Interview with Carolyn Baker on Collapsing Consciously from Before It’s News
Brought to you by North Atlantic Books
1. What was your prime motivation in assembling your book Collapsing Consciously knowledge wise?
In 2007 I became aware that what we are confronting is not a series of isolated problems but rather, the collapse of industrial civilization itself and the paradigm out of which it was developed. Given my background as a former psychotherapist, my first thought was: In the face of this momentous unraveling of our way of life, how are people going to deal with this emotionally and spiritually? Thus I wrote my first book on the topic Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse. Given the unanticipated success of that book, I took the material to the next level and published Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition in 2011. That book was even more successful, and since I had always wanted to write a book of daily reflections, I chose to begin writing Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times. This 2013 book is being released in two different formats. The hard copy features 17 of my essays followed by 52 weekly reflections. The e-book version contains the other 313 reflections not found in the hard copy.
Libraries of books and countless Internet websites offer information on logistical preparation for our uncertain future—how to grow and store food; water purification and storage; learning skills required for a post-industrial world; permaculture design; and much more. However, as far as I know, I am the only person writing and speaking about emotional and spiritual preparation.
2. How did you feel about the shut down situation in the United States and the near apocalyptic scenario?
The shutdown of the US government is a glaring example of an empire in abject decline. One of the characteristics of a crumbling empire is its inability or unwillingness to govern itself and the masses losing confidence in, and in fact rejecting, their elected leaders. Contrary to what Mitch McConnell says, there WILL be more government shutdowns, or at least, many more instances of the ship of state becoming a failed state. The most recent shutdown gave us a clue of what might ensue in the throes of the next ones.
3. It seems like the only thing that can maybe cause change is a large collapsing catalyst of sorts. To bring people together. What are your thoughts on this?
I have written for nearly 13 years that there are no “solutions” to the unprecedented predicament in which we find ourselves. John Michael Greer, who wrote the foreword for “Collapsing Consciously,” distinguishes between a problem and a predicament. A problem, if addressed fairly early on can be solved. However, when a problem is continually ignored or denied, it becomes a predicament, and there are no solutions to a predicament. Predicaments cannot be solved, only responded to. We now face a predicament encased in catastrophic climate change, global economic meltdown, global energy depletion, and the nightmare that keeps on giving, the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
While there are notable exceptions, industrial civilization has produced highly narcissistic and entitled citizens who are incapable of imagining what life outside of civilization looks like. Unless they are octogenarians or older, however, they will have a glaring opportunity to find out exactly what a post-industrial world looks like. Comfortable people do not change significantly absent massive suffering, and I do not see any significant changes occurring until a mass transformation of consciousness unfolds. This results not from a hundredth monkey-amount of people chanting “OM” but from unprecedented levels of suffering. Carl Jung said that the origin of all mental illness is the refusal to open to legitimate suffering. Indeed, our culture is insane; however, if we are able to understand the nature of our suffering and WHY we are suffering, we have an opportunity to find a deeper meaning and purpose in our lives, deeper and more meaningful relationships and a quality of life that we have never before experienced, not in spite of our suffering, but because of it. Attempting to have infinite growth on a finite planet necessarily exacts a horrific price—a price that affects everyone, especially the innocent. Yet within those consequences are also opportunities for healing, wholeness, experiencing joy, and the creation of beauty—making art, music, poetry, dance, and building community.
Writing about his experience in Auschwitz, Victor Frankl said: “What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves, and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly.” Frankl also said that what really matters is not so much “the meaning of life,” but WHO is asking the question: What is the meaning of life? And so in my work, I am constantly asking: Who do you want to be in the face of our predicament and its consequences? What did you come here to do? Are you doing it? Why or why not?
4. Could you share some of the meditations with us from your book?
One thing I have discovered in the process of opening to this collapse is the power of poetry. Prose is linear and relies on left-brain thinking. Poetry originates in and opens up the heart. Thus I have included fragments of poems throughout “Collapsing Consciously.”
On P. 150 is a quote from Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm: She says “It is no accident that we were born in these times, that we find our lives unfolding now, with our particular histories and gifts, our brokenness, our experience, and our wisdom. It is not an accident.”
Or from Bill Plotkin: “Getting older by itself does not cause us to mature psychologically. Adolescence is not at all confined to our teen years. And adulthood cannot be meaningfully defined as what happens in our twenties or when we fulfill certain responsibilities, such as holding down a job, financial independence, or raising a family. Rather, an adult is someone who understands why he is here on Earth, why he was born, and is offering his unique contribution to the more-than-human world.”
5. This is a wild card question. What would you like to share with us from your book that our readers might find beneficial?
I believe that in addition to the reflections, my readers would very much enjoy the 17 essays I have written at the beginning of the book. These cover a variety of topics related to our predicament, the first one being “The Joy of Mindful Preparation.”
6. Would you like to share one of your poems from the book?
Yes, I would like to share a poem by Rebecca del Rio called “Constant.” This poem concludes the book:
We live for constants,
Rain in winter, the cat
Curled like a furry comma
On the edge of the bed.
Sometimes, many times
These don’t come, instead
There is drought, the father dies,
The mother grows old.
The constant is this:
The mind insists, persists in the insane
Circle of creation from chaos.
Make order of mystery.
“Listen to me,” it shouts.
So we listen.
Constant chatter, constant need
Growing like a curse.
The constant is this:
Life is chaos, disintegration, blooming
Anew into order and collapsing
Again to blossom into something more perfect,
Then chaos, disintegration and on.
We watch helplessly, entranced
Like the magician’s audience,
The hypnotist’s mark.
Nothing to do but join hands,
Bow heads, say blessings
To the capricious, wild
7. What is a transformative truth you’d like to share with us from your book that you feel might hit home for everyone as of late?
Yes, this one from physicist and author, Gary Zukav, Ph.D.: “Spiritual growth is now replacing survival as the central objectie of the human experience.”
8. What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and any links you’d like to share or parting words? Thanks.
I have completed the manuscript for my next book “Love In The Long Emergency: The Relationships We Need To Thrive.” I believe that our relationships with everyone and everything will be the most important aspects of navigating the coming chaos. I would also like to give thanks to Andrew Harvey for making possible the Sacred Activism series of which my books is a part. In that series I’m honored to have my book among those written by Charles Eisenstein, Adam Bucko, and endorsed by one of the great voices in this project, Matthew Fox.
I am available for life coaching and workshops for the Long Emergency and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org