Michael Ruppert’s Stereo

Pink Floyd, dark skies, and messages from beyond

NOTE: I began this piece around midnight on August 16th, 2014, in Moffat, Colorado. It’s been percolating since then and it’s appropriate that I’m finishing it around midnight on September 9, 2014. Midnight to midnight, all fueled by starlight.

I spend a lot of time in the mountains and high valleys near where I live in Denver. I like to be in nature and I like to dwell in places that remind me of my youth in the desert Southwest. In pursuit of this I stumbled upon this lodging:

I am jumping between Salida and Crestone in Colorado, two places known as spiritual centers, myself on a spiritual quest. This place is directly in between them. Selected for convenience, like many things in life, it is the other way around. It has selected me and it has something to teach me.

With the windows wide open an Airstream is only a short step away from camping. It is like a hard-sided tent. You hear everything that is going on outside. Every footfall, every snapping twig, every near-silent animal’s exhalation. Nature is right there. Although it was not my intent on this trip to be camping I find myself feeling as if I am. It is evening and, rather than reading or working, I am listening and pondering. Listening is always the most informative. Stop talking and you might hear something. In this case it is especially important. Who or what am I listening to? Michael Ruppert’s stereo.

In my professional life I cast the net very wide to identify and understand trends that may impact my clients. I try and look at everything I find without prejudice or attachment to outcome. Most mainstream trends begin as outliers so that’s where I find the “meat” of my information. A few years ago, looking for such trends, I encountered the work of Michael Ruppert (1951–2014.)

Mike published a widely-read book in 2004 titled Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Mike was early to the party that would become mainstream when Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released in 2006. For this, among other reasons, he became somewhat of a legend in the peak oil, climate change, and environmental movements of the last decade.

Mike committed suicide in April of this year at the age of 63. I did not know him personally so I am not privy to his reasons. His work suggests a complex man deeply in love with the planet and its people. Being constantly face-to-face with the more cruel aspects of our culture—as Mike was—is grueling and demoralizing but I’m not speculating about his reasons for ending his life. Complex people have complex reasons for these things but he did choose to lead a challenging, selfless existence.

Laying on my back upon a wooden deck next to the Airstream, I’m counting meteors. One, two, three, onward to ten. Ten in about half an hour. That’s enough to qualify as a meteor shower but they emanate from different parts of the sky. This is random, the result of good luck, a dark sky, with perhaps a little falling space junk tossed in.

Mike did not live in the Airstream but he did live his latter days in the house on the same property. The sweet-sounding Bose stereo was his. It was moved to the Airstream when Mike left it behind as he headed to California for the final time. It’s playing Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell, served by my iPhone, an ideal accompaniment to naked eye flat-on-your-back dark sky watching.

My favorite thing about solitude in a quiet place is how it shifts my state. I’m hyper-aware. I hear the slightest noise, I perceive the subtlest movement. These heightened senses extend beyond the physical. I feel connected to Earth and Sky in a way that is impossible in a hectic, modern setting. Only in this way, and in this state, do I approach feeling like I’m living the way my DNA intended. Even Pink Floyd playing quietly in the background seems to add to the experience. In earlier times there were drums, rattles, and later, acoustic instruments, all used to celebrate life and connect us to spirit. Even though I have both a drum and a rattle with me the iPhone and Pink Floyd are working just fine.

I recall the documentary Collapse that featured Mike sitting in a chair and talking for about 80 minutes. I have not thought about it in years but, here, under the stars and the crisp sound from Mike’s stereo, I’m mentally rewatching it. I’m fuzzy on the details but I remember one moment clearly. Mike broke down in tears while trying to describe his vision for the future of humanity. It’s bleak and clearly he understood it in a more than academic way. For Mike, to speak about it was to be living in it. He knew the details of his future history very well and they frightened him.

The Airstream is near the town of Crestone, Colorado’s answer to Sedona—only it’s a lot smaller, poorer, and less comfortable. Sedona is polished and Crestone is au naturel. During his time here Mike studied the new ancient ways—the odd mixture of old and new age that tends to co-mingle in places like Crestone and Sedona. For the past three years I’ve been doing the same thing in Salida—studying Andean shamanism that’s infused with eastern mysticism.

As I stargaze, I am thinking about how awkward a time we live in. A mere century ago people would have been fortunate to simply be aware of the traditions of other cultures. Now, nearly every culture is but a few hours flight away and is accessible via books, teachers, the Internet, and “adventure travel.” We’ve moved from being a homogenous species to a heterogenous one in a few short generations. This giant mash-up is causing no end of chaos, uncertainty, and—unfortunately—violence. If you still believe the world’s worst conflicts aren’t about a fear of losing identity and homogeneity, look deeper. We are a tribal species still learning how to live in a global village.

In my consulting and coaching practice I encounter many people feeling out-of-place and out-of-time. They are simultaneously frightened of and yet intrigued by the future. Life often doesn’t make sense to them and tradition — work hard, be loyal, provide value, show up — now fails to provide even a thread of a safety net. There is anticipation of profound change and yet little consensus of what that might look like. Whether on a micro- or macro-scale — your job, your business, the economy, or the scariest of current events — there’s uncertainty everywhere. Unfortunately, in times of upheaval, the first thing to go is usually the floor underneath you.

The meteor shower has stopped. I’m certain it was never really there, just a bending of averages that are now correcting themselves. The day was cloudy and cool so the night is still and unwavering. In truly still air stars lose their twinkle and become solid, distant, ancient shafts of light. To stargaze is to look back into history; the only future here is what I can see, and dream of, around me.

Like all of us, Mike was imperfect. Like the best of us, he cared deeply about this little planet we inhabit. Mike was a whistle blower, a town crier, and a myth debunker all rolled into one. What myth? The one that says our forward-looking, nature-bending, resource-depleting technological progress is assured. If I could travel back in time I’m certain I could easily find a Roman, Egyptian, Mayan, or Dynastic Chinese engineer feeling equally confident about the future. Success breeds confidence. All too often, confidence breeds arrogance and arrogance is the most deaf and blind of traits.

The last song of Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell is fading in, bells giving way to slightly forlorn piano. Appropriately, it’s titled High Hopes. Tomorrow I will continue to study the ancient ways, a tradition going back further than any civilization this planet has ever known. There’s continuity there, evidence that we can sustain something across millennia. High hopes indeed.