The Time Exchange
Chapter 15

Hmm? Well, it's not particularly complicated. Sooner or later you will have to deal with a very stubborn growth crisis. You will have to take a long, cold and objective look at the most tender feature of your lives, one which you've spent your whole life feeling very subjectively about. It may be unimaginable for you to entertain but the question is whether to have a baby, or to steadfastly practice contraception throughout your years of fertility.

Human numbers passed the seven and a half billion mark in about April of 2017, and their growth showed no signs of slowing to more manageable rates. According to the United Nations 2017 Population Prospects Revision humans will number in the vicinity of 11.2 billion by the end of the 21st century, and human numbers are expected to continue to grow in spite of dwindling fertility rates.

Now, I feel strongly about the need to control the growth of human numbers so I struggle to maintain my temperamental composure for the sake of entertaining a balanced discussion of this topic. Nevertheless, at this point in my story, I will have to assemble a rhetorical conversation with those who think there's nothing wrong with having a baby, that wanting to have a baby is only natural, and that everything will be alright if we just carry on regardless.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that couples will want to have children before they have accumulated enough life experiences to recognise the senselessness of this behaviour in a world which is so obviously struggling with the growth of human numbers. Of course, once an individual becomes a parent it's too late to back out of the responsibility. A parent becomes as committed to the entire culture of reproduction as he or she is to his or her spouse and children. Even celebrated naturalists and environmentalists such as David Attenborough and Al Gore, who feel strongly about the impact of human behaviour on the environment, whither when it comes to a criticism of reproductive culture perhaps because they are themselves husbands and fathers.

Without wishing to boast about my modest accomplishments I'm sure you will agree that I find myself in a somewhat unique position with regard to this matter. Doing the research for the host model and developing its many devastating implications led me to an all consuming introspection, so I never married and I never fathered any children. The lasting benefit of this in terms of my own experience of life is that my personal ethic remains in no way compromised by an affiliation with reproduction. I am free to adopt an antagonistic view of this culture, and hold it to account for its unfettered plundering of this planet and everything it endeavours to reach in its far from certain future.

In spite of whether or not people are openly discussing population issues in their daily public lives there is an implicit population theme in much of the popular apocalyptic media of today. This could be because reproduction represents such a sacred human value that people are simply determined not to contradict it in spite of it so plainly being an urgent ecological factor. The apocalyptic imagery of today is like a veil which disguises the true identity of our ecological problems while people run around confounding themselves with their inability to conceive of what the alternative could be.

The alternative is the adoption of a belief about the world and about the purpose of the body which doesn't ultimately lead to reproduction and which may be confounding to you, but the alternative to a diligent practice of birth control is much more distressing.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of what could be bad news for you but in a growth crisis there are only two options: either you lower the birth rate or you raise the death rate, and the logic of these two alternatives is as simple as it is unavoidable.

Now, you could bury your head in the sand and continue to have children regardless of the consequences, but you would be simply passing on your problems and responsibilities to your children who would in turn be faced with exactly these options. Furthermore, since there are only two alternatives in a growth crisis, every time you have a baby you are implicitly consenting to the raising of the death rate which makes you a party to all the evil things that are about to be done in the name of growth control. And if you think that escaping to another planet could be a third option then your escape plan might work for as many as several thousand lucky immigrants but won't amount to a drop in the ocean for the fifteen billion humans left to fight it out here on Earth.

I fully expect that most of you will want to do your best to resist a general lowering of the birth rate, the growth crisis wouldn't be so stubborn if this were not the case, so the question is do you have the stomach for the killing required to achieve more manageable human numbers? How long will it take for you to see the relationship between your reproductive behaviour and a general escalation of global death rates?

You may want to quote a reliable statistical source, at this point, which shows that global human death rates are not presently escalating, but don't be short sighted. Look a little further into the future where an apocalyptic age is almost upon us. Surely growing human numbers are the most significant factor limiting the survival of most living things on this planet, and the sooner we start talking about growth control the better are the chances of this world surviving the onslaught of modern human behaviour.

I don't want to be too confrontational with you here, but what do you think it's going to be like on this planet the day after the lucky immigrants leave to begin life on a new one? If you think it's going to be like bedlam then ask yourself if this is the sort of place you want your beloved children to grow up in. Do you love your precious offspring enough to refrain from giving birth to them? Or, are you so blind that you cannot see what this world is becoming?

In spite of how you may have answered these last two questions the only way you will ever be able to divert your reproductive intentions is by adopting an alternative belief about the purpose of your existence on this planet. If you were to ask virtually anyone on this planet about what life meant to them then I imagine that their reproductive behaviour would figure fairly largely in any rationalisation of this question, and rightly so. There's no avoiding the simple geometry of our bodies, and I don't have a problem with people having babies in better times. My only problem is with people having babies in the next hundred years or so when the damage done to natural environments by human behaviour will become planet threatening, so anyone proposing an alternative to the attitude of such couples should be worthy of consideration.

No doubt you're already acquainted with the sort of alternative paradigmatic universe I'm inclined to suggest to you, but let me underline a few of its details so that the implications will be perfectly clear to you.

Firstly, the host model of Earth and its implicitly infinite regression constitute evidence that a conscious solar being has been working on the topography of this planet, drawing records of its cosmic experience going back to the very dawn of time itself. The British Isles, the Gulf of Mexico and the Antilles Archipelago spring most readily to mind as examples of this evidence, and for us in more general terms the behaviour of this being draws attention to my belief that the recording of experience is one of the great cosmic goals of our existence.

Another interesting implication of the infinite regression is that a universe resides within the body of each of us which may partially explain why the soul is so unfathomably deep, not only for humans but for every living thing in creation. If this is the case then the soul is not an exclusively human property but one which unites all of creation in the sharing of a common identity. Humanity is therefore not something exclusively limited to those who are strictly human but the recognition of a unity which all creatures will hope to share with the countless others they encounter. In my case, I am one who shares kinship with all living things, the singular observance of which is what makes my solitude possible.

If you spent your entire life developing representations of your experience with the universe within you then you can't really justify having a baby on the grounds of your desire to preserve an image of yourself for posterity. Your soul is preserved in your representations irrespective of how many others get to see them, so the question of whether or not you should have a baby is, in this case, a matter of some indifference. You will enjoy a transcendental experience of death in either case.

Now, I expect that this little summary of my thinking may have induced a little yawning in some of you, you were exposed to it quite early in these pages and you've probably had plenty of time to assimilate it. The thoughts are probably quite interesting to you, but won't persuade you to change your breeding plans. But there is one more little ingredient which you may not have been expecting. Try putting these few thoughts together in your mind while under the influence of a hallucinogen such as marijuana.

If you've never experienced the effects of cannabis in your system, which is likely to be the case for most of you, then let me tell you a little story about a young couple I met very briefly when I visited Cairo in November of 1980. It is a story which is dear to me, and is one which will give you a clear picture of what this stuff will do to you.

I flew in from Athens late in the day, so it was sunset before I cleared customs and found a bus which would take me into town. When I got on the bus my intention was to go directly to the Youth Hostel in the city. It was crowded so I sat next to a young Egyptian who was eager to practice his meagre English skills. His English was better than my Arabic, but as the evening unfolded it became clear to me that there remained some confusion in his mind about the difference between "where" and "why". I believed that he had asked me, "Why had I come to Cairo?" to which I answered, "I've come to see the pyramid." But he was evidently asking me "Where are you going in Cairo?" because he proceeded to give me detailed instructions on how to get there which I had been hoping were directions to the hostel. It was only when I arrived at the pyramid that I realised that there had been some meaning lost in translation.

It was dark by the time I got there, and I had to get off the bus in order to catch another one back into the city. I stood there at the bus stop looking up at the magnificent structure before me when I happened to see a young couple approaching from the direction of the pyramid. They looked shattered to me. A look of horror was frozen in their eyes and I could tell from their body language and the way they clung to each other that they were really very scared. It immediately became clear to me what had happened, as clear as it was to the other Egyptians standing with me who had probably seen this sort of thing before. It looked to me like these two had climbed to the top of the pyramid, and had smoked a bit of the domestic hashish there, only to realise the severity of their mistake. Trust me, girls and boys. The top of a pyramid is no place to kick back, have fun, and get stoned!

It's a long way down for a start. It takes about twenty minutes to climb and about the same to get down, so if you happen to be feeling a little vulnerable at the top of one these things then you're still a long way from somewhere safe. Take my word for it. The top of a pyramid is not a plaything. It's the tip of a very serious cosmic organism, as is marijuana for that matter, which is great if you are able to give them their due respect.

The tip of a pyramid and marijuana do make an interesting combination though, if you have the stomach for it, so full marks to this couple for making the connection. If there's one thing cannabis will make you aware of it's the deep astral content of our location here on Earth. You'll feel vulnerable under the influence of this stuff at the best of times because it will open your feelings to the deep cosmic background of our lives. It will tempt you to dip into the universe within you, which is perhaps the best thing about it. You will no longer be able to maintain a superficial view of the world which may partially explain why cannabis users have a tendency to be so far out there. There's no wonder why cannabis is now a medicine in a growing number of jurisdictions because it provides the sufferer of chronic pain with a thoroughly transcendental view their condition.

If you happen to find the paradigmatic content of my story interesting then I recommend you give cannabis a try, if you haven't already. If you go to the trouble of cultivating a bit of a psychedelic vision then you'll see for youself all this galaxy stuff I've been going on about and you'll probably be blown away by it just as I was.

Recreational cannabis use is still unlawful here in Australia and will likely remain so for the next ten or fifteen years or so, but if the experience of other jurisdictions such as in Canada is anything to go by then there is the hope that this sort of change will be inevitable. Recently there was talk in the news media about how medicinal cannabis could be a kind of Trojan horse from which the soldiers of recreational use will one day spring. The expectation is that the voting public will eventually realise that cannabis is not the demon it has been made out to be, and will relent from their intolerance of the use of this otherwise fascinating substance.

If you remain unable to see any benefit from a widespread use of cannabis in the alleviation of the approaching growth crisis then perhaps it would be of comfort to you to know that it would at least pacify some of the aggression expected to be seen throughout the end of days.

It is hoped that cannabis users will feel like they are members of a larger cosmic family which may become a lasting substitute for their desire to be members of a human one. I look forward to the day when users become a community of dreamers who are able to navigate the multiverse, and whose membership includes the marijuana plant itself and our grand cosmic benefactor the endlessly dreaming solar ancestor.

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