January 3, 2015. Dear … everyone:
I sort of made a pact with myself that I would speak more openly in 2015 to the people I know & love the most, about what I see heading straight for us at (I fear) escalating speed: near-term extinction/near-term human extinction or NTE/NTHE.
How can we NOT talk about something so HUGE?
I mean wtf, people.
I’m really not sure why it is that some of us are so open to the idea of human extinction, while most folks either deny the possibility vehemently … or simply ignore it completely, quite as though nothing much is really happening. (Yawn).
Listen, I’ve been immersed in “planet-saving” work for decades now. Environmental work of many sorts & varieties, an arrest or two along the way, tons of projects, protests, marches, you-name-it.
It isn’t as though I’ve come to my belief about NTE lightly, suddenly, or impulsively. Without a TON of reading, action & reflection. You know??
I’ve feared for decades we humans wouldn’t “pull it out of the fire” in time.
& what I feared is seemingly coming to pass, likely in my own lifetime, no less.
Anything we humans have done to forestall disaster has been far too little, much too late. (Truth? We’ve done virtually nothing. Just saying.)
In fact, our goose was actually probably cooked SO very long ago now (likely at the dawn of what we grandly call “civilization;” certainly at the dawn of the “industrial age”) that I might just as well have avoided the past 25 years of environmental activism, & gone “corporate” instead.
Made a bunch of $$$$, travelled lots, lived in more upscale kinds of places, worn better clothes.
You know, that kind of thing.
But of course none of that would have suited the fundamental me – the person I am inside.
I’ve loved, reveled in, these years of activism. The very best part of it, always, has been the intense feelings of community it has brought me. Friends & colleagues & acquaintances to die for (or, as I put it in another NTE posting recently, solidarity has been both the lesson & the reward, all the way along).
So. No regrets.
(About my activism, I mean. Of course plenty of regrets at the human-induced destruction taking place all around us. Of course. Not just regrets; heartbreak, sadness, frustration, disgust, anger. Etc.)
You might wonder what I’m doing now – what I’m planning to do – now that The End is looming so much nearer that I swear I can almost smell it now.
More of the same, really.
As you know, I made that stab at living “in community” – in an eco-village that (let’s just be honest) was not really an eco-village.
I’d spent a very long time (15-20 years already) wanting to do the community “thing,” having been long convinced the consumer frenzy/planet-raping scene taking place on Planet Earth was/is not, shall we say, “sustainable” in the long-term.
But my brief foray into “community living” was a non-starter. Bottom line = most of us Human Beans no longer really know how to live cooperatively/equitably/peacefully/sustainably. Sadly, it seems to have been bred/wired out of us.
So, here I am, now, living in the Big (very unsustainable) City. Most of the people I love & care about the most live within a fairly small radius of my new home. Lake Ontario is very nearby (less than a 5-minute walk, maybe less than 3, even??), with that wonderful boardwalk I walk on most days. Although I still own a car (my wee Yaris), it mostly sits, parked, while I walk, bike or use the TTC (or GO train) to get where I need to go.
The wise people I listen to say the human race is now “in hospice.” We are dying. Our condition is terminal.
“Cure” is a meaningless term at this point.
It’s time to acknowledge our upcoming death/extinction, and to prepare for it with whatever grace, kindness and humility we can summon.
There is of course bound to be some fear & apprehension … let’s just be 100% honest here, shall we?
I do not possess a crystal ball.
I do not expect it to un-wind or progress in the fashion of some pretty movie plot, all sweetness, light & “happily ever after.”
But I am hoping we can “mine” this experience for moments of grace & compassion, love, kindness & solidarity, in the same way that a person’s imminent death from, say, cancer, can yield up some precious memorable, rich and even humorous moments (as I have witnessed, personally, & on more than one occasion).
All the work I’ve been doing for the past decades – the community/environmental work – the “spiritual” work of healing from various heartbreaks, the conversations with friends, the walking, the writing, the activism, the active practice of gratitude – the Nature connection that has always nurtured, sustained & inspired me…
All these experiences have helped me to accept, down to my bones, that
a) I am not alone
b) I am not separate; I’m deeply connected to everything & everyone
c) I am not Somebody Special – no more special than anyone else.
I’m just little old me in a sea of humanity & Earth … just a speck!
I’m not even here for me! This realization came over me several years ago now. It’s true!
I’m just a little worker bee in a very big, astonishingly beautiful beehive that is not of my own creation.
I am not the whole story
I will not live forever.
I’m just a wee, tiny piece of the human story/drama.
No better, no worse than anyone else.
No more “entitled” to this privilege or that, or to longer life, than anyone else here.
When I moved to Toronto (for personal reasons), what passed through my mind was “like a moth diving headlong into the flame?”
Perhaps I will die sooner, here, or more violently, than I might, living elsewhere.
The fact is, the conflagration heading our way will take us all down, soon enough.
I have no more “right” to escape its clutches than anyone. (Nor do I have any desire to prolong what is liable, I fear, to become a not-very-pretty phase in human history.)
Do you see?
So, I’m not sure exactly what’s up next for me, personally.
Mostly I want to be a good & useful pair of hands & feet in this hospice place we all now occupy.
I guess, like everyone, I will just have to figure it out as I/we go along. A day at a time, a moment at a time.
We can talk about this calmly, you know; we can. Amongst ourselves, I mean. I don’t think our so-called “leaders” will be any use to us
at all at all at all.
p.s. there’s a really excellent & very inspiring episode of The Lifeboat Hour you can listen to, here. I really recommend it! Two thoughtful, compassionate, wise people talking in practical terms about how we can choose to behave, in “hospice mode.”
“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 legal 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?”
Some Relevant Quotations
“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. [more JC quotes]
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – Albert Einstein [more Einstein quotes]
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it’s the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid.” – Audre Lorde, 1934-92
“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
“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
“Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” – Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown in Coming Back to Life – Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World (New Society Publishers, 1998).
“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow. It is the dark menace of the future that makes cowards of us.” – Dorothy Dix
“The shit is no longer hitting the fan. The fan is covered in shit. The shit is hitting the shit.” – Guy McPherson
“I can say that it is time now to play ‘the end of the world’ symphony. I don’t know what instrument you hold, but you need to play it as best as you can, & find your place in the score. You don’t have to play a solo here. But this is our task now.” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber, in an April 2013 interview with Bill Moyers
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.