“If one had to fail, it was better to do so in a beautiful way.” — Martín Prechtel
Maybe like you, the recognition that we’re in the final days of this decade has caught me by surprise. The year 2020 sounds impossible to be true, like a date in an old science fiction story chosen to be far, far into the future.
I was born in 1981, the same year Bob Marley and Terry Fox died. I grew up during the arrival of the original Nintendo, the personal computer, and The Simpsons. It was also the time when ‘global warming’ and the ecocidal momentum of our modern culture began to stir.
And now, almost 40 years later, here we are poised on the precipice of the decisive decade — the final chance to implement an entirely different paradigm than the one that has driven us to the edge of extinction.
Some say that we’re already too late to mitigate significant climate disruption and chaos. The rate of change — a metric employed in palliative care to indicate the onset of death — is far greater than most scientists predicted even a few years ago. We are facing daily extinctions of all kinds.
Therefore, it seems important to ask: what is worth doing?
There is a particular moment at Burning Man that I have not heard many others write or speak about. It’s generally the Sunday morning after the Man burns and many camps have begun their tear down.
Art pieces and visual markers that have thus far served as spacial indicators for the week — disappear — with some tricksters deliberately swapping or removing the street signs to engender further disorientation. And without the Man as a constant beacon in the center of the city, it is easy to feel lost. This sensation is both maddening and somehow liberating.
There is strange solace in recognizing that much of what has seemed inevitable and perpetual, is in fact, temporary and ephemeral. This is more obviously true for Black Rock City, which arises and dissolves in a few short weeks. And with the dissolution comes a grief that gives way to a tender sort of love — the sheer audacity of The Human willingness to craft magnificence even though it will inevitably be swallowed by the tides of time.
I realize now this has been a training for what is happening now, in the default world.
We are being asked to bear witness to the ending of days.
Lest I find myself categorized immediately as a ‘doomist’, I wish to say up front that I am not suggesting hopelessness. I am agreeing, as Martin Shaw has said, that we are in the Underworld, though many aren’t willing to know it yet:
“We still get to go on holiday, drink wine, watch beautiful sunsets. We still pay insurance and kids still go to college. But there is something happening. An unravelling. A collapsing, both tacit and immense in scale.”
Modern society believes that to be human means to circumvent every limit that opposes us — ultimately seeing death as a biological flaw to be eliminated. Yet, indigenous cultures the world over know the law of life to be the exact opposite —as Stephen Jenkinson says in Lost Nation Road: “it is the limit that gives us the opportunity to practice being human.”
By eliminating endings we have triggered the end of everything else.
“We are right where we were headed all along.” — Catherine Ingram
I am entrusted with a 14 month old son.
I wonder what the world will look like for him in 10 years. I wonder what is worth doing on his behalf, and the all the children like him who will inherit an unwinding planet.
I don’t believe we can “manage” a unified response to our collective crises. Instead, for over the last 10 years I have been tracking the phenomenon of emergence — in other words, how to partner with the innate intelligence of life moving through us. In the near future I will offer a full breakdown of the principles I have uncovered, though for now:
Here’s what comes —First, I am more willing to stand in the truth of what I hear from those trusted seers that are on the front lines of climate change: we are already too late.
Though it still may take years, or even decades, what has been set in motion cannot be called back.
The sooner we can admit that, the sooner we are liberated to release ideas about what is possible and worthy of effort. For me, this includes recognizing I am unlikely ever to own a house or choose another career for “job security” and the promise of retirement. The entire paradigm of living as isolated individuals and/or as the nuclear family — devoid of collective embedment and responsibility — has proven bankrupt.
A liveable future will only be possible upon the reawakening of village minded-ness, not as a romantic idea, but as a political and spiritual imperative. (For more thoughts, see ‘Becoming a Next Culture Villager’ from Clinton Callahan)
Second, I am committed to listening for what I am called to do. Rather than fall prey to the sense that only grandiose acts worthwhile, I believe we must turn to the quiet voice inside that whispers when we’re willing to trust the silence.
This is the voice of Eros, guiding you towards what may bring you the most fulfillment of spirit- what others might call your soul purpose.
For me, it was to start a podcast exploring The Mythic Masculine. It’s to deepen in our collective home and learn what it’s like to be a family in community. And it’s to complete and release our documentary Love School.
I cannot justify “why” these acts are worthwhile in the grand scheme. And yet, it is what I’m called to do.
And for others, it will no doubt be different. For some it will be joining a mass movement of imaginative activism. For others it will be learning permaculture and other earth-based skills. And for others it might be stepping into the dying system as a grief-informed politician.
If I am to offer any nudge of encouragement, it would be this: follow that voice. There is nothing to wait for any longer.
The more of us that are courageous enough to stand in this truth, the sooner we will come into collective coherence — and our life energy will flow towards a vision of the future that is rooted in connection to source — the intelligence of life itself.
Years ago, a friend remarked to me about the end of a relationship that had gone particularly sour. He said: “How it ends will determine what it means.”
As we cross this threshold into the next decisive decade, let us make a personal and collective commitment.
If we have to go out, then let us make it beautiful.
Let us love life in this way.
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