April 3, 2020
So, I’ve been working hard the past few weeks trying to teach science online in an interactive way. I tend to be old school teaching hands-on science with Dollar Store resources. But I am discovering online simulations and Youtube videos. This pandemic isolation has forced me to explore these new technologies and to better utilize my online teaching platform. This old dog learned some new tricks and it has made certain chores easier and more efficient. Why was I so stubborn to learn new technology? Is it human nature to be resistant to change? Even when there is a better way?
Maybe this is a pattern for others? Learning new ways of doing things, getting things done. I will continue to learn and do what I do better. I won’t be going back to my old ways.
It seems we have been living in a time of great extremes, strong polarities and great volatility. I think most of us are waiting around for things to get back to normal, but what if we end up with a new normal? We think the extremes we have been living with are just blimps, but what if we have to actually change to adapt to a new normal? Maybe this is an opportunity to change things for the better. To seize the day and take full advantage of the potential of this generous present moment.
Perhaps this is a global, species initiation. On an individual level, initiations are those processes or rituals by which one reaches a new state of being and corresponding social status: from girl to woman, from layperson to clergy, and so on. Initiations can be deliberate or spontaneous, as in the case of the archetypal shamanic initiation, which comes by way of a healing crisis. To paraphrase Michael Meade, initiations are events that pull us deeper into life than we would otherwise go. They vary widely from culture to culture and individual to individual, but two characteristics they share are intensity and transformation. They bring us face to face with life and with death; they always involve an element of dying or shedding so that the new can be born.
Imagine what happens when an entire society finds itself in the midst of a crisis, a critical initiation. Except you don’t have to imagine: it’s already happening. It looks like chaos, a meltdown. We’re in a moment of collective, global-level crisis and uncertainty that has little precedent in living memory. The economic machine–the source of our financial needs and also a system that profits from environmental degradation, disease, war, crime and tragedy–is faced with a dramatic slow-down. We are all facing the cessation of non-essential activities. There is opportunity here, if we claim it.
What if we take the time to watch and listen to the wisdom our Earth mother? Nature shows us, models for us, teaches us how to live well in the world. I think it is heartening to remember that natural time runs in cycles. The moon wanes and waxes. And though winter is dark and cold, a warm and vibrant spring always comes.
Ecology and economics share the same Greek root word which translates as household or house. Eco refers to managing a home. Corporations are not managing a home, they are creating profits at the expense of our natural home. Global competition builds scarcity where one person has what people need and they leverage that. Only a few thrive under the current man-made economic system. But this mindset of scarcity is ingrained. The things is, it doesn’t exist in the abundant world that nature provides for us; it only exists in our perceptions of what we’re willing to accept. We need a new mindset to bring into reality an actual quality of life where everyone thrives.
I have claimed that money is man-made and to some extent illusory. Nature basically uses energy and nutrients as its exchange. But paper money is a kind of representation of energy exchange and it is a way to share the things that we all need to sustain ourselves. Unfortunately, the economy has become so centralized it no longer works for the majority of people on the planet. Most ecosystems work on sharing and cooperation much more than competition. Local economies tend to be built on sharing and cooperation rather than pure competition more like natural ecosystems. We need to localize as much as possible because that is what is most sustainable during times of extremes. That is what nature has tried to teach us.
Throughout this blog, I have discussed living locally for sustainability versus the corporate politics of centralization. I have discussed the interconnectedness and diversity of ecosystems and how they model the pattern for resilient communities. I have seen connections between unhealthy environments, unhealthy agricultural practices and unhealthy people under our current profit-driven, heartless systems. We have built silos of monocultures, which is unsustainable. A single source is vulnerable and not practical. This is why giant centralized systems, such as our global dependence on oil, are not resilient in the long term. Currently there are other political factors that are slamming the oil business, but we have been too dependent on this unsustainable monolith for decades.
It will take radical change to shift our current, calamitous trajectory away from massive environmental devastation, famine, energy crises, war and refugee crises, increasingly authoritarian regimes and escalating inequalities. What is unsustainable cannot persist, by definition, and we are starting to see this play out.
We can welcome the circumstances that force us away from dysfunctional old patterns, be they economic, ecological or personal. We have that opportunity now. So let’s stop waiting for the old normal, stop clinging to old ways. Let’s embrace a new world that values life and living things. That nurtures our young and considers their future in a finite physical world. That breaks from mindless consumerism and running a rat race for a paycheck. That instead values meaningful work and personal callings. That recognizes that taking good care of our environment goes hand in hand with taking good care of ourselves and our families. That comprehends the interconnectedness of the community of life as well as the wisdom of Mother Earth. Let's take better care of our household and our earth home.
When we emerge from this initiation, this dark night of the soul, we will be transformed. It is a journey from darkness into the strength and hidden resources of the soul. It is actually a journey into light. And like the caterpillar, who after mindless gorging morphs into the butterfly, we too can flex our wings and learn to soar into a vibrant future that flows with the natural order of things. Collectively we have the knowledge and innovative spirit to build a sustainable and just world. What are we waiting for? A global disaster? Well, it's happening.