Utne Reader put together a trio of articles, all focused on the end of the world and although the stories vary, they have this one truth in common… the end of the world is imminent.
Josiah Neufeld’s article (from Geez) shares the ideals of one couple and how they “believe human civilization is entering the first stages of a collapse from which no valiant activism, alternative energy or utopian technology can ultimately save it.” Seems even NASA agrees, “In march, a NASA-funded team of mathematicians projected that unless humanity manages to employ drastic reductions to inequality and population growth in coming decades, the collapse of human civilization will be ‘difficult to avoid.’” The article further explains the couple’s philosophy, “’Rumi says, ‘we need to die before we die,’ and they continue with, ‘that’s how we live well.’ They believe that what makes life meaningful is not necessarily happiness, but a willingness to experience the entire depth and breadth of what life has to offer. They want their daughter to be able to cultivate her own spirituality, to feel empathy for others, and to know the joy of working together with a community… ‘that will keep her safe.’”
I agree that those are important tools for survival… then adding to it some hunter/gatherer skills and self-defense and I believe we have a winner!! Stephen Jenkinson, a Harvard-trained theologian (&/or wilderness sage) made several comments towards the end of Neulfeld’s article and almost all of them took my breath away. “The way you’re going to die well is you’re going to allow your dying to change every idea you ever had about ought to and supposed to, and who we are to each other, and what this time is for.” Jenkinson “believes the acts of maturity and wisdom called for in our time are not deeds of individual heroism, but a willingness to be faithful witnesses, to ‘live with the ending of things… to witness her death, grieve it, and allow it to change us. I felt much the same while battling cancer, still do; I had to find the calm to endure six months of chemo and six months of intense recovery. I did all that as though I were floating in space watching the pictures of my life pass by; I did a lot of reflecting during that time but I felt connected to life as never before. Now on the other side, as my dad had warned me, I am a different creature; I follow a very strict diet, stay away from stress, and I am mindful each and every day.
Another VERY interesting point from the article was from an American writer, Rebecca Solnit, who has researched various disasters and shares her findings… “in the wake of a disaster ‘most people are altruistic, urgently engaged in caring for themselves and those around them, strangers and neighbors as well as friends and loved ones. The image of a selfish, panicky or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it.’ Scholars who study disaster have found that the people who react violently in crises are most often elites who believe humans are ‘bestial and dangerous,’ and who think they must protect themselves.” Rebecca gave me a slice of intense “right on”, and it does resonate with my more simplistic experiences.
The second article in Utne was written by Paul Kingsnorth (from Tricycle), cofounder of the Dark Mountain Project (writer and artists in search of new stories); his take on humanity and the world has equal parts sadness and acceptance, with a spark of hope. I have to quote his closing paragraphs, as the truth of his words nearly moved me to tears:
“What happens if you sit with the earth? If you reach down and touch it, if you call it as your witness? What happens if you let your own needs and demands fall away, and see the world outside you for what it is? I would suggest that, with the right quality of attention, we may come to know what is right for us as individuals, and what we can usefully do. This doesn’t mean that all will be well. All will not be well. It doesn’t mean we will necessarily end up any less confused or conflicted, either. It doesn’t mean we will never again experience the despair of knowing what we have done and what we are still doing and of all the things we are losing and can never bring back.
But it does mean, or it could, that we are able to hold those feelings within us, to understand them and maybe reconcile them. It does mean that we can be done with denial and projection and false hope and false hopelessness. If we sit with the earth, with the trees and the soil and the wind and the mist, and pay attention, we may know what to do and how to begin doing it, whatever burden we carry with us as we walk.”
Which brings us to Utne’s third article about “a hypothetical peek at the future of Earth and its intelligent species” broken down on a timeline, written by John Michael Greer (from Adbusters). This article served mostly to drive the main hyphothesis into being… and that’s the reality that the Earth is going to perish and so will all of its’ beautiful creatures. Such a brave and strong statement to make with this trio of articles, but they worked well together.
I found the following in my journal, written December 1995; I was busy deciding whether to try another gig in Los Angeles or move back to San Francisco.
“Now the responsibility rides upon my shoulders
Reality with a tempo
Silent passion echoing the words
Tickling the soul
Igniting the mind
Setting the spirit free”
Instead of wallowing in denial or running around in frantic fear, I find myself quite calm with the truth Utne has provided. Not sure if this lack of fear is due to my face-off with cancer but I embrace the peace and quiet, and I have a feeling it’s going to get loud before too long!!
I will be Earth’s witness, and I will sit with her, listen and resonate with her…
… even when it hurts!