Friday, April 7, 2017

Threshold or Precipice

A bit of a thrill ride, isn't it - the circumstances that lead to that headline?

Because we don't know which one it is. We don't know if we are on the verge of a major breakthrough or a complete collapse. I don't know if we have lived in such an unpredictable time, at least not since World War II.

I feel the uncertainty. Many, many do. Many feel it without knowing what it is they feel, and that, too is scary, makes the times even more unpredictable, because people don't always act rationally when they are both afraid and not clear about what it is they fear exactly. Easy to project onto "the other," then. Easy for the moment to sink into chaos and more violence.

Also to seek simple solutions and a savior, a strongman, to make their world coherent again.

We are sinking into a period of incoherence. The chaos cannot be resolved by anything we have known in the past. What we have known and done in the past, our way of understanding the world, the planet, our cultural and economic frameworks - there is nothing there we can reach into to find a way through this chaos time, to put pieces of old familiar worlds together again.

We are entering a period of extreme unknowingness. People don't tend to act rationally in a time of extreme unknowingness. They are looking for something familiar to hold onto, and it's the familiar that is becoming incoherent, that is in a state of collapse.

Threshold or precipice. You can walk over a threshold. You can walk over a precipice, but the result is different.

Are there words for this? Are there words that can help us see clearly what it is we face, what our choices are? Are there words, stories, essays, poems, that can help people realize, without completely falling apart, that an old world construct based on economic growth and white privilege (along with a lot of philosophical and religious belief systems made to uphold that dying order) is over forever, that it is destroying us - our planet, our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our ability to survive as a species - and that trying to hold on to that culture of white western economic domination of the world, trying to hold onto the ways of life we have constructed from that paradigm, will only finish the job?

I struggle with this now every single day. It's the work I do to make a living (my "work" is presenting on the nexus among ecology, culture, and spirituality, offering workshops and facilitated conversations, also writing for a project website on these themes, see:

But the writing... the creative writing... Lately it has been paralyzing - not because I can't write but because when I go to the journal or the computer it feels too much to open, to encounter in its fullness. And when I write, I open to the flood, to the fullness. It stops me. It overwhelms. It brings up strong feelings. I try to work through them. But sometimes the words just can't match, or release, those feelings.

I welcome thoughts from other writers on how you are dealing with this. Now, with the bombing in Syria, the incompetence and corruption of our governing institutions, the lack of competence among these flamethrowers in the White House (or Mar-a-Lago), this feeling of unraveling is pretty profound, yes?

It seems we have to be more courageous than ever in telling some truth, in breaking free of the collapsing culture, in offering lenses that help our people to SEE, to help us all become less afraid.

More and more I believe that the cultural work - that work that shapes meaning and purpose, that creates visions and new ways of seeing - is some of the most important work humans can do right now.
To break the spell of an industrial society, an economic mode of being, this profound separation of the human from the real life of the planet, that is leading us to a precipice.

To offer the vision, the conviction, the courage that can help transform what looks like precipice to threshold, a crossing over from what is old, dead, destructive, to...something else.

Sunwapta Falls, Alberta
Think of a waterfall - the mighty river comes to the precipice, it crashes over the edge with tremendous power and beauty. Resisting it will crush you. So you go with it. You may get smashed to pieces, but eventually the river eases, its fury spent. At some point, you can put your canoe in the water again and go with the flow. Maybe you will have learned something. Maybe you will find out how simple we must become.

~ Margaret Swedish

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Distraction, suppression, repression - curses of our times

I don't mean that kind where you have a tough time concentrating, lots of little things to do, restlessness, email and social media, oil changes, paying bills, daily life that becomes excuse for avoiding the blank page.

No, this is a deeper plague, a stress on the psyche, near daily trauma. For me, to sit down to write, to look at that page and get set to begin the words - I am almost afraid at times of the volcano of emotion within, of what might pour out - grief, rage, fear, profound disappointment and disillusionment - I fear the truth within me.

Also the danger of penetrating, life-altering insight, the kind that disturbs, that something huge is about to shift. And this is not your own singular volcano. It is bigger than you, a force in the field, something trying to break through. And the fear it could therefore shatter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A writer confronting these tumultuous times

As you can see from the date of my last post, I've had a little trouble finding the inner space to write about writing as I, like so many culture workers these days, grapple with the tumult of our cultural moment. I am not surprised by it. I've been writing and speaking of "The Great Unraveling," as some call it, for quite a while now. But to see it actually unfold...and so fast...

The great Buddhist scholar and deep ecologist, Joanna Macy, speaks of this decisive moment when how we humans choose to proceed has existential consequences unlike any we have faced before as a species. That is not a comfortable place to find ourselves. And this decisive moment comes just as the culture of this nation in which I live has gone into steep decline. Even if our former paradigm of constitutional order based on capitalist western democracy was still dominant, we would have (and have had) grave cultural challenges in addressing this time of crisis, but even that paradigm itself is now unraveling.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just a bit of sun's glitter on the surfaces of what it means to be alive

That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. There is not any part of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surfaces of the water.   ~ D. H. Lawrence

Last night I was out with my brother driving in the Wisconsin countryside on a crisp, clear October night - deep night, about 1:30 in the morning. The half moon - so bright and orange, its roundness palpable, and so near it felt like I could reach out and touch it - was setting in the western sky freeing up the light of the Milky Way. We stopped on a dark rural road and got out of the car to get a little dose of awe and wonder.

Home. My home galaxy. These days I find this so comforting, to gaze up into the swirl of billions upon billions of stars and who-knows-what-is-out-there and recognize it as my "place" in the universe.

Sometimes it feels crucial to enlarge

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

" actual shock of experience..."

Came upon this quote today from a Facebook page devoted to the great Joseph Campbell.

Creative artists ... are mankind's wakeners to recollection: summoners of our outward mind to conscious contact with ourselves, not as participants in this or that morsel of history, but as spirit, in the consciousness of being. Their task, therefore, is to communicate directly from one inward world to another, in such a way that an actual shock of experience will have been rendered: not a mere statement for the information or persuasion of a brain, but an effective communication across the void of space and time from one center of consciousness to another.

Joseph Campbell, "The Masks of God, Volume IV: Creative Mythology" (Copyright © 1968 Joseph Campbell Foundation)
And I thought - what a great way to think about my vocation as a writer. To be a "wakener to recollection." To reach from one inward world to another, the linking of creative consciousness. Poets may do this best because poetry breaks with the rational mind that is so often our stumbling box.