Animist Manifesto, Chapter 1.

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Not really a story, but entertaining enough! Other chapters are in progress.

Here it is:

An Animist Manifesto


Paul Stephanus


I've always held the institution of NASA in high regard, and it is obvious that if the human race intends to survive, NASA is our best hope of doing so.

Whether it is morally better if we survive, I cannot answer cleanly, for I am biased and have a soft spot for heroic attempts at survival against all odds instilled in me over the course of my life by religions here and war stories there. So let's for the sake of argument say that it is morally best for us to extend the reign of humankind at all costs, even past the life span of the Earth herself. Even past the life span of this solar system, or galaxy, or the inconstant universe. 

In one way it seems counter-intuitive to survive past the life-span of the planet that spawned us, for we are mere appendages of the Earth; and as a hand cannot function without the body that grew and sustained it, nor the genome that designed it, nor the espirit which directed and moved it, who is to say we will survive without our Earth? Disembodied, decapitated from our dead planet, what would humans do? To undergo a transplant of the body, mind and soul, to leave our Earth: would that destroy humankind as we know it? How would our sacred genome have to be altered, how would we suffer? Is it worth it?

Or, is it perhaps more noble to die with the dying Earth, to cling lovingly and then to dissipate, our atoms spreading chaotically through space? To disappear, as every living thing must?

Or should we regard this Earth not as our nerve centre, but merely as our mother, from whom we must one day wean ourselves and float across the expanse of the Universe to settle upon, and dedicate ourselves to, a suitable mate. And once we are gone, will we ever visit our mother again, or will it be a one way trip? Will we have the chance to encircle her cold stone grave, the remnants of her life shrouded like Venus in thick clouds of carbon dioxide? Will we toss roses from our spacecraft through her dead skin and watch them disappear into the mystery of death before we turn and fly at light speed homewards, to our young and healthy mistress, two solar systems away, whose body erupts with sighs of pure oxygen, whose skin nurtures creatures of Carbon, much like ourselves, much like the creatures of what once was Earth?

Upon her, embraced by her, nursed by her, we quietly evolve, as our new consort trains us to be loving creatures under a still unfamiliar sun.

You see why we need NASA?

Or is it worth it? Should we even try? Will we ever harness the full potential of empty space, to move through it on quantum terms enigmatic to us now in our small, confined minds? Will the erudite stars hand over their secrets? Will the photon let us hitch a ride? 

But even if the secret is torn apart, if we do manage to tear through the fabric of a fourth dimension, then, what if Earth is unique? What if she is a Goddess we have failed to worship, and is withering for neglect? What if there are none quite like her? Can we be blamed? Was it ever our express duty to wash and bathe her, to love her and tend to her; to protect her from the ravages of space; have we failed to heed the lessons of the other planets, those quiet giant planets that surround us and enshrine her? Was that our duty, failed duty now, or were we merely an unlikely cluster of eukaryotes who happened to have existed during this soulless planet's inevitable demise in an equally soulless solar system, galaxy, and universe? 

Is Earth not a goddess at all, but a rock vomited through a wormhole that spirals endlessly into itself, purposeless? Is the sun not warmth, but mere combustion? Is oxygen not life, but a happenstance of coupled molecules? 

This is highly unlikely. The planets must be Gods and Goddesses. If our stifled inner myths tell us anything at all, they tell us this.

Did the Sun, when it was fresh and young, vibrant, full of wonder and wanderlust, not settle down and decide, as it looked on the fomenting globes of molten beside it, and out upon the gaseous giants down the horizon -- one now waltzing within her golden rings, one now shepherding its myriad moons -- that this one, this temperamental beauty flanked between passion and war, will be my love, as he gazed upon our Earth? Our haploid Earth in heat. Did he not release his fierce concupiscence across the Fallopial curvature of space? Did his haploid photons not inseminate the Earth -- at once embryo and womb, nestled in the comfortable caul of her gravitational field -- one thousand fold? And one billion fold? Is not every chloroplast on her still inseminated, does not every animal cell still bask, content, bathed, in that daily deluge. 

Can anyone give a more founded explanation?


One cannot deny the Earth's fertility; the Sun's virility, but what more can they do for their offspring. Love them still of course, nurture them of course, when they can. But the offspring want more. Indeed, the mother seems even willing to give her life for the capricious deeds of some of her children. But the time comes when Sun and Earth must let us go, for we have filled every niche of complexity. What is left to be done between them? How much more can they achieve? For Earth and Sun have spawned toads that live their entire lives inside the stomach cavity of their mother, where brother and sister together sear a grandson which eats the mother out from the inside. A fish that survives five years in a concavity in the desert, bundled up in a cocoon of its own mucous. A flower that reeks of rotting flesh to attract flies. Apes that slaughter each other in the billions over abstract ideas. An entire legacy of breathing creatures who are in turn made up of other creatures in a psuedo-harmonious factory of troubled thought and simple survival. It is ugly and beautiful, and too complex to teach anything new to. Every space upon her surface, every nook, has been filled with an appendage, or a concept, or a concern. She is weighted down, barely holding herself up, this reflexive Atlas, our Mother, our Earth. 

One cannot gainsay Earth's fertility, but her fatigue is apparent. We can feel it. She rumbles, implores, beneath us. She can now only wish for a long fallow breath before she retires, she must be in need of at least a thousand years, a moment of introspection before she petrifies and sheds her final colors, left to rotate around the Sun a peaceful and crumbling stone. 

And as no husband can live on without his beloved maid, so no Sun can last long without his Earth. Soon afterwards he will burst, his energy expired. For a brief moment expanding outwards to clutch his beloved wife and then fade with her away, their spirits to go where spirits go. 

This is how our parents are to die. Is this how we are to die? That is what we're asking. If so shall we then not herald in our end with some semblance of integrity? Shall we not beautify her, and evolve with her, bask longer in the sun, sink deeper into the Earth, pick at her soil and pry at her secrets. Dissect these atoms further, but not just with our tools, but also with our minds. Shall we not dress her in silk, like a Queen, to be paraded about our solar system, as we all descend venerably into a secret oblivion? With our mother.

Or without her;

Shall we expediently, defiantly, vigorously extract her very life, suck her dry, dig out her pulp, and race full tilt against time? Against the inevitable death, the shrouding and collapse. Shall we send her into a sick and early retirement? Many a mother is seen to happily give her life to her children. Many a mother would take bullets for their arrogant, tempestuous, ignorant, ungrateful sons. Many a mother suffers the whore house for her helpless child's health, or 12-hour shifts in the putrid slaughterhouse to fund her child's education. Many a hungry mother turns starving mother to feed her child. 

So, if we were to say to our Earth, "Mother, we've our whole lives ahead of us. You've given us the best: The finest upbringing; nobility of blood; complexity of thought; guile; compassion; anger; long life. We don't want to die alongside you, like a young Indian bride climbing upon the pyre of her dead grey-haired husband. We're still supple of body and fertile of mind, we don't want to die. From you," we say, "we need your heart, your muscle, your skin, your mind. We'll grind down your bones and suck dry your marrow, as you watch on, still alive. It will be painful, very painful. We'll blacken your blood as your heart still beats and spread tar through your lungs as you breathe. Your skin will grow mottled and yellow with cancer, and there will be no medication. And there will be no rest. Your sculptures will crumble under our stampede. But you see, if we stop or slow or hesitate, there may not be time. We know how hard you worked, we know, we're sorry. Your canvases of color that cover the earth will be layered and soaked through with soot. And we won't have time to wipe them clean. You see, we're in a hurry. Yes, we know how beautiful they are, we know how beautiful you are. But your songs will die, your poems will die, your music, your oceans, your mystery will die. Painfully, ignobly, slowly, everything will die. But, dear mother, we will survive."

With a tear she'd consent, and understand. 

Here then are our two options. We suffer a venerable death together, mother and son; or, we attempt, at all costs, to prolong life for us, and watch on as a horrid death overwhelms our Earth. 

Which is better? More moral?

We've come a long way in dissecting and confusing morality. There are almost as many species of human morality as there are species of tulip. And as tulips are bred indefinitely within a severely constricted framework, so too do moralities. But it is all we have. We are not intelligent enough a species to back track, to recreate morality from scratch. So, we are left to dwell upon the endless speciation and pointless diversification of these tulips. We don't dare touch the metaphorical daffodils or roses. All we have are our tulips. And as a result our morality is unnecessarily complex and not very illuminating, and wholly unfounded in reality. 

However, it is all we have.

And in this, our morality, we can defend both courses of action. To go, or to stay, so to speak. But what we cannot defend, what we absolutely cannot defend is what we humans are involved in now: the prolonged and ill-befitting torture of our mother, without purpose. What good is that? What morality is there in that if the fruits of our exploits are used for no good end?

We are not focusing our energies on the colonization of space, and our own self-preservation, so why do we destroy the Earth? I'm the first to concede that a hunt for a habitable planet is useless; a one-in-a-billion chance. But that is our entrepreneurial drive is it not? Who cares if we are to fail? So what if all beauty, joy, comfort and the chance for a quiet death rot grotesquely behind us? What about it? We tried, and that is what matters, for in that old aphorism "You don't know until you try," we sum up the irrational thumos that drives every unbelievable accomplishment and stupid mistake. With this thumotic drive we surmount the insurmountable, fathom the unfathomable, but not without tumbling to our death down the mountainside once in awhile, or drowning like defiant toddlers in the sea now and then. This, our thumos, drives us, and it is a legitimate moral ground to let our thumos have full control over the reins, to reign until our glorious painful death. For we are human, and this is what we do.

But what is absolutely not acceptable is the lackadaisical consumption, the mean-spirited exploitation, the pathetically justified acquisition, no longer through Lockean work of one's hands, but through the pure cynicism and hate of one's soul. To degrade the Earth and attempt to exculpate oneself thorough a globally regurgitated, repugnant philosophy of self-interestedness, to control the Earth with the intellect of a bacteria, to be master of men, to own DNA, to enslave the heritage of existence all without a goal, without foresight. Why then, did we evolve? All these mental complexities, these intellectual pits excavated for the first time, long buried philosophies exhumed, we spread our neural roots unceasingly through this gift of a cosmic mind, and yet we are confronted by...this. 

We commit all these deplorable acts, and for what? To give your particular group of cells that advantage over another group? For how long? Eighty years, if you're lucky. 

We need real men to dethrone these fakes. We need a philosopher king to enslave the masses in the name of the masses. Enslave us, and lead us: either in the Buddhist grip of the Earth's slow and beautiful demise, or into the spirited beckoning cry of deep space. Where are our heroes? All I see are disgusting men. Disgusting men. 

So it’s no wonder the mother scolds us, wise now in years, middle aged and on the threshold of menopause. No wonder she swells her seas and shifts her tectonic bones in fury. For she has many children, and as every child prefers to think as him or herself as the favorite, so we think of ourselves. But she loves all her children, and as a poor mother on the streets of Mumbai may sell a single child to better feed her clan of 8 children, so our mother might wish to wipe us out in favor of her less destructive progeny. Or have we grown too strong? Perhaps she is not able to kill us. No matter how hard she tries. Or Perhaps she is only slapping us. Like a loving mother in middle class America may slap her adolescent son who does nothing but rot in front of the television. To get some sense into him, to steer him. Perhaps the Earth is attempting to slap some sense into us. 

"Use me fiercely, destroy me, corrupt me, taint me, de-robe me, tear me apart and leave my parts for the dogs" she says, "but do it for a purpose. Have a goal in your life. Have a purpose, whether you fail or succeed, 'you will never know until you try.' Or walk the gardens and philosophize, ponder the transient beauty of this world and add to its beauty."

A thumotic charge into the cosmos, or a quiet and resigned Buddhist retreat into death. But for God's sake, not this. Please not this. I'm overwhelmed with shame.