24 Mar 2008
Positive Energy: creative community responses to peak oil and climate change. Day 3, Session One. Honouring Our Pain for the World
The Great Turning takes great courage, and we have great courage. There will be no flourishing unless we open our eyes to our world. We need to acknowledge what is coursing through our bodies and minds so that we can address our own grief. Only than can we go together to apply the hands of our attention to our world.
That’s the core of the Great Turning. You know its not going to be pain free, you know that. You also know you won’t have to do it alone. We need each other. We need to listen together, to take each others hands, to stand together.
The poem we just heard captures the act of integrity that is needed for the Great Turning. Maybe our Ancestors, when faced with sorrows, of which they had plenty, drought, flood, storms, huge things that felt like the end, there was a capacity to respond. Now, however, the political economy we are immersed in would not have us hear those views. Millions of businesses are designed to distract us and keep us on the treadmill in order to pay the mortgage. The media is designed to distract, it will do almost anything to keep us from paying attention to the state of our world and of ourselves.
This courage of seeing, being able to be unafraid of the suffering of our world, is crucial on many levels. This is what we will be working with/reconnecting with, this morning. As you very well know, we live and can’t avoid living with tremendous uncertainty. We do not and cannot know which will win out. The Great Turning is underway. The great evolutionary forces are animating it, but the Great Unravelling is underway too. No-one can tell if the dimensions and mindset will take hold before they systems of this planet are stretched too far.
We stand and we do not demand the assurance of a happy ending. All attention needs to be on the moment. You are poised at that moment. The not knowing is at the heart of it. What matters is that attention is brought to the here and now. Hope, optimism, pessimism, who cares?! You are right there. There are no guarantees in the Great Turning, but then that’s the way it is in life. When you fall in love there is no guarantee that it will last forever, when you are in labour there is no guarantee of a healthy birth, when you plant seeds in the garden there is no guarantee that they will grow. In life there are no guarantees. Just the potential to participate in that emergence.
Sometime I find myself thinking “I wish I could go to that conference with a failproof plan, a strategy”. Then I realise that deep inside you don’t really want that. If I were to say “everything’s fine, I know. God just told me. Everything will turn out fine”. Even if I could do that, would it bring out the creativity and imagination you have to offer?
As we let our minds be OK with the unknowing , we find there is grief beyond the telling, which can only be captured in poetry. There’s outrage there too. There’s anger. Anger is something we mustn’t be afraid of. Anger about what is befalling our brothers and sisters is our passion for justice, our fiery energies.
If we censor that, if we try to dismiss that, we are weakening our own response. Feelings of fear over what will happen to us and our fear for ourselves and our families. As we see the world economic system starting to unravel, we can almost smell the fear. We can find ourselves in overwhelm, where we close down. We can see feelings of futility. We cannot let these feelings run our lives, we have too much to do.
We will own them and what they can do. You only mourn what you love; the underside of the fear is the courage to be with that fear in a fear-o-phobic society. That sense of emptiness and futility and emptiness, don’t flee it, it allows the new to emerge. Grief underlies our anger. We will know again that this is a wholesome, natural response to what is happening to our world. There is no-one who doesn’t carry that, and to own it is subversive in the extreme.
The fact that it is so dangerous to feel that has meant that our dominant culture has been broadly successful in pathologising it. It is seen as a private problem, a personal problem. “You’re worried about the trouble in Darfur, what is it in you that is causing that? Does it go back to your relationship with your father?” The psychological community has co-operated by reducing this concern to a private pathology. It is the privatising of grief.
Yet this must not be reduced to some personal, private mistake. It is our true nature, our belonging to the body of the Earth. When we disconnect we remove ourselves from our collective unconscious, even from our collective conscious. We have been trained to walk about like a brain on a stick, ignoring the lower chakras, which helps to make us compliant and passive, able to accept things like the attempts in the US at the moment to legalise torture.
In indigenous cultures there is in the concept, in adolescence, of rites of passage, where the reality of mortality becomes integrated into daily lives. A French editor once called working with this planetary anguish the modern equivalent of rites of passage. Is the Great Turning not a rite of passage for humanity? A time where we are forced to connect with our mortality as a species? We could, after all, actually pass from the scene, not make it. We are acting as though we actually want this to be the case. In this Work That Reconnects we are incorporating into our psyche this rite of passage so we can reach the point of planetary adulthood.
We then sang the following words by Adrian Rich which had been set to music. They are beautiful words, and worth reading over a few times;
“My heart is moved by all it cannot save
So much has been destroyed.
I have cast my lot with those
Who age after age perversely
With no extraordinary power
Reconstitute the world”.
That poem is you. It is us. “Age after age, perversely”.
We then divided into threes and talked about what things in the world we carry grief for.
Observe the extent to which these deep concerns go beyond your individual needs and wants. This shows you are able to suffer with the world, like part of a neural network, that ability to suffer has been a central part of all religions, it is the definition of compassion. In Buddhism it is embodied in the Bodhisattva. Don’t be afraid of your boundless heart.