But action doesn’t depend on what might happen. The authors of Savage Grace want us to do the right thing, regardless of what occurs. In their previous book, Return to Joy, the authors advise seeking not “happiness,” a Jeffersonian goal, but a state closer to such virtues as equanimity and compassion, plus resistance to evil and devotion to service.
Never in the history of our species have we so desperately needed to engage in conscious grieving. Not only are we carrying decades of our own grief, but we almost certainly are carrying the grief of past generations and the grief of other species. In fact, I believe that other species are asking us—perhaps even begging us to grieve their losses. When he is able to grieve, says Weller, his ability to feel this planetary pain “puts me back in a profound state of relatedness to where I live, to the watershed, to my home.” (143-144) Some may assume that given the state of the planet, grieving is pointless. Yet The Wild Edge of Sorrow asserts that, “…we have to keep some sense of our deep soul obligation to the planet alive, no matter if we are leaving. I feel it is an imperative that I do whatever I can to register the sorrows of the planet. We have to remember that much of the grief that we are feeling isn’t ours. It isn’t personal. We are literally feeling the sorrows of the watershed.” (143-144) In fact, the entire Earth community has a right to our bearing witness to their losses.
This book contains many proofs for Baker’s tenet that inner work is as important as outer work when preparing for collapse, but one in particular is my favorite. It’s an excerpt in which Baker reveals that while her methods have been called “too touchy-feely,” the same people who issue this dismissal often come back to her for help when their efforts to do things by other means have failed. For example, people who have disregarded her advice about improving their interpersonal skills have lived to regret it when intentional communities they’ve attempted to start have come to grief because of communication and conflict resolution issues.
From my perspective, whether we are in hospice or merely transitioning to a new story or both, these questions constitute our overarching assignment in the time we have left, and they form the crux of my work in the wake of our predicament. The pivotal task, I believe is an invitation offered on Page 66: “Imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back on your life. What moments seem the most precious? What choices will you be the most grateful for?” This is hard-core hospice work.
As a former psychotherapist and as a student of eco-psychology, I was thrilled to learn of Bill Plotkin’s work several years ago if for no other reason that that he describes himself as a “psychologist gone wild.” Within today’s dismal mental health scene dominated by the pharmaceutical industry and the not-so-hidden agenda of producing malleable consumers who blend compliantly into the milieu of empire, Plotkin’s work resuscitates the mental health landscape with notions of vibrant humanity and unprecedented aliveness.
The Five Stages of Collapse is nothing less than a definitive textbook for a hypothetical course entitled “The Collapse Of Industrial Civilization 101” or perhaps a bible of sorts for an imaginary “Institute of Collapse Studies.” While to my knowledge no such courses or organizations presently exist, this book would be an essential aspect of any such entity’s credibility.
Not The Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, and the Myth of Progress, By John Michael Greer—A Book Review By Carolyn Baker
Greer argues that the myth of progress for modernity, and especially for Americans, has transcended a “notion” and has actually become more of a civil religion—a fundamental tenet of civilization and that questioning it is tantamount to heresy. And, the emotional ramifications of questioning progress or abandoning the myth altogether are enormous. In fact, much of Not The Future We Ordered is an explanation of the psychology of coming to terms with the end of progress.