It’s more than 10 years now since I awoke one morning with the word ‘dénouement’ on my lips.
I knew immediately what it meant.
I knew then (long before then, even) that the human race/species is in its dénouement phase – I just hadn’t yet applied that exact term to our … uh, terminal phase.
denouement | deɪˈnuːmɒ̃ | (also dénouement)
--- noun the final part of a play, film, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved: the film's denouement was unsatisfying and ambiguous. • the outcome of a situation, when something is decided or made clear: I waited by the eighteenth green to see the denouement. ORIGIN mid 18th century: French dénouement, from dénouer ‘unknot’.
My own little life was in a very different phase then, & I was living in a very different place & set of circumstances.
But I knew then, as I do still, that our days as a species are numbered – and that, whatever else may be my life purpose (if there is indeed such a thing as my “life purpose”) – that I am here witnessing this last gasp (or next-to-last gasp) of the 2-legged species we call “human beings” on this planet we call Earth.
Bearing witness, as my friend L. says (though she uses it in a different context).
Taking it all in…
(Well, I’m an activist too, so I’m not JUST taking it in.)
Right now, drinking it in!
Here in Toronto, on this sunny, warm, breezy day
here by the lake ... when I “should” be working.
Instead, here I am drinking in … bearing witness to!
This simply beautiful, stunningly lovely day.
Gratefully, very very gratefully.
Life was very different when I woke up that morning, 10-12 years ago.
My environmental activism was soon to take a couple of big turns – though I didn’t know that then.
So was my personal life – though I didn’t know that then, either.
City life & grandparenthood were not even on my radar screen!
There were, then, 10-12 years’ less accumulation of plastics in the ocean. More fish!
(though the oceans were still warming steadily - & acidifying madly)
The Fukushima disaster had not yet happened!
10-12 years less nuclear waste!
… but still, sadly, much much much more than enough to go around.
(Parenthetically, I was then living in a nuclear town, which I came to think of as the Canadian headquarters of denial. My own intense anti-nuclear activism came later…)
10-12 years’ fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) …
though still plenty to sink us, absolutely, by then
(there's a time lag between emissions & the ensuing weather/climate change, you see)
Fewer chemicals in the air – water – ground – our food – our bodies!
Though still plenty enough to make us all walking toxic waste sites, even then
(ugly, ugly, I know; what a horrible thing to say! I know … but… true! We truth-tellers gotta tell the truth….)
<<<10-12 years don’t even register on the geological time scale, you see. In geological terms, humans just emerged from the cave yesterday afternoon>>>
I don’t know if it’s been a privilege, exactly, to be here for such a long stretch of “bearing witness” (which of course implies conscious watching, hmmmm? Eyes & minds wide open…)
Living the dénouement, as it were. Living it fully.
It’s frankly deeply excruciating, a good deal of the time. Heartbreaking. Grief-y.
But life/Life is a gift and a privilege, for sure!
“Love life. Take great pleasure in small offerings. Believe that the world owes you nothing. Understand that every gift given to you is just that.” – Maya Angelou
Especially a life as privileged as my own has been/is in so very many ways.
Who knows how long the dénouement will last?
I’m not making any predictions – though I suspect the end may come sooner than most folks suppose. Maybe sooner, even, than I suppose!
It’s strictly a day at a time, for me.
& what a day today has been!
Some quotations about privilege
(this totally got away on me! I didn't realize I had so many; I will have to make an addition to the Quotation Central section, I see!)
“The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” – Oliver Sacks, neurologist, prolific author, in his book Gratitude – essays written during his last 2 years of life
“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.” ― Terence McKenna
“The world moves when we all learn, wherever we come from, to question the systems of power, privilege and prejudice in which we are raised, and to consider how we might best lend our energies and resources to shift those systems, to make life fairer and freer for everyone. That’s not a lesson they teach you in school.” – Laurie Penny, in the article ‘It’s easy for rich kids to break the rules. But it’s not how the world changes’
“When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free.” – Nelson Mandela
Tommy Douglas on Fascism: “Once more let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt – it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege.”
“I consider it a privilege to be at the side of an incredible, powerful woman who’s changing the world, while doing the same – without the need to compete, dominate, or submit.” – Avi Lewis, partner of Naomi Klein
“We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.” – John O’Donohue, Irish poet, philosopher and former priest