Friday, August 18, 2017

The summer of our discontent, and the coming eclipse

Discontent abounds now in our fragmenting culture. I'm going in to a bit of a quiet mode for a week or two, reassessing what we're doing under the umbrella of this little non-profit. How to focus in the time of "the Great Unraveling" when our non-profit's financial resources are scarce, and when many people are bewildered, anxious, fearful, most of us having no clue about that comes next.

We are in crisis. Some media people are trying to tell us that. This isn't "chicken little" time. The sky really is falling.

Good time for a total eclipse.

I assume anyone reading these posts is well aware of the danger we're in here in the U.S., very aware of the collapses of all our political institutions, that Steve Bannon's determination to collapse the society and bring about chaos (as a strategy for what, I don't understand), is the winning dynamic in the destructive result of November's election

"Our nation is going to go through great peril," said conservative Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) yesterday, if Trump doesn't figure out what it is to be president. We know he won't. He can't. He is not a mentally stable human being.

I've been around 68 years now and my generation has witnessed a lot of upheaval, political violence, state violence and repression, freedom struggles, passionate movements for justice and basic human rights. But nothing like this. The moment is unprecedented and deeply, deeply troubling.

My question for a long time has been, as the crisis descends, how will we do? What kind of human beings will we be? Will this bring out the best or worst? Well, history keeps showing us, the answer is - both. And those of us who still dream of a different way of being have to stay steady, do our inner work, stay grounded, and build community where we are. We need to engage this moment as mature adults, as people with deep faith (whatever that faith is), with a deep spirituality that understands moments like this always come - of upheaval, of tumultuous change, of leaps from one era to another.

Meanwhile, the eclipse. It feels auspicious, doesn't it? And yet even this moment reveals the pathologies of our culture. It has become a major media event, commercialized and hyped in every possible way, one that has a feel of ominousness and even threat to so many local communities preparing for it as if for a natural disaster. As a culture, we don't even know how to go out and look at a gorgeous celestial event - that will last all of 2 1/2 minutes!! - with simple joy and some human camaraderie. Near Madras OR, I learned that they have brought in two refrigerated buses - for the bodies. Yes, the bodies. They are anticipating deaths.

Everything these days seems to go to extremes, right? That's a sign of a very troubled culture.

Now, my brush here is broad. I hope to enjoy the eclipse with thousands of others out in the Great Plains. I know that millions of people want this to be a moment of joy and wonder, while they also long for justice and peace in the workings of the nation. And we need them all, all of us, to really step forward now - not to try to revert to a past that no longer exists, but to embrace change with some balance, with understanding, with the ability to let go what must be let go if we are to move through the crisis time with compassion and just basic human decency.

This moment is auspicious for more than one reason - in both darkness and light, as the skies on Monday will show us in fact and in metaphor. It is auspicious for terrifying reasons, and for the best of all reasons, and we have to decide how we are going to embrace the moment, live into it, become real prophets, "spiritual warriors," as Margaret Wheatley calls those who make this decision.

So, when I get back to this blog week after next, I will share how we are thinking about this and how it impacts the mission for the work I do. I want to get out into communities and for us to really do some work together. So stay tuned. Enjoy the show on Monday. Remember who you are - who you REALLY are.

~ Margaret Swedish


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Monday, August 7, 2017

We are water - which is good news and bad news

On Sunday (Aug 6th) I attended the annual "We Are Water" event on a Lake Michigan beach just north of downtown Milwaukee, hosted by the Milwaukee Water Commons. There are many things I love about this event. It is a beautiful combination of inspiration, education, spirituality, ecology, and ritual. It is centered on our relationship with the Great Lakes - not theoretically or romantically, but deeply, materially, in the sense that we share a common fate.

Humans have not taken very good care of this lake, or most of the others. Only Lake Superior remains fairly pristine, but it is also threatened with more coastal development, oil pipelines, and huge tanker ships carrying dangerous materials.

The world's largest fresh water "resource," as some think of them, it is a water system unsurpassed anywhere in the world.

So it is sometimes hard to believe that humans could mess them up so, threaten their future. Well, if we can do it to the oceans - and we are - we can certainly do it to the inland freshwater lakes.

Friday, July 28, 2017

We are unraveling... so now what?

It's hard to know what to write after a political week like this one. I write on ecology and spirituality. I write about the nexus between culture and ecology, how the health of the latter depends on the health of the former - and the former seems pathologically ill. I offer workshops on environmental justice, on the "new" story presented to us by scientific discovery, on the importance of humans re-finding their connections with the eco-communities that give us life and maintain them, before we shred them to pieces.

I speak and write on the role of beauty and awe in the human psyche, threatened now by small screens and endless internet connectivity and a consumer culture that has us saturated with things and pleasures and conveniences, all brought to us by massive destruction of forests, waters, farmland, and more.

And then we have a political week like this one and I know some of us think, why bother? Collapse of this culture, this western way of life, this economic system, is well underway with a seemingly unstoppable and accelerating momentum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"the ending of the old and the beginning of the new"

The reality of the present moment contains both of these aspects: the ending of the old and the beginning of the new. What's challenging is that the beginning of the new is not that loud, it's not that manifest, it's not as tangible as what we already know. So what is required of us is a deeper quality of listening, of paying attention to the more subtle aspects of our experience, and of connecting with the sources of stillness. This is an experience that must happen not only on the individual level, but also on the collective level.

~ Dr. C. Otto Scharmer, from an interview with Annmarie Sanders, IHM, communications director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religous (LCWR)*

Crumbling of the old...
Shhhh, can you hear it? The big sound, the enormous noise, is that of the old world ending, the old paradigm of western culture going back a few centuries. It's the sound of a collapsing industrial society, its structures so frayed and stressed now that they can no longer hold it up.

But that's not the sound I mean here. That's the noise we need to silence in order to hear the other sound that is emerging - the sound of the beginning of the new.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paying attention to the shift...

What shift? Well, there's the shift we see on the surface of things - the tumultuous politics of our time; the existential threats to our democratic form of governance; the corruption of our political system now so deeply rooted in it, so intertwined at every level of it, that it's hard to see what could free it at this point; the national fragmentation; the imploding of the global economic system; the threats of more and more international conflict; melting polar ice sheets...

All that, yes, and more, requires a stepping back, some serious reflection, on what we think is really going on, and why now, and how come so fast. Otherwise we may find ourselves feeding the systems that have created the crises, that have brought us to this point of tremendous upheaval, where our nation's politics is in shambles.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

It won't work unless we begin to think and work within the truth of interconnection, the healing of broken relationships

It was 47 years ago that the first "Earth Day" was marked in this country. It emerged out of a deep sense that our planet was moving into a crisis mode, that population growth and unlimited consumerism was not sustainable, that lethal smog in our cities, contamination of fresh water sources by dirty industries, toxic waste, and more were making people sick, shortening the lives of our children, posing long-term health threats.

John McConnell's Earth Day flag

We started to care about the quality of the food we ate, how it was raised, how it was sourced.

47 years! It seems that as a species, as supposedly smart educated westerners, as a culture here in this country, we have failed miserably at avoiding environmental catastrophe. One chief reason that remains almost impossible to talk about (even in a workshop with loads of graphs and scientific info and dramatic photos): we refuse to give up the economic aspirations of our capitalist consumer culture.

Monday, May 8, 2017

THE REAL CULTURE SHOCK OF OUR TIME: the realization that we cannot save our western affluence and power, and a human future on this planet

So, meanwhile, despite all the noise in the political culture around Michael Flynn, and DT's tweets, the election in France, the corruption of an administration whose family is freely enriching themselves by taking the notion of "conflicts of interests" to a whole new level - while all this continues and escalates, the dismantling of science and research in critical government agencies that impact our future on this planet also continues. The war on facts regarding climate change and our national parks continues. The war on nature being perpetrated by the fossil fuel corporations, now emboldened and further enabled by the GOP regime in Washington DC, proceeds.

In the morning's Washington Post, this article: EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers, Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels. Get those truth-tellers out of the way. Get those people showing us that the world we insist on is no longer possible out of the way. Replace them with those who can reassure us, as we look backward not forward, that we can still have that old world back and everything will be okay.  "Make America Great Again" means returning us not to the days of union factory work, good wages and benefits, high taxes on wealth to support public education, highways, and parks - but rather to the days of the old robber barons, the ones that "settled" the West with their railroads, gold rushes, land grabs, and genocidal ways.

And so that's where we feel need to focus this week, to remind us once again that it is up to us to partner with Nature, with the Water Protectors, with the National Parks defenders, with the anti-pipeline protestors, with local environmental justice groups, with our best scientific researchers and agencies like NOAA and NASA/Global Climate Change, in a broad, powerful unstoppable movement to impede, and ultimately halt, these grave threats to our future on this planet.