Macy believes that those who “are still on the path and not in one of the ditches” are seeing with clarity that it is “curtains for our way of life” because the prices being paid, or extorted, from the planet are too high.
Recently a reader of my website asked me to clarify the difference between resignation and surrender. When faced with catastrophic climate change, near-term extinction, and the worst emission of radiation in the history of the world from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, how should we respond? The reader found himself swimming in deep despair and feeling very much like giving up—perhaps even ceasing the breast strokes of vigorous swimming, plunging further into the despair, and intentionally inhaling as deeply as possible. Well, that would be suicide, and he didn’t feel ready for that—at least not in that moment, and the word “surrender” kept coming to mind, but isn’t that the same as giving up?
Science is, after all, nothing more than the creation of approximate, limited and ever-changing models and metaphors of some aspects of reality, that are often interesting and sometimes (enormously) useful. As such, scientism makes a pathetic religion. But in the 21st century, we want to believe, and the promise of mathematical certainty and absolute knowledge of everything, which underlies the new cult of scientism and feeds off the intolerance (even loathing) we humans have for complexity and for the unknowability of most of reality, is as comforting to the bewildered and anxious minds of today as the old absolutist religions were to those who couldn’t fathom or accept the terrible new, seemingly-unarguable ‘knowledge’ of previous centuries.
In the light of David Whyte’s poem and the information overload that many of us felt at this conference, I was intrigued by the use of the word “hungry” and “craving” which many participants expressed when they described their longing for spiritual and emotional processes that would facilitate their holding megadoses of new and disturbing information. The attendees at the conference represent only one segment of the collapse-aware population, but as a result of my experience at the conference and traveling throughout the country and working with individuals nationally and around the world, I hear the exact same longing expressed repeatedly and almost verbatim wherever I go. If anyone has any doubt that this aspect of confronting collapse is crucial, they are not listening.
Even in this age of corporate despotism, political duopoly, communal atomization, ecocide and the attendant alienation and ennui, life can be lived with passion and grace, and, as individuals, we can take measures to promote a transformation of the prevailing order.
On some level, it is tempting to say, “goodbye and good riddance” to 2012. For all the positive experiences it may have brought us, those were overshadowed by losses that will live with us for a very long time. But no matter how much we would like to “put them behind us” and declare their end, the truth is that they mark the beginning of a new era of deepening loss and cultural chaos. I assume that the reader understands this, but at the same time, I believe it is crucial to evaluate the lessons which this formidable year offers us.
We share this world — the good Earth. We are a part of it; we have sprung from it; we give back to it when we die. This symbiosis is all that is truly real.
This, then, is the inner work of Transition: Questioning and letting go of the comfortable beliefs and unquestioned assumptions – conscious or unconscious – that we take as gospel truth, and that cause us so much stress (especially when the dissonance between them and reality-as-it-is becomes too obvious to ignore).