The Earth Is a Public Figure


I always read the papers with a yearning. The headlines, photos and lead paragraphs flicker on the screen under my stare, and I'm looking for something not there. I find myself looking at the table, the sun on the wall, then out the window into the trees.

The media streets with media bodies, media living rooms with media politicians doing media interviews smiling media smiles -- how does the life of the Earth enter the picture? The news is a glowing liquid landscape. How does the material reality that these living rooms and flesh are made of, rise up and make its statement that this is a deadly fantasy?

As the Earth's freak storms multiply and keep getting closer, we still kick the Earth out off the news cycles as fast as possible, bleach it from public figures, delete it out of their stories. Even Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri are demoted. We burst into their closets with our paparazzi hoping to find something salacious. This is Earth-avoidance. The Himalayan glaciers melt as we corner Al and Raj and give them lie-detector tests. Meanwhile, where is the Earth? Making weird cameos... gussied up as a glowing ball that bounces into deep space or re-appearing as a wet blue marble graphic that lends a space race patina to a cell-phone made to look like a space-capsule... what?

The Earth is not regarded as up to date, can't be trusted with trending, with futures, with where to risk your money. When earth-life loses patience and demands our attention in floods, fires, mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis; when it pushes Lady Gaga out of the spotlight, and she must wait in the wings with Brad and Angelina and Barack and Michelle for the tragedy to subside; then we have a moment of opportunity, to listen to the being at the center of our greatest natural events. Sometimes the Earth makes a surprise entrance into our everyday life.

Our everyday lives are smoldering revolutions. A writer named Michel de Certeau wrote about how we check the advance of a billboard or an intercom voice. We shield ourselves from the news, we duck and feint, protecting our own intimate moment with a lover, or with our child. Or we try to be alone for a moment with ourselves. We take a book into the john, the ads follow us there too. On the F Train we close our eyes to behold a daydream while the Budweiser horses clamor over our heads.

We can find a way, even in 2010, to share an unmediated thought with the Earth. If the life of the Earth could get through to us human beings, out here where we are stranded in our consuming lives, that's it. That's it. When that happens then another world is possible. That moment must be the beginning of radical change.