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Rushing Headlong At The Speed Of Life
'And I am broken by what we have done'
WE WILL BEAR WITNESS to our world. This media project collects stories from earth's citizens, recording climate destruction, devastation, resilience and hope.
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Rushing Headlong At The Speed Of Life
By Jonathan Foster
1969. Spring in Newfoundland. Seasonal icebergs shunt along the coast as the capelin fish overwhelm the inshore waters in their billions. Fat from foraging plankton on the polar ice shelves, like a silver ocean current they swarm through the gathering whales and seals and cod and mackerel and squid and birds, bearing towards the beaches in a planet-sized festival of birthing and feeding and spawning and dying. So numerous you could walk to the North Pole on their rolling backs. The bringer of luck, the bearer of ancestor souls. Born of the sun to thrive in the moonlight.
Today, there’s no walking to the North Pole on the backs of capelin. Today we casually speak of food web collapse and vanishing keystone species. No more luck. No more bearing of ancestors souls. A fish so plentiful they spun the cycle of life since time began, fuelling the dreams of creatures from land and sea with their slender-bodied bounty. The ocean’s seasonal nutrient now collapsed. The inshore waters silver no more.
2023. Spring in Sweden and I think of the capelin and how they swim through my past. I think of the rolling seas as a child when the cold ocean thrived with blooming plentitude. I think of the infinitesimally short period of time in which I have lived, not even the flare of a stuck match, not even the plink of a single raindrop against the desert sand. And I think of the enormity of the collapse I have witnessed. And it breaks me.
When we were born, you and I, we entered an infinite string of moments through which we now rush headlong at the speed of life. A journey in which meaning was sculpted from the meaningless void and the world took pattern and form. Born into a great rhythm of flowering moments unfolding through time; Born into the messy, bewitching and beautiful existence; Born to gorge ourselves on that spoonful of infinity we call our lives.
And I am broken by what we have done, by what we are doing, by what we will do. It is we that witness the metaphorical meteorite of capitalism colliding into us at full force. It is we that suffer the self-referential, ego-maniacal psyche that decimates the Earth in slow-motion and in the blink of an eye. And I am broken by my responsibility. And I am broken by my uselessness. And I am broken by my failure. And I am broken by my innocence.
There are no brakes to slam, there are no rudders to wrench, there are no words to scream or songs to bellow or gods to implore. There is just the triumphant blind stupidity devotedly doing its work, intent on bringing the whole world crashing down upon us
When the capelin population quietly collapsed in the polar seas, there I was, as powerful as a butterfly in a hurricane, remembering the promises that echoed through the ages, a future of freedom and fairness through patience and soft power they said. Promises that have never born fruit for anyone but the man who claimed the tree. As if a tree could be owned we laughed as we picked and boxed the harvest and waited for our wage to deliver us from our precariousness.
2023. Spring in Sweden. A close friend and I are in mid-flow, an ongoing conversation that started years ago, wandering through the forest and sharing our thoughts. We are crying with laughter at the tremendous comical nature of our submission to capitalism, we laugh at the ever present social signalling rituals, the feather dances and we’re gasping for breath in silent convulsions like stranded capelin on the beaches.
We have been walking and talking these forest paths for twenty years, breathing in the silvery and chocolate sheen of the great pines with their ridged and rice-paper bark that glows and smoulders rust and bronze in the rays of the morning sun. These last few years a new confusion of missing glades and open sky where canopies once reigned as so many great trunks are scythed down by this warming climate. A forever of years erased in a moment.
Our path meanders along an ancient forest route from where we watch two skaters navigating the thin ice of an under-frozen lake. Their ice probes tapping the translucent mass as they swish along upon the melting ice that once sung like a pod of humpback whales, the beautiful eire songs of shifting softening ice sheets comfortable in their rhythms.
But now, in these erratic temperatures, under the weight of a wild skater, the ice shrieks like a tight wire fence in a fierce wind, the sound of a laser firing through a chorus of pops and creaks, tempting the world to break into their dreams and plunge them into the depths of reality.
We are all skating on a veneer of our own making, swishing along in a fiction of our own invention, without seeming to care for the precarious nature of our predicament. And we laughed like jesters bearing witness as The Shopkeeper Kings destroy everything that could yet be. And we heard the wheels of tyranny rumbling in the distance and we laughed in the face of this absurdity as we too are plunged into the dark, extinguished from this miracle.
And our laughter stands as testament that we will not be blinded by capitalism’s trivial vision. We will not be made worthless by this corruption or silenced by this emptiness. We will not be made trespassers in our own souls or beg permission to express our integrity and community and love. Instead we will laugh at this theatre, this shimmering facade, this lunatic pretence, this deliberate debacle.
And we will become the ocean for the bounteous capelin to swim once more as we dream of worlds yet to be. And we will reclaim the messy, bewitching and beautiful that is ours. And we will rain down upon this desert and flood the world with love and laughter once more.
Jonathan Foster is a Stockholm based writer. He is currently writing about the intersection of football and life at Arsenal Wonderland, and he’ll be opening a new Substack shortly where he will write fiction, non-fiction and essays. You can also find him at www.fostermedia.s
WE WILL BEAR WITNESS to this moment in history. This project features stories from earth's citizens, recording climate destruction, devastation, resilience and hope. Tell your story.
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