Be willing to step into, not turn away from, the crisis of our times. My grandparents, a musician and artist, were lovers of beauty. They were unlikely people to step into acts of questionable legality, then abandon their comfortable lives and multi-century history with their country for the uncertain life of “penniless refugees”. Good thing that they were willing to step into this uncomfortable place – for them, for my mother and for me. Offering to others, offering to the future, will widen your vision and horizon – and deepen your life’s meaning. Your life may grow and expand in surprising, meaningful, and beautiful ways. There is a great gift to self in offering yourself to others, to the future.
Being happy is about feeling good. Meaning is derived from contributing to others or to society in a bigger way.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian singer/songwriter who spent many years as a palliative care nurse. Her patients had gone home to die, but she was with them the last three to twelve weeks of their lives, and over the years, Ware noted the Top Five Regrets of The Dying which she compiled into a book. The regrets are striking because they reveal the factors that, regardless of one’s age or physical health, bring meaning and purpose to human lives, and those that do not. An examination of each regret may be useful as we consider our place in history and the collapse of industrial civilization in which we are now embroiled. Each regret has been seeded by the paradigm of civilization and reveals the ultimate fruits that are harvested as a result of allowing the paradigm to grow in our lives.
When I began writing this article, a friend of mine had recently entered hospice. While I was finishing the article, my friend died. She was not in the same town as I, but during the past month, we had been able to speak by phone several times a week. Given my friend’s decline and death and its impact on me, I was not taken aback by Daniel Drumright’s essay “The Irreconcilable Acceptance Of Near-Term Extinction,” posted last week on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog.
We have witnessed over just the last three years, hypothetical Abrupt Climate Change become empirical, where the evidence is so overwhelming, it barely has anything to do with actual observable science anymore, and has everything to do with human psychology, or rather, our shared pathology in the hopium of indefinite growth and progress. And this is why the whole concept of climate change will be, very soon, completely refashioned in context to geo-engineering, if for no other reason, than it sadly now has both the logical and moral high ground compared to doing nothing. Amazing!
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 one level, we are only frail beings trying to survive in a rapidly changing, often fearful world; on another level we are nascent geniuses trying to contribute meaning, intelligence and beauty to the world around us.
A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?
We can agree that the modern industrial age has certainly severed our sense of connection to nature, and even to ourselves. Cheap fossil fuels gave us the illusion we could dominate, subjugate and use the natural world for our own ends, and in the process we forgot that we are a part of the world, not above it. It cut us off from our sense of our own natural selves and our sense of community with our neighbors. After 150 years of fossil fuel driven growth we have forgotten what this sense of connectedness feels like. Perhaps my dream says, “Prepare the ground for its return, build the bridges of connection. In the future this energy will flow again.”