Saturday, March 28, 2015

The One True Party

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

—Wendell Berry, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"

So. Let's say you're living now in the uneasy peace of a post-apocalyptic world, a world where your comfortable illusions imbuing events and decisions with purpose have all burned away. You searched the wreckage, the wretched desert, and found nothing. You survived the nuclear winter. You've begun to adapt to an honestly ugly reality. Lacking a sense of mission, you wonder what to do with yourself now.

Shrug. (After all, you don't know anything.) Shrug again. (Truth be told, you never did.) Shrug. (Nobody ever did.) Shrug—feels good, doesn't it? Bob your head. Loosen up your knees. Shrug on the two and the four.

Then boogie the hell down. Crash the One True Party.

The One True Party is the party without justification. All other parties are false. The One True Party is not imposed on the world. It emerges organically, arranging spontaneously from the meaningless noise, the atoms seeing each other across the room, attracted, pairing up to dance, molecules pulsing to electric rhythms, proto-eukaryotes making love, Cretaceous mammals making love in burrows after an apocalypse, paving the way for sapient bipedal primates to bludgeon zombies to music before they set about repopulating the earth. Why? Why the hell?!

The secret about armageddon is that, while it does suggest the question, "Why the hell?!" it also suggests the far more fun question, "Why the hell not?!"

Be honest with yourself. Have you never fantasized about an apocalypse, about worldwide revelation? About the obliteration of politeness and professionalism and phoniness and most of the douchebags you know? The destruction of the American Dream, that treadmill where you run and sweat without getting anywhere? Imagine the thread of your decades of future employment, working ever toward retirement, snipped, and now you suddenly have time and need for your hobbies—gardening, fishing, hunting, camping, canning, candle-making, tinkering. The rules under which you have long labored are gone, lifted by their sudden irrelevance. Turns out, they were arbitrary anyway. Like everything else.

There's a reason we have these escapist doomsday fantasies. In the Matrix, flooded in the numbing excess of salt, sugar, and fat masquerading as nourishment, we crave the austere beauty of honesty. Paradoxically, we fantasize about the cataclysmic renewal of reality.

Maybe the universe is an endless cycle of pain and decay and death. Maybe that's what this long history of primordial elements arranging and rearranging "means". That's believable, but not much fun, and at this point a little clichéd. The apocalypse is fertile soil for new religions—so what if the one true purpose of the vortical trajectories of the elements from the fiery Big Bang through the formation of the Earth to the stormy present, is the genesis of Earth, Wind, & Fire? Imagine colossal statues of Maurice White built from tires and empty oil drums. Who's to say this is a wasteland, and not a wonderland, an inchoate Eden? In the meaning-obliterating light of the apocalypse, this interpretation is as valid as any other. No one with any authority can tell you otherwise.

The secret of the One True Party is that it's only a party because it makes no sense. It's uncontrollable laughter at nothing. It's grace without justification or expectation. It's joy without evidence or explanation. It's virtue without heaven or hell. It's love without past or future. It's a collection of beautiful trinkets, recovered from wreckage. It's peace in the presence of bombs. It's singing in prison. There is no cause and effect, no rationale or calling-forth. The One True Party is because it is, bleeding into existence through every moment, through every infinitesimal pore between the present and the eternal.

Are gratuitous joy and love only possible in a world with gratuitous suffering and evil? Is the wide-open door to the Party only visible, its viral rhythms only audible, when everything else has burned to the ground? Is it only when the inferno has consumed all the pretty lies that you know this boogie is for real?