Monday, April 16, 2018

Chaos and collapse, along with some seriously crazy weather

The chaos I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you about. That our nation's political culture has become defined by chaos, dysfunction, unraveling is not news. It is a continuing unfolding, one that began before the most inexperienced, corrupt, and undoubtedly criminal enterprise in our recent history came to occupy the White House. As I have written or spoken elsewhere, this shocking political occurrence is not cause, it is outcome, effect, of forces at work in the sociopolitical culture for a long time.

The breaking-apart of that culture is accelerating. As we have also written before, that unraveling is unstoppable, the playing out of one of the basic laws of physics - the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Or, in other words, the energy that arrived on the eastern shores, especially in the 1600s, with the intention of colonizing the continent in the service of European monarchies, and that brutally conquered the tens of millions of people who already lived here, that brought slaves from Africa to do the work of actually building the nation, that built empire and military might and an extreme version of western capitalism, is entering the last stage of that process - which is collapse.

The energy is all used up. Like the metaphor of the log - you light it, it burns, it provides warmth, the energy is finally consumed, and you are left with ashes. The amount of energy remains the same - but now useful energy is replaced with useless energy. There is no more warmth or light there. Useless. Dead.

The Second Law...

As you know, part of my work is to follow news - not just the TV and cable news stories, which miss most of what is happening of significance in this world, but news like the stories I list here, so you have an idea of what I'm pondering these days, what can lay me low, in part because most of the culture is NOT paying attention to these things. For example:

* the stunning despair in the family farm economy: When the Death of a Family Farm Leads to Suicide; As dairy crisis crushed farmers, Wisconsin's rural identity in jeopardy

* or the terrifying news of the planet: World May Hit 2 Degrees of Warming in 10-15 Years Thanks to Fracking; The ocean's circulation hasn't been this sluggish in 1,000 years - that's bad news; Retreat from a rising sea (Miami and New Orleans are doomed); 100th Meridian, Which Divides the Arid West From the More Humid East, May Be Shifting Because of Climate Change.

BTW - one day, we are likely to look back on this wild, wintry month of April and realize that it was a response of the Earth to the slowing of the gulf stream. A Facebook friend posted this image to one of my posts about this, and it makes it all quite clear.


Source: NASA for Kids

You may have heard that the North Pole saw some record warmth this winter. There were times when it was warmer there than in much of Europe, and that warming had a lot to do with a record snowfall in Rome. I'm not making that up or being alarmist here. 

However, Mother Jones? They're being a little alarmist: Earth's Powerful, Climate-Shaping Water Currents Are Weak and Broken and It's Time to Freak Out.  Okay, gotcha. I am officially freaking out.

You see why I sometimes get a little down these days, sink into a rather sorrowful spiritual space.

Image: Modified from Seager et al, Earth Interactions 2018

Thing is, a lot of what's described here is pretty much irreversible, from the collapse of the sociopolitical culture to the changes in our planet's ecosystems. So let me share two more articles, and then hope you're still with me, not collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected


Salt-water fish extinction seen by 2048 - last time I checked, that was 30 years from now. You don't want to know (though you need to know) what it means for world hunger and the health of ocean life if this occurs.

All of which leads to this: Hope and Mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding Ecological Grief


There's going to be a lot of it. Important to remember that grief is an outcome, an expression, of deep love - so let's not run away from it. Let it tell us what we love - because that may tell us what we need to struggle to protect and defend. I threw in that article about smartphones because we have clearly arrived at that time when we have to decide what we love most, our consumer gadgets, or... you know, those other living beings and communities that we love - and are losing - and will need for the Earth to maintain enough resilience to get the life-creation process going again (with or without us).

Now I have to decide whether to delete this entire post, cut some of it to relieve the overwhelming nature of all this bad news, or leave it as is in an appeal for courage - emotional, psychological, spiritual courage.

How does all this ecological news connect with where we started this post? Well, it's all part of the same unraveling, all part of the same collapse of western economic culture and its always completely unsustainable aspirations for unending material human "progress." That road, especially since World War II, was always headed to exactly where we are right now. We can say we didn't know, but there have been warnings from scientists and writers for centuries now.


We just didn't want to know.

Refusal to know, one of the mental illnesses of our time. But that time is over. We know now because the results of living on the planet like this, voraciously and greedily, are coming in. They have arrived. And, as I think most of you know by now, I'm pretty much done trying to soften the message. We don't have time for that. We have to get motivated. We have to figure out what we're going to do now in the face of this reality.

Which is why I am engaging the Warriors for the Human Spirit training. Because that's what it is in essence - facing the reality full on, training in the disciplines needed to be a spiritual warrior (in the sense of the Shambhala Warrior, or that of many indigenous traditions) and, out of that clear vision and discipline, to take "right action," to know what that action is, to know what I, what each of us, can contribute from our unique gifts, skills, and experience.


I find in this training and through this lens a path that feels like an orientation and commitment for my remaining years on this planet.

So I will stop here for now. There will be a Part Two to this in a few days. That's the part where I write about the path ahead, how to perceive it, and the necessity of walking it together in community. So, stay tuned, yes?


~ Margaret Swedish

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Warriors

Not everyone likes that word, but I have seen plenty of warriors lately, and I don't just mean in the week-long training retreat for Warriors for the Human Spirit from which I returned 6 days ago, the beginning of what I think will be a long journey for me and for this work we do under the umbrella of our non-profit.

It will take "warriors" to lead us through this time. It will take the best of spiritual warriorship, the training, discipline, balance, equanimity, and, above all, compassion, necessary to see reality clearly and re-learn how to live - even in the face of calamity and catastrophe.

Like living through the massacre of your high school friends, holding their hands as they bleed out on the floor of their classrooms, and emerging with a clear, prophetic, compelling moral voice that puts the meekness and passivity of this culture to shame.

From the deck of the retreat center
But before getting to that, first a few words about the retreat.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Preparing to become a "Warrior for the Human Spirit"

[On Thursday March 15, I head out to a retreat center in Crestone, Colorado, for the first part of an 8-month long training program called, Warriors for the Human Spirit. This marks a significant turning point in the work I've been doing for at least 14 years now on the ecological crises of our times - what it is, what's actually happening, what it means for us as life as we've known it unravels all around us. How will we live? Who will we be? What choices will we make as we walk through these times?

We begin and end with week-long retreats in Crestone, while in between we work by teleconference, in small groups, and in our daily disciplines. The point of this is not for personal benefit, although there will be plenty. The point is to gain skills to help us maneuver down the path of uncertainty, crisis, risk, letting go the familiar and embarking on the new adventure before us - like it or not.


This post is in anticipation of this journey. Donations to support the Center for New Creation as this writer takes up this commitment will be enormously appreciated.]

When I first started to write a new post a couple of weeks ago, still reeling from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, this was the headline I had chosen: "We cannot make new creation while armed to the teeth." Certainly felt, sounded, about right. Still does. It is a profound truth, and one hardly knows where to begin to figure out how to grapple with that. I often think we need to accept that we can't do "new" creation here, not as a nation, at least not now, and that it will come from other places in our world. Collapse feels inevitable, something that has to play itself out in a culture truly coming apart at the seams.

Monday, January 29, 2018

State of the Union - greasing the skids for collapse

Hard not to believe that most of what comes from the politics of the day is doing exactly that - greasing the slide for the accelerating pace of our cultural and ecological decline. Sometimes I get a kind of brain freeze trying to fit together alternative realities - like how well the economy is doing, how low unemployment is, how insane the bull market in stocks continues to be (creating lavish amounts of paper or digital-only wealth), how strong we are, how powerful, how bright the future...

...with the record rates of suicide, especially among middle aged men, the national crisis of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, the gun violence (several mass shootings already this year), the open white supremacist and antisemitic rhetoric, the rise in poverty rates, the numbers of low-wage workers supplementing their nutrition at food banks and soup kitchens, and on and on.

We are a nation seriously lying to itself.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Warriors training: learning how to live in 'THIS' world

It's the only one we have. And while we may have wished, and wish every day, for a different one, this is the world within which we live, the one humans have made. Every day we have to live in the only world that exists.

And most every day, as 2017 ended and 2018 began, I have been reflecting on how to do that - because we can't change this one, not at the big scale, not the one where smartphones are in the hands of more than 77% of the U.S. population and Amazon.com will deliver just about anything to your doorstep, with free shipping and lots and lots of paper and plastic packaging, not when millions are planning dozens of plane trips for business and vacation, not when automakers are filling an endless hunger for bigger and bigger personal vehicles, not when all the signs are that the human world is driving the ecological systems of the planet to the brink of unraveling.

Friday, December 22, 2017

About that "Light in the Darkness" part


It’s been a rough year, hasn’t it? For me, I guess it really put content into that notion of “The Great Unraveling,” a phrase that has emerged over the past couple of decades from numerous thinkers, writers, journalists, environmental biologists, and climate scientists to describe what is unquestionably the great underlying crisis of our time.

The world we have known for generations is unraveling – quickly. Whether it’s the living ecosystems of the planet, the political system and governing bodies of the United States, the post-Cold War global economic order, cultural and tribal belief systems that go back many centuries - nothing feels stable anymore.

And that’s because - nothing is stable anymore. And that marks a different scale of change than what one fraught election has wrought in this land. Something bigger is going on, something that I have found best described in the literature on the nature and inevitability of civilizational collapse [for example: The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival, by Sir John Glubb. Excellent paper and a free pdf download]. We shouldn’t be shocked by that. Historical and anthropological research has shown that this has happened many times in human history, and that no civilization is exempt.
We just have the added complexity of this one occurring in the context of planetwide ecological collapse as well.

If all that sounds terrifying, that’s because it is.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Coping during the "Great Unraveling"

~ by Margaret Swedish

New wildfires are raging in Southern California, through hills and canyons, burning hundreds of structures in Ventura County and, in Los Angeles, forcing tens of thousands to flee, closing schools, creating chaos and gridlock on freeways and road systems. For the two largest fires, there is only 5% containment, fires continue to spread, and the Santa Ana winds are expected to blow fiercely through Saturday, 50-80 mph. Red flag warnings remain through at least Sunday.

http://abc7news.com/powerful-images-from-the-southern-california-wildfires/2751854/ 

Temperatures in the L.A. area reached the 90s on Thanksgiving Day. The normal for Nov 23 is 70. The drought and record heat of recent months has dried up all the brush from the record spring rains and floods, creating tinder in densely populated areas.

Meanwhile, I took a late afternoon walk along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee on Monday. The temp was 64, normal is 36. And while temperatures have dropped to more reasonable December readings since then, we saw abnormally warm days in October and November, not to mention the unprecedented 90s+ heat wave in September.

Also on Monday, President Trump (still hard to put those two words together) tried by mere order to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, opening them to the possibility of oil and gas drilling, cattle-grazing, and the rampaging of off-road vehicles, an injury beyond comprehension to Indian nations for whom these are sacred lands, full of artifacts and remnants left from the lives of their ancestors - not to mention the breathtaking beauty of this vast wilderness.