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How Loud Does The Earth Have To Cry?

Billy Talen

10th October, 2005

We interrupt our regular programming for a moral advisory...

This spinning ball of blue water with the lovely clouds on it – she floats in space and is blooming with life. It is the most beautiful thing. I have that picture they took from the moon fixed in my mind, and then, and then – that same water shoots through my window and pulls me out into my whitewater street in a swirl of dead neighbours. That’s easy to picture as well, because I lived in the Latin Quarter in New Orleans in my youth. With that nightmare of Katrina, the first thought I have, I’ll admit, is of what techno-daydream might save me at the last moment. When will the submarine stocked with a fortnight of food appear?

We have begun a discussion with the Earth in which we can no longer expect anything less than a 150 mile an hour reply to come shouting down our street and through our window. That shout has come to us in other forms, other languages, like frogless mountains, cancer upon cancer upon cancer, autumns done in the wrong colour… and we can expect ever more savage shouts to join in now. Perhaps there was a time when we were assigned the task of catching the more nuanced news from the Earth, but we did not listen in time. For late stage capitalism is a Visigoth with a personality disorder, I’m afraid.

This post-Katrina meditation is a difficult one. We look for the relief of comic distractions, like our sad fun in watching the Bush thugs run around like Keystone Kops. But there is danger in blaming them. It has become so delicious a game for Lefties to fling instant jihads against the Christ Cowboys. That is not a powerful enough shout. People who read a magazine like the Ecologist can laugh and say I Told You So right into the teeth of the storm. But gallows humour takes on a new and hollow ring when one realises that there is a rope around one’s own neck too.

After Katrina, there is no loyal opposition. Liberal celebrities and Democrats are ranting, trapped in an abandoned history. Katrina has tripped such role-playing into the abyss. No, these are not promising careers just now, with two new hurricanes in line east of Miami, and with floods in Germany, fires in Portugal and the massive echoes of the tsunami still circling the angry Earth… it’s time to step back from ‘the spinning ball of blue water’, clear our minds completely and start over.

Maybe that is too hard. The momentum of pop rubble, gods, the pixels of money and style, the cravings of loneliness and liberalism and satiation by false advertisement in its thousand forms – do we really hope to begin again while we drown in this incandescent counter-flood? Katrina decided not be a traditional hurricane, and to be effective environmentalists we will listen to her… and not be traditional members of that noble calling – the Environmental Movement.

Now THAT is a radical meditation. If I really found myself alone, and asked for an original thought in the quiet of my meditation, my first question might be: ‘Do I want to be here?’ And then I might find that – YES I want to live among the living. I want to live. And that I want to say this with a force greater than the Environmental Movement. More along the lines of Katrina. A voice with the 150 mile an hour force. But first, there is another question I must ask. It is a shadow question, too. It might be: ‘Does this place want me here? This spinning ball of blue water, with the lovely clouds on it. floating in space and blooming with life? Does it want me here? DOES IT WANT MY LIFE?

I am alone with this blue ball of water… I sit in this chair and imagine you floating in my window. Katrina! I gaze at your beauty and I also feel fear, a panic that you will come through my window and pull me to my death. And I won’t have time, in my haste, for all those who invented my life. I fear the inventors of jazz and the delta blues and the sanctified church and Mardi Gras. I leave them all behind, and call them criminals as they drown in the darkness.

But what if I don’t fear you? If I don’t fear you… If I love you, then I will hear your music coming from my neighbours, and I will save them and they will save me. Give me a powerful preaching cry! – only the Earth can make a great voice now. Change-a-lujah!

This article first appeared in the Ecologist October 2005


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