System Breakdown

It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog. I’ve spent many hours dealing with my despair and conflicting emotions about the catastrophic state of our world. Back in May, when the weather where I live (Denver, Colorado) was sweet and fragrant with blossoms, I already felt trepidation about the coming summer. Every summer since I’ve lived here (from 2014 on), the summers have become increasingly more extreme. This is true for most places around the world—more heat, more extreme hurricanes, floods, drought, and wildfires.

What will our collective future be like?

The Earth/Gaia is clearly going through a cleansing and purging process. Humanity has for eons polluted, abused and taken from her in every way possible. And now she (for Earth/Gaia is indeed a living being, just as we are) is using all means at her disposal (all the elementals) to restore her body and become whole again. The outcomes of this process are all the extreme weather events humanity is experiencing, and will continue to endure into the foreseeable future.

For a moment, I still believed that the worst of climate changes could be avoided. Back when the Paris Climate treaty was signed, nearly six years ago, for a glimmering moment it looked like humanity was finally waking up. World leaders understood the real dangers we faced, and they made a big show to acknowledge them and committed money, time, and resources toward reversing the damage we’d caused over the past several decades of fossil fuel burning.

Every summer into late autumn has proved more devastating than the last. The past several years have been the hottest ever recorded on Earth. The poles are melting at rates much faster than climate scientists believed possible. Siberian forests in the coldest regions of Earth have become infernos each summer. Records continue to be broken for all the extremes, all around the planet. As it turns out, the world leaders who signed the Paris Climate agreement didn’t really mean what they said, what they wrote, nor what they agreed to do. The machine of fossil fuel use continues on and we continue to abuse our planet’s air, water, land, oceans, and resources.

Two years ago on this blog, I posted some articles written by Jem Bendell. He wrote a research paper about the impending collapse of systems due to all the factors I’ve named here. At the time, I was horrified and appalled, and yet I also could understand why he made the assertion that our world would soon experience breakdown. Two years later, Bendell’s predictions are beginning to become our reality. Everywhere one looks, there is system breakdown.

We gather and rebel not with a vision of a fairy-tale future where we have fixed the climate, but because it is right to do what we can. To slow the change. To reduce the harm. To save what we can. To invite us back to sanity and love. The truth is we are scared and we are brave enough to say so. The truth is we are grieving and we are proud enough to say so. The truth is we are traumatised and we are open enough to say so. We are angry and we are calm enough to say so and invite others to join us.” (Jem Bendell’s Opening speech of the international rebellion of Extinction Rebellion in Oxford Circus on April 15th 2019).

It is excruciating to look at the world now. I think that’s why so many people refuse to see what is obviously before them. Denial of our common situation is sadly ubiquitous among many millions of souls.  Brave scientists, authors, thinkers, journalists, and even some awake politicians have been sounding the clarion call for changing human behavior for years, and some for decades. Now we have reached the point of no return. Someone wrote recently, “this may be the coolest summer for the rest of my life.” 

Dear Readers, I am very sad to write that I’ve reached the point where I no longer feel hopeful about our common future on Earth, at least not into the foreseeable future. I refuse to join the crowd who foretells the extinction of the human race. Yet, it seems very clear to me now that the years ahead for all of us will be increasingly difficult to navigate. The extremes in temperature and global heating of the atmosphere will force us to make radical decisions about where and how we live upon Earth going forward. The Elon Musks of the world will likely find extravagant ways to live well, no matter what. But for the rest of the billions of humans, life is about to become much more difficult.

There is a loose community of people alive today who firmly believe that we have now entered into a new, Golden Age of Gaia. They advise against watching the old paradigm of life as we’ve known it for millennia crumble. Some of these folks are serious about aiding this new Earth, and spend their time giving courses, being out in nature with crystals, performing all sorts of healing rituals for Mama Gaia, and envisioning the new, healed and whole Earth and her people. In their scenario, the people have reconciled their dualistic, separate self with the One/All That Is. There is no more war, hunger, greed or bad actors. It’s basically a New Age version of the proverbial Garden of Eden story restored. This group of folks are very serious about their visioning and have been working and waiting for it to manifest for many years. They are still waiting.

As much as I want to also say yes, this New Earth has been birthed and will continue to grow in the decades and centuries ahead, I currently see only evidence of the crumbling and breakdown that apparently “needs to happen” before the new age can begin. For a lot of reasons, I sincerely hope the New Agers are right, and it will only be a matter of time before the world transforms into a beautiful, peaceful, healthy, ideal place filled with happy, secure and peaceful humans who understand that All Is One. However, I personally don’t have much energy left to keep fighting for this someday future world. I am exhausted.

These are tremendously hard words to have to write, and the main reason I seldom post on this blog any longer. No one wants to read such depressing thoughts. I wish so much to report better news. To be fair, there are small pockets of humans around the globe who are raising organic food, saving animals, helping other humans and modeling better and more sustainable ways to live upon Earth. This is wonderful and I applaud them all. But in the face of the vast tsunami of disasters facing large populations of people, these efforts are like trying to put out a hundred thousand acre forest fire with a garden hose.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. I send each of you love and light, and the courage and strength to keep going in your life. May all the small gestures of loving kindness we give to others and to ourselves add up to something amazing and miraculous that we cannot know right now.

Confusion, contradiction and turmoil

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image via https://askaboutworkerscompgravytrains.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/cognitive-dissonance.jpg

Have you been hyper aware of the continuing split between your inner and the outer world lately? I know I sure have. We are at the tail end (I hope) of the hottest summer ever experienced by humans on Earth. For me personally it was perhaps the most uncomfortable and often miserable summer of my life. I’ve been so far out of my comfort zone, in fact, that at this point I no longer really know where my comfort zone even is or how to find it. These are the times we are living in.

As many of you probably did, I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the news media showed daily and hourly updates of Hurricane Dorian’s path through the southern Atlantic, culminating in its plowing through the Bahamas as a category 5 storm. The whole scenario had an eerily familiar ring to it, being so similar to last year’s Hurricane Maria that wiped out most of Puerto Rico. These extreme weather events have become a kind of dystopian reality show for millions of watchers around the globe. I watched a short video from a reporter who spoke with a man who watched his “little wife” get hypothermia and then drown in their home as the water rose all around them. He was able to swim out and to his crabbing boat, thus saving his own life. One story of thousands showing human misery amidst our current world conditions.

Scanning through news articles from the New York Times, The Guardian and now CNN (I succumbed to their phone app this week so I could watch the Live Town Hall on Climate Change with the Democratic candidates), I hardly have words to describe what is being reported. Mostly it can be summed up with these three: confusion, contradiction and turmoil. It’s pretty hard to argue the fact that our world is in chaos on most fronts: the natural world, society, economics, health, education, agriculture and land management, and of course, politics. In a word: dissonance.

What’s really happening here?, a thinking person will ask. Many of my blog posts are in some way attempting to find answers to this question. I would say that humanity is currently undergoing the biggest test of our existence and we are in the eye of the needle, or hurricane, or pick your own metaphor. Both personally and collectively we are being stretched to the limits of our endurance on all levels—mental, emotional, physical and etheric. Some with strong traditional Christian beliefs could argue it’s Armageddon time, folks. Others explain it in more neutral terms, such as the scientific community acknowledging we are reaching Earth’s planetary boundaries for life’s carrying capacity. Some are fast asleep through all the changes, and hardly even notice all the chaos around them. Others prefer to stay in denial, wanting their world to simply continue as it has been during their lifetimes with no real changes to their lifestyle.

greta-thunberg-t-online.de
via https://www.t-online.de

Then there are the activists, who are growing in numbers and strength all around the world. They are the ones who are standing up through their speech and direct actions to hold those responsible for bringing humanity and Earth to the brink of destruction, accountable for their actions. The tension between those who are holding onto their power at all costs and those who are shouting, staging die-ins (Extinction Rebellion), marching in the streets and in front of the world’s government centers has become extreme. Look at Hong Kong during the past months as one prime example.

Charles Eisenstein, whom I love, released a short YouTube video today, in which he tells of his six month media fast. He said that when he finally resumed catching up on the news media, he was struck by the constant spin of war mentality with Us vs. Them implied in nearly all of it. He commented that for someone like him, living outside of the matrix of mainstream culture and refusing to take sides, it is even more dangerous than if he were the enemy of someone or something. This is so because those of us who refuse to engage in the Us vs. Them game aren’t easy to understand or peg in a definite way. The world of duality despises those who refuse to see the world as either/or. This also reminds me of Marianne Williamson, the self-help guru cum Democratic presidential candidate who briefly rose to media prominence this summer, then just as quickly was squelched. There is a fascinating long read on her campaign in the New York Times magazine. Williamson is in the same camp as Eisenstein, that of refusing to engage in Us vs. Them; instead she built her platform around the idea that Love is stronger than hate and warmongering, and she would win the presidency from the current POTUS via a David and Goliath strategy, hitting the American goliath in his third eye! Although clearly America is nowhere near ready to embrace the idea of Love being the foundation for a new kind of political leadership, I give her kudos for being so audacious and brave as to suggest that it’s what is needed and possible.

Like many, I laughed at Williamson’s campaign. But then there was the debate: “If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.” This one quote was breathtaking in its simple recognition of what Trump actually is, and how he has destroyed all he can of what we believed our country was, or might be. And it addresses the fact that standard political strategizing is not going to win this election. This insight alone validates her campaign. I am very glad she is running. But we really need someone with political experience in the White House.

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from Readers’ comments on the Williamson article, Sept. 3, 2019

This was a bit of a rambling tonight, dear readers. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my observations and thoughts. I am admittedly at a low ebb at the moment. Perhaps, like some of you, I’m hoping for some glimmer of any good news to appear. We humans have an amazing capacity for resilience and compassion when up against the wall. In the meantime, my prayers and love extend to those in the Bahamas who are in such great need right now.

Relentless Energies of Change

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The Munch bunch Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images via The Guardian, March 24 2019

To borrow a phrase from the reporters at the New York Times, it’s been a busy couple of weeks–not only in politics, but in the world generally. The sound byte version: major floods of biblical proportions in Southeastern Africa that devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, taking hundreds, most likely thousands, of lives and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless; epic flooding in the United States’ Midwest as rains melted snow on top of frozen ground, causing rivers to swell and burst, and causing major highways in Nebraska to close; while major political upheaval continues with the UK’s Brexit impasse, prompting over a million protesters to march in London over the weekend demanding a new referendum vote.

Just before the close of business Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III delivered his report concerning the Trump administration’s alleged ties with Russian intelligence during the 2016 election campaign to Attorney General William Barr. On Sunday, Barr released his short synopsis of Mueller’s report to the American public. (NYTimes, March 24, 2019). His conclusion is that there is not sufficient evidence within the report to claim that Trump, or any of his aides, committed crimes. Barr wrote “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Barr continued his synopsis by explaining there were two parts of the investigation, and regarding the second part, he stated “The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”’ (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/24/us/politics/mueller-report-summary.html?action=click&module=Spotlight&pgtype=Homepage)

Many readers of the New York Times commented on Sunday’s news, with the majority agreeing that while there seemed to not be enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings, this debacle will continue under Congress in the months to come. Many commenters ended their words by exhorting readers to VOTE 2020.

The past two weeks have felt torrential—one tornado after hurricane after flood, both figuratively and literally. Part of me dreads next week’s news, and next month’s. Superlatives no longer hold much meaning, as the times we’re living through are a continuous stream of superstorms, supercorruption, superviolence, and generally a hyped-up version of everyday reality from what many of us were accustomed to for decades before this one. The relentless energies are exhausting and difficult to manage, prompting people to find any excuse to zone out, shut out, and get out of them in any way they can conceive to do it. Who can blame them? This level of reality is not for those who don’t have the mental and emotional endurance to withstand it.

I’ve been groping to find any shred of positivity within this hurricane of extremes. Toward that end, I pulled out my copy of Active Hope, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (New World Library, 2012). Joanna Macy is that rare writer who can acknowledge the pain and struggles we experience as beings in human form on this planet, while also reminding us of the absolute wonder and joy of embodiment. In the chapter entitled Honoring Our Pain for the World, she writes,

We can exist in both realities at the same time—going about our normal lives in the mode of Business as Usual while also remaining painfully aware of the multifaceted crises unfolding around us….one way of dealing with the confusion and agony of this splitting is to push the crisis out of view….but this way of living is difficult to sustain, particularly as the condition of our world continues to worsen.

It is difficult even to talk about this….when we feel dread about what may lie ahead, outrage at what is happening to our planet, or sadness about what has already been lost, it is likely we have nowhere to take these feelings.

We can be caught between two fears—the fear of what will happen if we, as a society, continue the way we’re going and the fear of acknowledging how bad things are because of the despair that doing so brings up. (pg. 65)

Macy and Johnstone go on to describe a method of working with these feelings of despair, that she coined The Work that Reconnects. They write that a “central principle is that pain for the world, a phrase that covers a range of feelings including outrage, alarm, grief, guilt, dread and despair, is a normal, healthy response to a world in trauma.” (p. 67)

Macy and Johnstone have been offering workshops and the template to create groups around The Work That Reconnects for many years. They argue that when we allow ourselves to admit our deepest feelings about what’s happening in our world within a safe group, a space is created where a shift can happen. They write,

When we touch into our depths, we find that the pit is not bottomless. When people are able to tell the truth about what they know, see and feel is happening to their world, a transformation occurs.

A range of factors acts together to bring about this shift. It is enlivening to go with, rather than against, the flow of our deep-felt responses to the world. Second, we feel tremendous relief on realizing our solidarity with others. (p. 70)

They describe the grief process developed y J. William Worden, including the stages of first accepting the loss and second, feeling the pain of grief. Macy writes, “each day we lose valuable parts of our biosphere as species become extinct and ecosystems destroyed—yet where is their funeral service? …we need to digest the bad news. That is what rouses us to respond.” (p. 71)

Right now it feels like more than a funeral service, but rather a global memorial is needed to honor all the sentient lives that are being lost with every passing week, month, and season. Our world is being swept away, destroyed and reformed into something different as we go about our lives, with one foot in each—the old world that’s dying, and the new one, forming under the very ground we are shakily standing on. Perhaps the best metaphor for our current state can be found in a remarkable story in this weekend’s Guardian. A Norwegian luxury liner found itself in big trouble as it ran into a section of very rough waters off the Norway coast. Huge waves rocked the ship, as its engines failed. The captain sent a mayday distress signal to the mainland, who responded by sending emergency rescue teams to take the guests off the ship to safety. This was a tricky and careful operation, involving smaller boats, several helicopters, and an entire team of rescuers. Eventually, the engines were restarted, and the luxury liner was escorted back out of the danger zone, and into a safe harbor farther south along the coast. The crew said that they were very close to a major disaster, had the liner run aground among rocks in the shallow coastal waters. Fortunately, the crew was able to prevent that from happening, and everyone got through the disaster alive, with few injuries. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/23/hundreds-evacuated-from-cruise-ship-off-norwegian-coast)

In a sea of dramatic and worse news stories, this story appears as a sign of hope. Yes, the people on board the ship were suddenly in a life-threatening situation. They, I assume, all experienced the profound fear of realizing their lives were at stake. They stared mortality in the face, in the middle of an otherwise lovely holiday on a cruise ship. By the end, they were saved from death and forever changed by the experience. And isn’t that what we are collectively experiencing together on our planet now? We are staring at the mortality, not only of uncountable numbers of species, but of coastlines, wetlands, forests, ice sheets, coral reefs, and myriad other natural formations that we’ve known for thousands of years. And we’re staring at our own possible mortality, if we can’t find the way to turn our ship around and get out of the danger zone we’ve created. We must all be willing to talk about it, as Joanna Macy points out. To talk and to acknowledge our fears, our grief, and our bafflement at our situation.