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


  1. This so resonates with me. Moving through this crises positively will take spiritual work. Part of our work is to cultivate that which will still allow us to love and laugh at the same time that we embrace the work. Both can co-exist, both are needed. It will be hard, but this is why we are here.