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?
What would happen if we did not try to push our deep concerns about the war and the economy and the environment away from us? What if we didn’t cling to thoughts and feelings that distract us from the world situation? What if, instead, we trusted those feelings and examined them without opinions of good or bad—with a not-knowing mind—and tried to see what they were telling us? What if we simply tried to understand our life-functions in relation to these feelings?
The turning points that we reach, my friends, are the times that ask us: will we try to carry the impossible, terrible burden of existence alone? One that’s always been to heavy for anyone to shoulder by themselves? Or will we share it — this hidden truth of us, which we are so ashamed of?
Why is it that the average American can’t say the word “fascism” to describe a country of concentration camps, gestapos, kids in cages, organized supremacist political wings controlling government…and now political terrorism? One obvious answer is that they’re scared. And one obvious candidate for what’s scared Americans into submission — into being incapable of saying the word “fascism”…is fascist terrorism. Increasing right wing violence has caused a kind of chilling effect. The worse the fascists do…the less likely Americans are to call it fascism. Don’t you think that’s baffling? Upside down? The world does. I do. Only Americans don’t. And yet there must be a cause.
“Most of the kinds of pathologies that we’re accustomed to treating in psychiatry, they tend to be out of proportion to whatever is going on. But with climate change, this is not inappropriate,” she explained.
“The goal is not to get rid of the anxiety. The goal is to transform it into what is bearable and useful and motivating.”
Everyone engaging with our climate predicament will have their own emotional journey. None will be easy. The question of how to engage people is a huge one for me. It is why I have focused on how people who are awake to our predicament can help each other. My main suggestion is that we engage and talk with others who do not think that we are confused, depressed, or irresponsible to have concluded that climate change now threatens societal collapse. In those connections and conversations, we find solidarity, joy and pathways for how to be and what to do in future. If you do not yet have that in your life, or want more, then I recommend reaching out through one of the networks I list here.
Can we let go of the cherished belief that we are here to stay, rejoice in our existence, and live our final days with grace?
I am writing to those who are searching for a place from which to understand the disruption at hand and what is behind it, and also to those who want to respond in a way that provides a soft landing as systems collapse, while growing us into the human beings that we rightly are. Perhaps that “place” is under the wing of an elder who might offer shelter and inspiration, who has direct relationship with the spiritual reality that sits behind the concrete world, who is steadily available as a source of sanity and guidance
On Summer Solstice I always come back to this poem, and if I begin reading it aloud, I’m already crying at the end of the first sentence: “Who made the world?” Why the tears—particularly on that question? Strangely, the most important word in that question is not “who,” but “made.” It is a question of “pure amazement” which is another phrase Oliver uses in other places. It is brimming with innocence and awe. It is the sigh of speechless reverence—pure worship as she declares that “I know how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass.” And then, “how to be idle and blessed.”