You, dear reader, who are paying such close attention to the unraveling of all that we know, must share in many of these feelings. When you see another of these grotesque, pasty-white iterations of humanity stuffed into a glossy suit, acting as nothing more than a fossil-fueled ventriloquist’s puppet, do you, like me, burn inside with rage, a rage that threatens to incinerate you? Do you fantasize of their demise? Of somehow bringing them, at least, a taste of the pain their soulless and heartless actions are bringing to the fish searching for food atop the bleached-out coral reefs? To show them the starving polar bears swimming for hundreds of miles to find no ice to rest upon? At these times, I wonder if any of these so-called humans can feel a goddamn thing anymore.
Do you see a little bit by what I mean when I say democracy needs to be nourished by sanity? If Americans had cared about each others’ psychological wounds — if they’d turned to one another and said: “we’re all being hurt by predatory systems and institutions, and yet we’re all asked to be part of them too — this has to change!” — then maybe enough people wouldn’t have been so psychically fragile as to be such easy prey for the world’s dumbest demagogue. But they were — and that Americans fell for Donald Trump, of all people, tells us just how badly psychologically shattered they must have been. You must be genuinely and totally broken inside by your insecurities if you believe what a Donald Trump is selling you.
The optimistic position is simply naïve. The pessimistic predicts the precise design of the future and doesn’t acknowledge that we can do a lot in the name of compassion to make life easier on ourselves, one another, and other species—our triangle of resilience relationships. Many don’t seem to be able to hang out in the 8–9.5 range, and I am certainly practicing this myself. If our fear is great and especially if we have little tolerance for fear, we might even try to deny climate change altogether.
We easily associate empathy, compassion, an open heart, support, cooperation, honesty, integrity, and gratitude with love, but how about boundaries, limits, grief, anger, discernment, comfort with not knowing, and a commitment to working on our personal and cultural shadow?
There is another reason for fending off sorrow about the loss of the wild natural places we love to visit and the communities where we live, and this is perhaps the hardest one of all to accept and overcome. Many of us are simply afraid that if we allow ourselves to wade, even for a moment, into the feelings of sadness for the living world that lap at the edge of our consciousness, we will find ourselves pulled so ruthlessly into grief and despair that we will never emerge.
I was recently asked to respond to a short email interview. My response seems like a nice summary of how I’ve spent the last decade and a half of my life, so I thought I would share it here.
There we all share the communal cup of loss and in that place find our deep kinship with one another. That is the alchemy of grief, the great and abiding ecology of the sacred once again showing us what the indigenous soul has always known; we are of the earth.
Despite our having caused so much destruction, it is important to also consider the wide spectrum of possibilities that make up a human life. Yes, on one end of that spectrum is greed, cruelty, and ignorance; on the other end is kindness, compassion, and wisdom. We are imbued with great creativity, brilliant communication, and extraordinary appreciation of and talent for music and other forms of art. We cry in tenderness when we are touched by love, beauty, or loss. We cry in empathy for others’ pain. Some of us even sacrifice our lives for strangers. There is no other known creature whose spectrum of consciousness is as wide and varied as our own. You likely know well the spectrum of human consciousness within yourself. Perhaps you have had many moments when greed or hatred overtook your mind. But it is likely you have also had many moments when you knew that love was all that ever really mattered. And in your final breaths it is likely to be all that is left of you and all that you will leave behind, a cosmic story whispered only once.As Leonard said, “It is in love that we are made; in love we disappear.”
The 21st century is going to be the first time — ever — that the human species stops increasing, expanding, and growing. The human population is — for the first time in history — projected to finally peak around 2050, for the first time ever, in a hundred thousand years. Let me put all that in perspective, if your response is — “so what?” — I think it is one of the most significant events of all time, and I don’t say that for hyperbole’s sake. So powerful and meaningful that we haven’t even begun to think about it. I think it explains everything from today’s wave of fascism, to climate change — to tomorrow’s urgent, desperate need for better paradigms of everything, from economics to politics to society