** Note! Most internal links from my old blog site do not work in this location. Links to external sites do still work. Related posts on the NTE topic are Near-Term Extinction Graphics and Near-Term Extinction Resources. Many of my own NTE-related musings are gathered up in the Collections posting.
Also note: the collection of quotations about grief may also be relevant.
Some Relevant Quotations
“After extinction things will reappear in other forms, so you have to breathe very deeply in order to acknowledge the fact that we humans may disappear in just 100 years on earth.
You have to learn how to accept that hard fact. You should not be overwhelmed by despair. The solution is to learn how to touch eternity in the present moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh: in 100 years there may be no more humans on planet earth (from this article)
“Acknowledging despair, on the other hand, involves nothing more mysterious than telling the truth about what we see and know and feel is happening to our world. When corporate-controlled media keep the public in the dark, and power-holders manipulate events to create a climate of fear and obedience, truth-telling is like oxygen. It enlivens and returns us to health and vigor.” – Joanna Macy, in this item, ‘The greatest danger.’
“…and perhaps counter-intuitively, we need to do less. Our daily lives are caught in manic cycles of pointless production and frenzied consumption, desperate bids for connection and whiplash reactions, from your morning coffee to Twitter outrage to the stiff drink or dank bud you need to chill at night, all of it powering a vast cultural machine that feeds on our anger and fear as much as it feeds on coal, oil, and natural gas. One must labor in order to eat, it’s true, and we must work to repair the broken world, but so much of what we do is unnecessary, unconsidered, and reactive that we live out our days distracted and drained and unfocused. Slow down. Do less. Do the one thing that matters, rather than the fifteen that don’t.
Finally, we need to learn to die. It’s not only our thoughts and feelings that are entangled in frenzied cycles of fear and desire, but our very selves, our egos. Yet this self we cling to so fiercely is nothing but an ephemeral moment, a transient emergence of self-conscious matter, a passing cloud of being. We each have our allotted span of years on the planet, some more, some less, and then return to the nothing from which we came. Learning to accept this simple fact is a difficult, lifelong task, but it’s the first step in understanding that the self isn’t a unique, isolated thing at all but a product of generations enmeshed in a world, a transmaterialization of stellar dust, the expression of a vibrant, buzzing universe, a future and a past.
Everything dies, but what we do while we live lives on, in our sons and daughters, in the worlds we make or destroy. We’re all doomed. That’s simply the condition of being born. But it’s also the condition that makes a new future possible. Now what?” – from We’re Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change, by Roy Scranton
This next bit from a very long essay called We Are the Threat: Reflections on Near-Term Human Extinction <Feb. 14/18>. I offer this rather arbitrary end-of-the-essay quote … but really, I recommend you read the whole thing! & at the very least, start several paragraphs before this:
“So, although we cannot avert the calamities to come, we must not despair. Instead, we must overcome ourselves.103 Like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, we must recognize that “it is time! it is high time!” to embrace death in life.104 After all, “with life as short as a half-taken breath,” Rumi seems to ask, why wait?105 Rather, with Marcus Aurelius we should “consider [ourselves] to be dead, and to have completed [our lives] up to the present time.”106 Thus we, like Tolkien’s Gandalf, can see that “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”107 For, as Frank Ocean asks, “we are all mortals, aren’t we? Any moment this could go.”108 Yes, Plato’s Socrates tells us, “philosophy is nothing other than preparation for dying and death.”109 So William James is right: no matter how sweet life’s party, still “the skull will grin in at the banquet” – and, like Tyler Durden, we ought to meet that greeting with a shit-eating grin of our own.110
Similary, Camus advises: “Come to terms with death. Thereafter anything is possible.”111 This frees us, Ralph Waldo Emerson agrees, to “live with nature in the present, above time.”112 Indeed, Michel de Montaigne says, “to practice death is to practice freedom. He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”113 Only then, according to Krishnamurti, can we “know the extraordinary state of being nothing, of coming to the abyss of an eternal movement, as it were, and dropping over the edge.”114
So gaze long into that abyss, friends – and drop off! Light a lantern as you fall through a tesseract beyond the veil of our reality, and, once you cross Owl Creek in the Mountains of Madness, find a human with whom to share an amontillado.115 In other words, do as Jesus said and “leave the dead to bury their own dead.”116 For, Ken Wilber assures us, “the Void that you are looking for is identical to the Void that you don’t see when you look within for the Looker, so that the sought is the seeker, the seeker is the sought… Always already suffering death Now, we are always already living eternally. The search is always already over.”117
Completing this unbeginnable quest – conquering death – is the only way to brace ourselves for the mass irruptions of extinction awareness that await on the horizon. For it is only by overcoming the terror of death that we can achieve true equanimity. This is what Nietzsche calls amor fati, or what an incandescent Frenchwoman whom I am lucky to know embodies as joie de vivre.118 Unfortunately, these qualities are rare; historically such equanimity has been quite difficult for humans, “who fear their own death,” to actualize. But, at this point, we no longer have a choice. We must all become like the swans who, “when they realize that they must die, sing most and most beautifully.”119 We must all philosophize as preparation for death in the age of extinction.120
The first step in doing so demands that each of us stop denying or ignoring the truth about his or her place in the human situation. Rather, to paraphrase Geoffrey Rush’s wonderfully delivered, reality warping admonishment at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl:
We best start believing in human extinction – we’re living through it!”
“When I speak of these struggles, people invariably call me “a downer” and “too negative.” I used to believe that was true, that I was being depressing by pushing these issues, but I have come to see that claim inverts reality. In fact, I’m the positive one—by placing my faith in our collective ability to bear the truth that is beyond bearing, I am affirming the best aspects of our humanity . . . Those who demand that we ignore the painful questions are, in fact, the downers—the people stuck in negativity, the ones who have no faith in themselves or others to face reality honestly.” – Robert Jensen in this article After the Harvest — Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully
“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 Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” – U. Utah Phillips quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken [more quotes from the book here]
“Nature is made up of a vast and detailed complex of living beings doing what they do. Our self-consciousness and our needs are part of that complex. But nature doesn’t need us, and extinction as a concept is something that only humans worry about.” – Paul Kingsnorth in this article
“This may be the last gasp of life on Earth, and what a great last gasp, if we realize we have fallen in love with each other. If you are really in the moment of experiencing our reality, you don’t say “Oh I won’t experience this because it’s not going to last forever!” You’ve got this moment. It’s true for now. We can have a reasoned concern about what is down the track, without necessarily getting hooked on something having to endure.” ~ Joanna Macy
“Yes, it looks bleak. But you are still alive now. You are alive with all the others, in this present moment. And because the truth is speaking in the work, it unlocks the heart. And there’s such a feeling and experience of adventure. It’s like a trumpet call to a great adventure. In all great adventures there comes a time when the little band of heroes feels totally outnumbered and bleak, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Pilgrim in Pilgrim’s Progress. You learn to say ‘It looks bleak. Big deal, it looks bleak.’” ~ Joanna Macy
“From news reports and life around us, we are bombarded with signals of distress—of job layoffs and homeless families, of nearby toxic wastes and distant famines, of arms sales and wars and preparations for wars. These stir within us feelings of fear, anger, and sorrow, even though we may never express them to others. By virtue of our humanity we share these deep responses. To be conscious in our world today is to be aware of vast suffering and unprecedented peril.” ~ Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown
“Our culture conditions us to view pain as dysfunctional. There are pills for headache, backache, neuralgia and premenstrual tension—but no pills, capsules or tablets for this pain for our world. Not even a stiff drink really helps. To permit ourselves to entertain anguish for the world is not only painful, but frightening: it appears to threaten our capacity to cope with daily life. We are afraid that if we were to let ourselves fully experience these feelings, we might fall apart, lose control, or be mired in them permanently.” ~ Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown
“But what it comes down to is that we are here now. So the choice is how to live now. With the little time left, we could wake up more. We could allow this whole experience of the planet, which is intrinsically rewarding, to manifest through our heart-minds—so that the planet may see itself, so that life may see itself. And we can bless it in some way. So there is some source of blessing on us, even as we die. I think of a Korean monk who said “Sunsets are beautiful too, not just sunrises.” We can do it beautifully. If we are going to go out, then we can do it with some nobility, generosity and beauty, so we do not fall into shock and fear.” – from an interview Joanna Macy on how to prepare internally for whatever comes next
Joanna Macy posts on this blog (yes; I have fixed these links, so they DO work!)
An oldie: A letter to Greenpeace magazine in the May/June 1990 issue:
“Your insightful feature was titled “How We Can Save It.” This is too optimistic. It should have been phrased as a question – “Can We Save It?” – the answer to which is “no.” The multitudes will not voluntarily make the personal sacrifices needed for the environment until they are choking to death from such disregard, and by then it will be too late. Don’t get me wrong. I’m in this battle to the end, but I fully expect it to come to that.” – Louis Philips, Albany, New York <this one in my collection since, well, 1990!>
Puddle Theory: Douglas Adams musing on “intelligent design”: “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.” [more of his quotes here]
“The secret cause of all suffering is mortality itself, which is the prime condition of life. It cannot be denied if life is to be affirmed…. The conquest of the fear of death is the recovery of life’s joy.” – Joseph Campbell, quoted in Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow
“The shit is no longer hitting the fan. The fan is covered in shit. The shit is hitting the shit.” – Guy McPherson, the Nature Bats last, near-term extinction guy
“…real apocalypses are sordid, banal, insane. If things do come unraveled, they present not a golden opportunity for lone wolves and well-armed geeks, but a reality of babies with diarrhea, of bugs and weird weather and dust everywhere, of never enough to eat, of famine and starving, hollow-eyed people, of drunken soldiers full of boredom and self-hate, of random murder and rape and wars which accomplish nothing, of many fine things lost for no reason and nothing of any value gained. And survivalists, if they actually manage to avoid becoming the prey of larger groups, sitting bitter and cold and hungry and paranoid, watching their supplies run low and wishing they had a clean bed and some friends. Of all the lies we tell ourselves, this is the biggest: that there is any world worth living in that involves the breakdown of society.” ~ Alex Steffen, Worldchanging, October 2004
“We’re under some gross misconception that we’re a good species, going somewhere important, and that at the last minute we’ll correct our errors and God will smile on us. It’s delusion.” – Farley Mowatt, Canadian writer/icon. (Guy McPherson quoted this in a recent lecture at Simon Fraser University, SFU.)
“Overpopulation will not be a problem for much longer.” – anonymous friend
“I propose assaulting ourselves and others with compassion. I recommend heavy doses of creativity and courage. I advise doing something well beyond the cultural current of the main stream. At this point, what have you got to lose? Indeed, what have we got to lose?” – Guy McPherson in GOING DARK
“If we’re headed for the exit gate in the near term, the question then arises: What shall I do? How shall I live my life? In other words, now that we have knowledge of the near-term demise of our species, then what? There are more than seven billion responses to the latter questions. Recognizing that birth is lethal and that we have an opportunity to demonstrate our humanity on the way out the door, I’ve chosen an eyes-wide-open, decidedly counter-cultural approach. I’ve opted out of empire to the maximum possible extent, and I practice and promote a gift economy. Beyond my own actions, I suggest individuals take actions they never previously imagined. I promote resistance against the dominant paradigm, even though – especially though – it appears too late to save our species from near-term extinction. I propose assaulting ourselves and others with compassion. I recommend heavy doses of creativity and courage. I advise doing something well beyond the cultural current of the main stream. At this point, what have you got to lose? Indeed, what have we got to lose?” – Guy McPherson, Nature Bats Last dude in his book Going Dark, on pg. 26-7.
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” – from the Talmud
“Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and social activist, once said that as he grew older he came to understand that it was not ideas that change the world but simple gestures of love given to the people around you, and often to those you feel most at odds with. He said that in order to save the world you must serve the people in your life. ‘You gradually struggle less and less for an idea,’ Merton wrote, ‘and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.’” – from Broken Open – How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser
“He was glad to be out of the wind, though, and eventually the claustrophobia passed and instead with the stars and the water’s constant roar came a sense that everyone on earth was irrelevant, that if the world were emptied of people tomorrow they would not be missed at all, not by bird nor beast, or God up in heaven or the devil down in hell. It took a bit of getting used to, but he was surprised how comforting it was to feel that this was so.” – thoughts of the character George in the novel A Shout in the Ruins, by Kevin Powers
As Kurt Vonnegut said: “I asked Mark [his son] a while back what life was all about since I didn’t have a clue. He said, “Dad, we’re here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” Whatever it is. Whatever it is! Not bad. That one could be a keeper. And how should we behave during this apocalypse? We should be unusually kind to one another certainly, but we should also stop being so serious. Jokes help a lot. And get a dog if you don’t already have one. I myself just got a dog. It’s a new cross-breed. It’s half French poodle and half Chinese shitzu. It’s a “shit poo.” And I thank you for your attention. And I am out of here.” (from his last speech, apparently.)
From a 2014 post called ‘Bearing Witness’: “We can remain in denial about the ecocide we are all witness to, as the cult of optimism would have us do, or we can acknowledge and embrace the sorrow that is a natural response to loss, devastation and catastrophe. In grief we make a choice to honor the lost and their existence. We speak in a clear voice, to anyone who will listen, that their lives mattered. And we are also forced to face our own mortality in the process.
Agreeing to walk through our grief honestly can be a catalyst for creative defiance and undaunted dissent. It is perhaps the only resistance we can offer to the insistence of apathy imposed on us from the wraiths on Wall Street and Madison Avenue. The unnatural barriers they have erected to mask our humanity crumble in the rancid pile they deserve when a soul is set free to grieve. It is in grief that we find ourselves to be inseparable from each other, and from the nature from which we are all born. In this way, sorrow is the only coherent answer to extinction. It is a wail of conscience.
Bearing witness to the unprecedented crime of ecocide sweeping our planet is not accepting the carnage, it is lending another voice to testify on the behalf of the victims. And in doing so, it succeeds in making the difficult case for the worth of the human soul.” – Kenn Orphan from his 2014 post 'Bearing Witness’
** some great quotations about grief here.
A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself over the edge.
The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man then saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted.
Enjoy those strawberries, people!!
** 4 useful items about dealing with the current human situation: