And so, once again, long years onward from the church of my childhood—which mandated that we live on the cusp of the perpetual end of the world—it has come yet again. Those of us in the industrialized world with enough privileges to keep apace with the ‘news’ are pummeled on a daily basis now: the world is coming to an end, even the seculars are sure, and the time to prevent this is either rapidly approaching or long gone. I have watched and even participated in this social non-conversation for years, as our consumptive behaviors ate away not just at the planet but our communities’ souls. It is a fascinating muddle, for the people who have the most data and information and are sounding the loudest calls are often unwilling to change even the least thing in their own personal lives—activities, financial portfolios, consumption patterns, desire-slaking actions—unless the shift entails no inconvenience. Handwringing, however, is fully in vogue, and as usual sharply lessens the chances that we will think or do differently.
But that is only a sliver of what is afoot. So many people are already shifting their behaviors, moving from excess in things to simple sustainable lives, no longer requiring so much, going so much, or taking care of their own needs/wants/desires above anyone else’s. The inequalities that drive so much of the plunder still afoot are being steadily eroded by tens of millions of ordinary people caught up in the exact same maw as everyone else, but unwilling to see another fellow being harmed and so they pitch in and even the field. It happens on our streets, in our alleys, and among us every day. It happens not just for people, but for animals and plants. Despite ferocious opposition and indescribable challenges in so many times and places (as for example among those who are being bombed by this government for oil and profit, structurally adjusted and trade-dealed out of even sustenance), good people keep on working toward a better tomorrow. Everywhere. Even in the bowels of cities like Washington, D.C., where some of the most systematic destruction presently is nurtured. Given that the awfulizers who trade in shock-value headlines and 140-character analyses or 30-second soundbytes get way more air time, however, we too easily forget about the real world and all the ordinary people who are working to make this a more livable place.
The planet is not in trouble; humanity is. We have made of speculation and excess twin evils called holy, the grail of rigged capitalism run amok and perverted for no good reason ever, and we are paying the price. Many innocents—human and not—are already suffering and dying too soon as a result of our choices. We are humans, though, and we can change.
All that comforts me now is steady attention to my daily responsibilities, living with integrity based on what I understand to be our challenges. I engage with politics and my communities as well as I can, I speak up and work for the values I believe in, and I am systematically trying to live so that I require as few resources as possible. I am aggrieved to have more than anyone else and try to even that out. I question why I should go to and fro just because I can afford it, while others cannot, and I go less. I know that what comes to me isn’t mine and needs redirecting. I recycle and downsize and share and give away and find great joy in getting by on less and living more.
I also am steadily walking away from the mainstream chest-beating now, for I don’t believe anybody has the vision or intelligence to predict the future well, and I no longer will let them drive me to despair with their ‘data’ and predictions. Small actions by many can and do make a difference, and the awfulizing that’s going on now has its roots in both despair and hubris (though not in equal measure). Some are using that despair to compel action, and they take the awfulizing and put it to work. I am grateful for their efforts, every one. But I will let no pundit, no scientist, no talking head tell me they know the end of this story, not now, not ever. For I know this one thing for sure: We make the world by what we focus on, say, and do. And human history is filled with points that appeared wholly bleak because everyone was stuck in the same patterns that only a few could see beyond, but then something shifted—often a single person or a few pressed their unpopular points until something else was possible–and then the heart of the world was lightened to some extent for some period of time by people working together and making significant changes in how they had previously behaved. Almost always that took enormous compassion and courage ahead of the fact, and it’s this that I seek to find amongst us and participate in now.
We are pinpricks of consciousness in a vast sea of being about which we know next to nothing. I connect with that by stepping outside every single day no matter what, and when I do I get an unmistakable feeling that there are more possibilities available to us than we presently know. We must open our hearts to each other and to all that exists, not just now or in the past to which we so readily cling, but to all that will come after us. We cannot know the substance or complexion of that coming world, no. We can only stand with an openness to our own place in it and then act from that knowing today. Once that happens, it shifts every last cell in our beings and we simply can no longer continue to go on as we have gone before. From that space, real transformation can and does occur.
Every ending spawns new life forms. We get to participate in the consciousness of what lies ahead. This is a heart-wrenchingly incredible time to be alive. We are called to be more than we were before, and we have it fully within us to do this well. This is what I intone to myself when the jeremiads thunder. It’s how I survived the church of my childhood, and how I not just survive but thrive now. We are enough for whatever comes. Let us act accordingly.
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