In 2016, Andrew Harvey and I published Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night of The Globe. In Chapter 1 of the book, we forecasted essentially what is happening in this moment in terms of the demise of the last vestiges of democracy and human rights on this planet. We chose the image of Kali, the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction as the symbol of our current global predicament. Two years later, we are witnessing a virulent, worldwide embrace of white nationalist, authoritarian rule. Ultimately, Kali seeks to transform the human ego and rational mind and bring us into a more permanent residence in the heart, but the process is often excruciating. Might she also want to transform the image a country or a community has of itself? “This is not who we are.”—Or is it? How shall awake human beings respond? What is our work? What is our calling? How do we reconnect with the authentic sources of meaning in our lives and the web of life itself as totalitarian rule is poised to dominate our consciousness and our countries as we stand on the threshold of the potential extinction of all life on Earth as a result of catastrophic climate change? We will be posting portions of Savage Grace in the coming weeks because it is proving itself to be prescient and empowering in this very dark time.
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. ~Aeschylus~
After the coup, everything seems crazy, the news is overwhelming, and some try to cope by withdrawing or pretending that things are normal. Others are overwhelmed and distraught. I’m afflicted by a kind of hypervigilance of the news, a daily obsession to watch what’s going on that is partly a quest for sense in what seems so senseless. At least I’ve been able to find the patterns and understand who the key players are, but to see the logic behind the chaos brings you face to face with how deep the trouble is.
We still have an enormous capacity to resist the administration, not least by mass civil disobedience and other forms of noncooperation. Sweeping the November elections wouldn’t hurt either, if that results in candidates we hold accountable afterward. Or both. I don’t know if there’s a point at which it will be too late, though every week more regulations, administrators, and norms crash and burn—but we are long past the point at which it is too soon.
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But action doesn’t depend on what might happen. The authors of Savage Grace want us to do the right thing, regardless of what occurs. In their previous book, Return to Joy, the authors advise seeking not “happiness,” a Jeffersonian goal, but a state closer to such virtues as equanimity and compassion, plus resistance to evil and devotion to service.
Introduction To Savage Grace: Living Resiliently In The Dark Night Of The Globe, By Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker
Let’s get real and face together the likelihood that the human race now has two possibilities before it: An extreme crisis that leads to the survival of a bedraggled and traumatized remnant in a vastly degraded world, or the total annihilation of that world. We can never rule out, of course, the possibility of a sudden evolutionary leap in humanity or even miraculous divine intervention, but we would be narcissistic fools to count on them. We have come to the current situation because we have drunk a deadly cocktail of illusion. Our only hope now, rugged though it is, is in daring to live beyond the need for any kind of magical thinking—beyond, in fact certainty of any kind. We must take complete responsibility for the horror we have engendered and for the response we are now called to make to that horror, whatever happens. Such a response demands of us something far deeper than what conventional religions and visions of activism call for–nothing less than living and acting from the Self, both without illusion and totally committed to compassion and justice even, if necessary, in hopeless situations.
King Donald is the ultimate finished product of industrial civilization’s paradigm and the consummate mirror of our personal and collective shadows. It may be that before he completes his first term, he will be impeached or removed by some other means. Catabolic collapse and the climate catastrophe that he is presently exacerbating will continue unabated. Other madmen or madwomen will succeed him. But more importantly, he isn’t just one politician who isn’t any worse than another.
Contrary to our cherished assumption of vanquishing all forms of injustice, we must ask ourselves if we are willing to put love into action even if we don’t physically survive. The extremity of the crisis does not limit Sacred Activism, but rather expands it because we make ourselves available to 1) Bearing witness to the likely irreversible horrors of climate chaos and 2) Commitment to compassionate service to all living beings who suffer with us. This requires unwavering engagement with serving the earth community and practicing good manners toward all species in order to make their demise, and ours, easier. Taking one’s own life or succumbing to escapist self-medication is easy. Commitment to a life of service and fortifying one’s own connection with the sacred, thus deepening one’s sense of meaning and purpose, constitute a far more daunting and painful path.