Changing times are calling for more radical approaches to social work. COVID-19 is teaching us that resilient social networks are local. After the pandemic broke out in my community, opportunities for resource sharing and communication opened up. Mutual aid support networks emerged, where neighbors post what they need help with, and what they have to offer. I am seeing brilliance, generosity, and creativity. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) backyard garden projects. Mask making and distribution. Bed and breakfasts converted into shelters. Meals for the unhoused. Most of these organizers are not “social workers,” but perhaps this is an indication of the direction social work should be going.
Recognizing the role of our psyche in all of this isn’t a passive realization, however, but, being a realization that takes place within the psyche itself, simultaneously activates and unlocks the very creative nature of the psyche that we are recognizing. In other words, this realization isn’t abstract, intellectual or theoretical, but rather, is a felt-sense that directly connects us with and helps us access the enormous creative power each of us—knowingly or unknowingly—carries within us. This insight by itself is just the beginning, however, for we are then called to carry and embody our inner realization into the outer world in our own uniquely creative way.
Among other things, we may want to simply sign up to become students of uncertainty, or as the Buddhists say, “When you’re falling, dive.” This will require intention and practice. It does not require us to become news anorexics, but it does require us to temper our projections into the future as we practice staying present. This also gives us an opportunity to observe how attached we are to outcomes.
The way our world is manifesting—even before the advent of the coronavirus—seems nightmarish beyond belief; add in the global pandemic and the nightmare takes on an even denser seeming reality than before. When I see the truly dire nature of our situation, any talk about global awakening and the evolution of our species seems like utter pablum, the ravings coming from the fevered imagination of someone who is deeply in denial regarding the depth of evil manifesting in our world. And yet, I also see that something is being revealed to us through the darkness that can—in true quantum style, potentially—change everything.
What is being asked of us now, in the midst of our hardship, is that we open our newly kindled compassion to all living beings, and feel with as much sober honesty as we can muster how they have all been ravaged by the virus of our fevered grasping.
Consciously holding the tension of the opposites within our own awareness without splitting off and identifying with either of the opposites (either optimistic or pessimistic) is an intrinsic super-hero power that we all possess, knowingly or unknowingly. Interestingly, holding the tension of the opposites is experienced as—and symbolized by—a veritable crucifixion of our limited egoic identity. Is this to be genuinely imitating Christ and, as he counseled his followers to do, to be carrying our own cross?
Both Ebola and HIV served as early warning shots across the bow of global civilization. Visible signals that the risk of catastrophic emergence of new infectious illness was on the rise. That our harmful contacts with the natural world were the primary source of this rising risk. And that many, many more human souls may be at stake.
Have you been saying it as long as I have? “I wish collapse would just begin so that people would wake up, and we could just get on with it.” Well, here we are. Is this what you were hoping for? Or are you among the “collapsitarians” who have been studying collapse for years and are now saying, “But I didn’t think it was going to look like this.”
And here we are, wondrous beings, with unique gifts and abilities. We are capable of love and deep compassion, an appreciation of beauty, the creation of great art, music, and poetry. We are aware of our history, of how we came to be here. We have studied the world around us, and been awed by what we have discovered. We can imagine the future and choose how we respond. We find meaning in our lives, a sense of justice, and an inner wisdom. There is much to celebrate about us. The question is: Can we celebrate all that we are, while accepting that our species is here but for a brief flash of cosmic time?
And that is what it comes down to now for all of us collectively and for each one of us individually. The great struggle for Gaia’s life. And we humans, as is our nature, will only fight and make sacrifices for the ones we love. That is the way we are wired. All the humans in the world who love life, who love nature, in touch with their own human nature and its divine, umbilical connection to the natural world, are in varied stages of awakening with the searing awareness of Gaia’s trauma