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.

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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.

March’s Vortex

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image via https://allevents.in/california/sunrise-movement-october-training/20005440133178

Hello Interrelated Planet Readers! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but there has been no lack of impressive happenings in our world. Like some of you, I watched the Cohen testimony on February 27th with a mixture of fascination, revulsion, sorrow and resignation. As one commentator put it, I was shocked at how little I was shocked by his testimony. My favorite part was when Representative Cummings gave his heartfelt and poignant reply to Cohen at the end of the day, reminding us all that “we’re better than this” as a country and as humanity. His words, and sincere energy while speaking, resonated through many of us that day as a voice of our collective conscience. Surely we ARE better than the continuous display of inflated human egoism we’ve been subjected to for the past two years of this administration. My only caveat to Cumming’s rant is his plea to “get back to normal,” to which I reply there is no going backward; there is only moving forward into what many millions of us desperately wish will be a transparent, just and truthful future government.

The youth movement for climate action is continuing globally. Organizers are planning a global Student Strike day on March 15th, to protest their government leaders’ inaction and foot-dragging on reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions. Here’s a link to Guardian journalist George Monbiot’s editorial in support of the youth’s movement. https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-02-20/young-climate-strikers-can-win-their-fight-we-must-all-help/

March is generally a month of unpredictable weather, and so far it hasn’t disappointed. In Colorado where I live, the mountains experienced avalanches over the last weekend, closing I-70 in both directions for several hours. Thankfully, human life was not taken in that situation. Unfortunately, the tornados that tore through the South were not as forgiving, and some folks in Alabama did succumb to their destructive fury. Climate change is a process that’s forcing all of us to confront how we are living through a critical lens, and asking us to make real, sweeping and large scale changes. Resilience and sustainability are becoming terms du jour globally now. No longer can anyone who denies our need for changing how we live on Gaia be taken seriously. The Democrats’ call for a New Green Deal, still being bashed as socialist rubbish by Republicans in Congress, is a rallying cry for a new, and sorely needed national overhaul to how we have been living our collective lives. The time of reckoning is at hand, and it goes beyond any one ideology or political squabbling. Coastlines are being inundated, lands once frozen all winter are now exposed and above freezing, ocean levels are rising, ocean temperatures are rising faster than scientists can keep up, and the lists of environmental changes continue to grow daily. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/

Members of the Sunrise Movement met with Senator Diane Feinstein in San Francisco, asking her to support the New Green Deal. Here’s a link to their Facebook posted video of their meeting. https://www.facebook.com/story

The young climate activists are energized, loud, and getting in lawmakers’ faces for a very good reason—their future depends on what countries (and the citizens who comprise them) do to control fossil fuel use now. The Guardian ran an article https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/04/can-they-save-us-meet-the-climate-kids-fighting-to-fix-the-planet which highlighted several of these young (under 21 years) activists. They are smart, awake, and demanding lawmakers to stop their rhetoric and actually take action in the form of regulations and laws to reduce the amount of CO2 being released into Earth’s atmosphere—NOW. Meanwhile, fires, floods, melting, tornados, and all manner of extreme weather events continue unabated on the planet’s surface.

From The Revelator online magazine, comes a list of environmentally-themed books for March mayhem reading. (Spoiler alert: none of them seem especially uplifting.) https://therevelator.org/environmental-books-march-2019/

Perhaps the most heart-tugging article I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks comes via a dog lover’s blog I follow. It is a photo essay of the unlikely friendship between a young brown bear and a wolf in northern Finland. For me it makes the whole idea of a children’s story about animals come alive in a beautiful way!  https://learningfromdogs.com/2019/02/26/this-just-beautiful/

Please leave a comment if any of these links or subjects strike a chord with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions and feelings about what’s happening in our world now.