It is Sunday night, the end of an intense week for me. The documentary that features me as narrator and interviewer, 2012: Time for Change
, came out in Los Angeles on Friday, October 8, at the Laemmle Sunset in Hollywood, and debuted in New York at the AMC Village East on Friday, Oct 15. At the same time, my new book, Notes from the Edge Times
, was released by Penguin. Last weekend, I suffered with a bad cold and then had an extreme allergic reaction to the dogs living at the house where I stayed in LA. This became a full-scale asthma attack in NYC that sent me to the Beth Israel Emergency Room for treatment today, as my breathing was getting extremely shallow.
The lungs are one of my constitutional weak points. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are associated with grief and mourning. I don't know exactly what I am grieving for so intensely. As the author of a previous book on the prophecies of the Classical Maya and other traditional cultures about this time, I have an unusual, occult perspective on the world. The vision presented in my work and in our new film is ultimately optimistic, proposing that the human species is undergoing an evolution of consciousness and behavior that will lead to a new, more equitably and ecologically balanced planetary culture. At the same time, we may face intensifying crisis and global catastrophe along the way, quite soon, in fact.
In the evolutionary process that I describe in my writing and now the film, I often feel like a transitional test-case and still, in some ways, an unsuccessful one. Perhaps that is part of the grief that I find myself carrying with me at this point. Over the last several months, I have been dealing with my inveterate habit of not taking care of myself properly, of giving less priority to my own health and well-being than to the "mission" I am on, and the various responsibilities I keep hoisting onto my shoulders.
Some artists and writers have a tendency to ignore all warning signs and plough forward, despite any distractions or pains, even crippling ones. My father was like that and I seem to have inherited his disposition. The artist's mission is a bit like a possession trance — falling into it is fascinating, also frightening.
After my last book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, came out, people at my talks kept asking me what I thought they should do in this transitional time. I felt a responsibility to develop some answers to that. My 2012 book was very philosophical and did not present a set of tangible or practical ideas. This led me, ultimately, to make the film and also to launch a web magazine, Reality Sandwich and a social network, Evolver, as well as the new book. I wanted to build a foundation for critical inquiry into culturally suppressed areas, along with a tangible infrastructure for local communities to find each other off-line, to transform society by melding visionary ideas with practical techniques. Building a company, making a film, writing the essays collected in the new book, doing public appearances all over the place, taking care of my daughter, almost simultaneously, have taken a toll on my health over the last years, and have left me aching to escape from all lesser commitments in order to dive back into the deeper waters of research, thinking, and writing — the edge realm of potentiality, where it is possible to transmute bits of the unknown into the known.
I grieve for my own imperfections, the areas where I do not behave coherently, and how my mistakes reverberate on people around me. Luckily, I am seeing a woman, a fantastic Viking faerie queen, who is wise, deep, and forceful enough to challenge me in many areas. This morning, after waking up with euphoric howlings at the sunny blue sky, she pointed out that it was far easier and more glamorous to go around talking about all sorts of great ideas than to actually make changes in your life that are essentially invisible to other people, such as buying a water filter or composting.
Personally I often find it difficult to break old, gnarly patterns of behavior and start new, healthier ones. This is why I feel it is necessary to build communities where people share an intention and at least elements of a vision. Peer groups are an effective way to change behavior, as the Burning Man festival demonstrates each year. It is amazing how a policy like "Leave no trace" is enforced immediately by the collective. Still that's not an excuse; as we all know by now, change starts from within. And I am not suggesting Burning Man is some perfect model, either.
Right now, I am seeking to find my way forward to a more coherent, balanced, and integrated way of life. I know it is crucial for my own well being — perhaps my long-term survival as well, as I am oddly sensitive and, at 44, not as immediately resilient as I was in the past. If it is less glamorous than taking large gulps of ayahuasca in the Amazon, or gagging down iboga in Gabon, establishing basic coherence between your thoughts and actions is no less important. Considering the world we live in, it may even be more difficult, and therefore more heroic.
Another annoyance this week that may have intensified my sense of grief was the review of our film from the New York Times. Titled "Waiting for Something Big," the short, snide putdown by Neil Genzlinger had almost nothing do with the film, projecting the author's biases and hostilities. Genzlinger wrote:
"2012: Time for Change," 85 minutes of naïveté with the occasional interesting idea thrown in, gives Daniel Pinchbeck another chance to flog his 2012-theme books ("2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl") and the notion that a little over a year from now Something Big is going to happen.
The film, directed by João Amorim, spends much of its first third looking like a cable TV scare-u-mentary on Nostradamus, using images of destructive waves and such to illustrate the prediction (the Mayans foresaw it all) that 2012 will bring cataclysmic change. But Mr. Pinchbeck tries to nurture the notion that this change doesn't have to be negative; it could instead be a global consciousness-raising that embraces one-with-nature ideas from the counterculture handbook.
Mr. Pinchbeck talks to assorted experts on such things. All of them look well off and self-satisfied. None of them seem to acknowledge that the planet has almost seven billion people on it or have room in their worldview for annoying facts of life like brutal dictators, ethnic hatred, entrenched poverty and plain old greed.
Everything will be fine, this film argues, if we all just chew some hallucinogenic roots, get a worm-filled personal composting box and hike into the rain forest for a "shamanic experience." The line forms at the border.
I could easily go through this review line-by-line and deconstruct the deliberate lies and misconceptions in this piece. As I noted on Facebook, where I asked people to write letters to the NY Times if they saw the film and disagreed with this assessment, "I don't feel the film is perfect but it is certainly far more nuanced and worthy of deeper consideration than what is presented here."
The film is less about specific solutions than about the methodology and mindset necessary to deal with the catastrophes the human species is bringing upon itself, out of unconsciousness. Underlying poor NG's review is his own sense of nihilistic hopelessness — that the 7 billion poor humans are doomed to endless war and ethnic conflict and will always be preyed upon by greed and misery. The alternative perspective pioneered by Bucky Fuller is that we can make use of design science to create a planetary culture that works for everybody.
Why wouldn't you at least want to encourage people to encounter that thought and that idea for themselves, rather than cutting it down in this miserable and pointless way?
The one thing that makes me happy about this review is that from now on I will give up seeking any validation from the mainstream establishment for my work in any way. This film was deliberately, and I would say, cunningly, constructed to build a bridge. If they can't even allow for that, I won't waste any more of my thought or my time on them.
The NY Times is in any case a blatant tool of the corporate military industrial complex with basically no integrity, as the Judith Miller case demonstrated without a doubt.
Counteracting the weird negative bias of the NY Times, here is a piece on the film that the BBC did on their show Talking Movies.