Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What to do in the midst of the unraveling

I started watching some of the Rex Tillerson hearings this morning, but didn't last long. Then I started watching the president-elect's press conference, for which he brought an entire entourage and piles of binders (great photo op), but after realizing he had nothing substantive to say, I turned that off, too. I went back online, and to all these tabs with articles that I had marked to be read - and there is so much to read these days.

This was the one I chose to start this post:
What will mysticism in the 21st century look like?
...by Diarmuid O'Murchu, a writer and speaker who has had some influence on my spiritual approach to the ecological crisis and with whom I seem to be on a parallel path. It's one that involves endless expansion of view and paradigm-shattering approaches, with a certain kind of fearlessness now because old paradigms, clung to, are attempting to block the transformation under way within the culture, indeed globally, whether we like that transformation or not.

Old ways of thinking, old belief frameworks, old cosmologies and spiritualities that no longer reflect the world we know - a lot of that is unraveling now. Old certainties, old ways of looking at things, old ways of viewing the meaning of the human on this planet - it's all kind of breaking down. One reason for the breakdown, besides the obvious ecological one, is that they are part of the energy that is bringing about the unraveling.


That unraveling of culture and meaning is not just some philosophical thing to write about and ponder, but rather a concrete, day-to-day, traumatizing experience of the failure of structures of culture, economics, religious belief, and politics to provide us a sense of our place in the world. Those structures have become brittle and defensive, the more so as the change underway cannot be contained within them but will instead shatter them.

Just to cite a few examples: the realization that one religion cannot make any ultimate claim on truth and reality; or that our western economic way of life, which we have insisted on forcing into all corners of the world, is unraveling ecosystems, changing the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, and threatening our species' future; or that exponential population growth combined with economic globalization and war in places where the old empires have collapsed means populations are spilling into one another and that in the U.S., Canada, and Europe the days of white racial hegemony are over.

Well, it is an understatement to say that these changes are not coming about easily. Rather, the turbulence of the human world matches quite well the turbulence caused by climate change, for example - bigger more extreme storms and drought and fires and floods.

We would love to have calmer days to which we could look forward, but we know - I imagine most anyone reading this blog knows - calm days are not what we have in front of us.

So while the political storm brews in Washington DC this week, a disastrous series of storms has hit part of California with 10 feet of snow or 15 inches of rain and landslides and the felling of a grand old sequoia tree, along with severe economic and physical dislocation for thousands of people.

Just more signs of the times...

Meanwhile, in the news are other signs, signs that counter or balance the process of unraveling. There is this story, to which here in Wisconsin where I am based we are giving three cheers, or a few dozen standing ovations:
Tribe wants pipeline off its land
And there is this new video:


 
United Resistance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wArGVMCNns

And this action in West Texas, inspired by Standing Rock and the #NoDAPL campaign:


But these inspirational stories are accompanied by news like this - that 2016 was the 2nd warmest ever recorded in the lower 48 in a year that, globally, was the hottest ever, breaking the record from 2015 which broke the record from 2014... 
From the article:
“The breadth of the 2016 warmth is unparalleled in the nation’s climate history,” NOAA said in a statement. “No other year had as many states breaking or close to breaking their warmest annual average temperature.”
So, you know, this is how it goes for us now. And with this first post of 2017, I just want to say this one more time because we need to keep saying this to ourselves. While we know that we will have a government in this country (and in my state and a lot of other states) that cares not for the state of the planet, that does not want to take seriously that we have far overshot the limits of the planet's living systems to support the human species and its voracious appetite for "resources" along with the consequent mounds of waste, this does not mean we are dead yet as a species. It does not mean inevitable extinction. It DOES mean struggle and the necessity of working "from below" to create new ways of life as this one unravels.

It's not a good way of life anyway. Think Aleppo, or maybe this: 
Some Louisiana Water Is So Contaminated That Pastors Are Suspending Baptisms
Think about it - waters too contaminated for baptism! So much for sacred waters.

So, how do we respond? Engage, discuss, gain wisdom, take action, organize, sit in meditation or other forms of quiet contemplation, build community, relinquish, let go things and certainties, along with attachment to results. This is our recipe for the moment as we see where this journey is headed. These are some essential ingredients for creative, radical, alternative, open, and committed life now. We need to remain flexible. We need friends and community to help us read "the signs of the times." We need to have as little at stake in the status quo as possible because the status quo is what is unraveling.

And, to add flavor to the mix, we need steady doses of selflessness, egolessness, compassion, humility, vulnerability, and gratitude. Why gratitude? Because we ought to be grateful that we are alive for these times, that we live in a time in which everything we have to offer, every gift, every talent, every skill, every bit of loving energy is needed for the work of new creation in the midst of the unraveling. Everything we do now can have incredible significance.

Oh, and also, remember to have fun. Remember play, and laughter. Spend time with small children. That's a great way to stay humble, simple, and to remember what this is all about.

Finally, in closing, this offering:
In the Winter of Our Discontent - Hozan Alan Senauke
Strength and courage to all of you as we walk into this troubled, troubled new year.

~ Margaret Swedish

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