originally said our power would be restored. However, since that time, checking (with my cell phone) they have recalculated, from the original 2 pm, to 3 pm, and now to 6 pm. The other very interesting thing is normally it tells you "There have been 63 reports and 600 people affected." Now it tells me, "There have been 4 reports and 1 home affected." In other words, us. Now, I know that's not the case, or at least assume it's not, since I can't reach anyone at the local store which uses a cordless phone (requiring electricity). But why would the system do this? Well, one BIG change since our last outage is that they installed digital wireless readers on every home, so they no longer have to send meter readers. Hmmmm?! Curious. Does that mean that it simply registers that way, or do they actually have to go to every home now and reset something in order to get power, which is why it may take 4 extra hours? Of course I'm totally speculating here, but did their improvements not only put all the meter readers out of work, but also increase their work load. Technology has a way of doing that which people often aren't aware of. For instance, it was commonly thought by most people that survival in antiquated times required much harder work than today. It turns out, recent anthropological studies have revealed that most indiginous cultures spent maybe 2 to 4 hours a day on survival, and the rest was spent together. In other words, a much shorter "work week" of hunting and gathering, and still having all the necessities of life with much more tribal and family community time together. No father off to work one way, mother off to work another, children in this school, that day care, grandma and grandpa in the facility. Just togetherness. Wow, what progress we have made. However the good news is that one way another, whether by natural disaster, economic collapse, or, of course by death - it could happen .... Just Like That - TEOTWAWKI.

Well, Well. Power back on and an hour and a half early. I guess we've escaped TEOTWAWKI once more.

Happy Happy!!!!