Amidst the speed of changes occurring in both nature and culture it takes very little to tear the skin of civilization and reveal massive and festering emotional wounds full of fear, rage, resentment and vengeance. We are not just in the midst of an unusual election or a surprising political period. We are not simply in the middle of the hottest summer on record. We are in an extended period of the radical churning of the world in which all the toxicities and poisons that are usually held back appear on the stage of life at the same time.
“Many indigenous peoples have a pact with mother Earth that said we would hold on to the principles of thriving life, and that one day the world would turn back and come to us again,” she says. “To be ready for that, we must also go through our grief in order to truly be able to come back into alignment of our mind, body and spirit.”
The idea of outrageous courage touched me. I could feel this was the invitation that was nested inside of this despair. I/we are being asked to cultivate outrageous courage in the face of outrageous loss. What I came to realize was that nothing had changed; the outer conditions of death and potential collapse are all very present, but something in me had shifted ever so slightly, allowing a new bottom to begin to take shape. I had been deepened by this descent. Despair was my human response to too much death, too many losses—of friends, forests, cultures. My heart, in all its beauty and fragility, was overwhelmed and couldn’t find bottom. Now, the barest inklings were setting in.
How do we live with the fact that we are destroying our world? What do we make of the loss of glaciers, the melting Arctic, island nations swamped by the sea, widening deserts, and drying farmlands? If you’re really paying attention, it’s hard to escape a sense of outrage, fear, despair. Author, deep-ecologist, and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy says: Don’t even try.
By popular request, Parts 1-5 of the recent “What Collapse Feels Like Series” have been condensed and reprinted here.
So if you want to insist that life is meaningless, which by the way even Nietzsche did not believe, you probably should stop reading right here. If you want me to convince you that life isn’t meaningless, well, I can’t do that, nor do I want to. It’s really none of my business, but if you have some inkling that it’s possible to find/make meaning in the throes of despair and that doing so matters in any way, you may want to continue reading.
A May 2 article in the New York Times “Suicide Rates Rise Sharply In US” informed us that not only have suicide rates increased in the past decade among teens and the elderly, but more surprisingly, they have surged among the baby boomers. Ten days later, an article on the Alternet website asks, “Is Cutthroat Capitalism Pushing A Growing Number Of Baby Boomers To Suicide?” Certainly, we might expect adolescents and the elderly to take their own lives, but why baby boomers—people in the 35-70 age bracket? What is it about this group?
Finding Renewal In Times Of Loss: Carolyn Baker Reviews "Why The World Doesn't End" By Michael Meade
In a time of decline, demise, unraveling and what is very likely to be the collapse of industrial civilization and the paradigm on which it rests, it is crucial, in my opinion, to grasp and nourish the opposite of descent by attending to all that may facilitate an ascent to a rebirth of humanity. Descent, in fact, is only one half of the story of civilization that is now playing out its last act. From the ashes of that collapsed paradigm, another will emerge, and our work in current time is to forge a framework with which it can be constructed—a skeleton of sanity, sagacity, creativity, compassion, and vision to be enfleshed on the bare bones of what we modestly call “preparation,” knowing that today’s preparation is tomorrow’s next culture.
I understand wanting to promote empowerment, creativity, and hopefulness. I cannot understand promoting these attributes in the absence of — or at the expense of — factual information supported by extensive, rational analyses.