‘A Great Disturbance in Nature’ by Jason Bentsman

A Great Disturbance in Nature

Illustration by Andres Garzon


(from The Orgastic Future)

The following is a self-contained excerpt from The Orgastic Future, a novella the author comepleted recently about consumerism, plastic pollution, climate change, runaway ego, and other threats facing the planet— in a sense the literary equivalent of a Bruegal or Bosch painting.

The excerpt deals with the ramifications of Climate Change, and asks what it will take for people to finally ‘wake up’ to our precipitous path?


A Great Disturbance In Nature

As I write this passage in late September, there has been an unprecedented heatwave in Montreal for the last ten days. Right now it is almost 90° Fahrenheit (32° Celsius), with 90% humidity. Feels like a suffocating hothouse in the tropics. Simply walking outside generates thin sheets of sweat and shortness of breath—I’m like a fish gasping for water. I’ve always wanted to know what walking through warm soup feels like, and now with the wonders of climate change, I do! Another goal accomplished. #lifegoals (This hashtag is a shout-out for the kidz. Not my kids; don’t have any. Just the kids at large. Very unliterary of me, I daresay.)

And this is Montreal, mind you—Quebec, northward part of the world—where for 375 years since its founding, and thousands upon thousands if not millions before, temperatures this time of year have been consistently chilly or wintry, sometimes snowing. A number of records have been broken: today is by far the hottest of this date on record (since 1742), and several other days have been as well.

The natural world is confused. The leaves change color and dry out, branches grow denuded, everything settles in for quiescence and sleep—and suddenly a rip-roaring heatwave and burning sun. The leaves perk up again, vacillate this way and that. Some of the plants and flowers begin to release pollen; suddenly pollen is in the air again. The bees—still mysteriously dying out, most likely from widespread pesticides, their leagues growing thinner and thinner—buzz about akimbo, this way and that, confused. Squirrels save up nuts for the winter, and then say, ‘Ah, what?! Fuck it.’ Flocks of migrating geese, long black V-shaped silhouettes far on the horizon, start flying backwards in rewind. Water freezes, liquefies, boils, vaporizes, condenses, freezes again. Fires burn over waters. Ashes dust across prairies. The whole body and innards of the planet are having trouble communicating.

Clearly, there is a great disturbance in Nature. Animals feel it, plants feel it, insects feel it…bacteria and viruses…the entire planet…even particles feel it. Anyone with even a remote connection to nature can feel it. It takes a great deal of disconnection from the natural world, and one’s own subconscious, and/or willful blindness and repression, not to feel it. Unfortunately, contemporary society facilitates all of the above. At this rate, John Keats would only be able to pen odes to Summer. Vivaldi would only write music about the One Season. The documentary Endless Summer will no longer be a fond metaphor.

These drastic climatic changes have come about in the last fifteen or so years, especially the last several. Before that, they were scarcely noticeable. In only my thirty some years on this planet, about a nanosecond (a billionth of a second!) of its age, I’ve watched the weather go from multiseasonal, regular, reliable, sane, and self-regulating—no one questioned this self-contained logic, it was taken for granted, seemingly self-evident—to quasi-seasonal, irregular, unpredictable, schizophrenic, spastic. How much it has changed in the last decade! The perennial, cyclical, intuitive, reassuringly fond processes have been upended and spliced about like a deck of cards adulterated randomly with extra cards and Jokers.

And then, incidentally, think of the monumental technological and informational changes. Inventions thought distant science fiction are already embedded fact. DNA manipulation. Cloning. Brain-computer interfacing. Bionics. Realistic holograms. Immersive Virtual Reality. X-Ray Vision. Self-piloting vehicles. Invisibility cloaking. Nanobots. Workable androids. Flying cars. Intergalactic travel. Jules Verne would bescumber himself! And all of this in but a nanosecond of the planet’s existence!

My generation likely has witnessed more exponential and radical change by far than any other in history. An eminently interesting time to live in: and eminently terrifying.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was a strange time.

Half the planet lived in primitive poverty and disease. The other half in profligacy and technological disarray.

In fact, the prevailing social-economic system relied on producing innumerable products of every size and variety made to be disposed of as quickly as possible.

When for ages people had gone to cafes and coffee shops for conversation, they now did so to stare at computer screens.

When once books had been written mainly by persons of learning and read by the public, now they were written by the public and read by nobody.


When All Is Said and Done

What will it take for enough people, a critical mass, to wake up and a large-scale movement to happen? Wide-ranging cataclysms, near-Apocalypse? Or will nothing reverse the tide? Are we too irrevocably brainwashed by the consumerist system? Are the evolutionarily older parts of our brains, and even our prefrontal cortexes, just too bygone and maladapted to the exponentially changing conditions of the 21st century for us to be widely judicious, compassionate, responsible, and wise? And humanity’s fate is to be flotsam, shorn against the ruins?

One might say cavalierly: “but this is the fate of all things anyway.” Yet, what a shame for a run so promising—of some 350,000 years, or if one considers the ‘archaic’ and ‘proto’ ancestors ‘modern humans’ developed and branched off from, millions—that in spite of teeming horror, self-inflicted suffering, and wastefulness—particularly in the last ten millennia or so—also yielded so many beauteous artefacts, amazing artworks, magnificent architectures, inspiring attitudes, and acts of worth, to be snuffed out so obtusely and crassly. And maybe at the cusp of an evolutionary transition into something Finer. Maybe.

An absurd end. A black mirror. A whimper, not a bang. Although, yes: a bang for the buck. ‘Well, the world’s in ruins, and humanity’s decimated. But for one glorious moment in time, we sure turned a lot of profits for our shareholders!’

And indeed, when all is said and done, when all is buried and disintegrated, when the buildings, bridges, and tunnels have crumbled; when the businesspersons’ enterprises and empires have long since gone out of business, or been coopted and remade; when the new inventions long outmoded and assimilated; when the politicians long past flapping their lips and now fertilizer in empty graves; when theorems incorporated and far surpassed—what are humanity’s most vital and enduring contributions, which it can be proudest of and might like to show other cognizant species in the Universe?

These must be its deepest and most arresting artworks. Its profoundest philosophies. What could be called its genuine ‘spiritual practices.’ And in fact its secret noblest feelings, thoughts, and deeds. For all seems to aspire towards luminosity and rarefication. “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being” (Carl Jung).


JASON BENTSMAN is a writer, philosopher, poet, and occasional humorist. He was born in Minsk, Belarus (formerly the USSR), grew up in the US, and has spent quite some time sojourning abroad, with Montreal as a periodic home-base. He recently completed The Orgastic Future, a novella about consumerism, plastic pollution, climate change, runaway ego, and other threats facing the planet. You can read (and listen to!) another excerpt here: (http://forwhatitsworth.be/prose/excerpt-every-bondperson/).

He is currently working on a long philosophical novel and two short novels, among other writings. He also takes fine art photographs. Some of his writing has appeared in Unvael Journal, The Real Us, Metamorphoses (Smith College), HirschworthFlaneur (NYC), FIRE (Oxford), and other publications; some of his photographic work in LensCulture, Feature Shoot,and the Ellohomepage. You can check out his Literary Website FWIW (www.ForWhatItsWorth.be), sign-up for his occasional Literary Email Digest (http://eepurl.com/cd81ZP), or purchase a fine art photography print (https://bit.ly/2MBazqd).

Copyright © 2018 by Jason Bentsman. All rights reserved.