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Imagine you are a passenger on a vast ship.
It contains many decks with varying degrees of classes and comfort depending on where you are situated. There are a privileged few who are above deck, enjoying a degree of wealth and opulence unreachable by the rows below. More people are somewhere in the middle though most are clustered throughout the bottom decks, fending for with what little they have to survive.
This ship is barrelling through the ocean, consuming a myriad of sea life and coral and leaving a trail of garbage and pollution as it steams forward. Up ahead, shrouded in the fog, a massive ice berg lies in wait. The captains of the ship are unable to see through the mist, nor are they very interested in the presence of danger, as they are convinced their safe passage is certain. Manifest destiny.
A growing number of those on the ship feel that something is wrong, and a few bold activists attempt to alert those above decks to an impending danger, but largely to no avail. It appears everyone, no matter what class and skin color, are headed for certain calamity, and much of life is being taken along with them.
Through an unforeseen intervention, a mysterious illness begins to sicken some of the passengers on the ship. It’s a virus, one that nobody has ever seen before. It strikes people on every deck, no matter their access to wealth, resource, or privilege. And while many recover, some fall gravely ill and a few even die.
Suddenly the captains are paying attention. They order the ship to slow down and finally stop while they contend with this new visitor.
“This is war!” They declare, and vow everything in their power to slay this beast so we can all return to normal as soon as possible.
Unbeknownst to them all, the iceberg continues to lie ahead in wait. The inevitable disaster is possibly averted…for now.
Dear reader, it was scarcely a few months ago just before the end of the decade, that I released a short essay titled “It’s Already Too Late.”
It’s Already Too Late: Reflections at the End of the Decade
“If one had to fail, it was better to do so in a beautiful way.” — Martín Prechtel
In that piece, I reflected on the impossibility that our collective ship could possibly change course in the time necessary to avert planetary disaster.
And now, barely into the first fews days of spring, and a third of humanity is under lockdown. The world economy is grinding to a halt. And we have entered an impossible moment - a liminal space between stories — where the existing narratives no longer hold sway, and new possibilities have the chance to take root.
As I look out at the collective conversation, I see three main narratives jostling for attention:
- THIS IS WAR
- THIS IS A CONSPIRACY
- THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL
I will explore each in brief detail.
- THIS IS WAR
A growing chorus in the media and perpetuated by politicians is that we are at war. According to them, the enemy is COVID-19. We are tasked with mobilizing against this invisible foe that has arisen simply to cause us harm.
This construct is at the root modern culture — what Charles Eisenstein calls “war thinking” “…the pattern of fixing a problem where you look for the enemy, the thing to fight. You believe that if you can defeat or dominate that enemy then the problem will be solved.”
I explore this in much more detail, including the difference between finite and infinite games, in my piece below.
The Last Jedi, Moana, and the etymology of Evil
Or, the consequence of finite and infinite storytelling.
What is the problem with war thinking in the face of a global pandemic? Even if we were to “win” by defeating the virus and return to normal… I believe we will have failed.
Why? Because normal means we are headed full tilt once again for the iceberg.
2. THIS IS A CONSPIRACY
Depending on what rabbit hole you follow, you might arrive at a variety of truths: COVID-19 was created in a lab as a bioweapon. Or it was caused by the new 5G networks. Or Bill Gates engineered the pandemic (even gave us a TED heads up). Or that it’s an ET plot or the latest development in shadowy cabal’s push to institute an authoritarian One World Government.
I’m not going to try and debunk any of the above claims. The reality is that any narrative can be pieced together from “facts” that come to a version of truth. In this way, it’s not a paradox to say that multiple worldviews can co-exist at the same time.
This doesn’t need an esoteric explanation. For many on the planet, their realities are far different from each other. (The recent film Parasite highlighted this with macabre precision).
Too often, theories though that uphold a shadowy conspiracy are based on reinforcing one’s own existing desire to distrust others — and therefore enforce a path disempowerment. After all, what’s the point of engaging meaningfully with the moment if it’s all run by forces much greater and more powerful than you?
3. THIS IS A WAKE UP CALL
The final narrative that I see playing out in the collective narrative is one that I find most encouraging.
The virus is not an enemy and we are not at war. This is an intervention from Mother Gaia who is trying to wake humanity up from its suicidal amnesia.
There is a growing chorus of artists, scientists, doctors, and visionaries who are articulating and inviting us to hold this frequency of the possible.
Without minimizing the very real suffering, heartbreak, and death that is occurring in the midst of this pandemic, what might it be to consider that we are being granted a great moment of reflection as a species? How might we use this Great Slowdown to alter the course of civilization and come back into relationship with life?
What if the virus is the medicine:
“Imagine what happens when an entire society finds itself in the midst of a critical initiation. Except you don’t have to imagine: it’s already happening, or starting to. 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 disease, divorce, 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 truly LISTENED?
I’ll end with one final scene that has guided my way.
In the original Star Wars, there is the scene with Obi-Wan and Luke travel to a bustling space port and are confronted by a number of Storm Troopers who are seeking wanted droids.
Obi-Wan famously applies the power of The Force to dissuade the Troopers from the very droids that are right in front of them.
“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
The lead Trooper falters, before repeating Obi-Wan’s words, then they shuffle along and the heroes are able to proceed.
I used to think that scene was indicating the power of the Force to dominate and confound the mind of another into accepting a false reality. Instead I’ve come to appreciate a much more nuanced perspective.
Quantum physics tells us that there is no such thing as a completely “objective reality” that is unaffected by the observer. Which means reality is relational, and largely influenced by probability — that is, certain timelines become more or less possible depending our actions, both personal and collective.
I believe we are in a deeply liminal time.
The old rules and stories that governed our lives are in disarray.
There are a number of possible futures that could become our destiny.
What is vital is that each of us hold to the frequency of trust that the more beautiful world is not only possible, but longing to arrive.
We can rewrite the rules of the economy, in service to the sacred.
Each moment is a fundamental choice point that brings it closer to reality, strengthening the courage of humanity and coming back into kinship with all of life.
So let us awaken.
We may not get this opportunity again.
In the words of Sophie Mainguy, an ER doctor in France “We Are Not At War” (translation):
WE ARE NOT AT WAR and we don’t have to be…
It is interesting to note how we only know how to look at each event through a prism of defence and domination.
The measures decreed last night by our government are, from my sensitivity as a doctor, quite appropriate. However, the announcement effect that accompanied it is much less so.
We are not at war, nor do we have to be. There is no need for a systematic idea of struggle to be effective. The firm ambition of a service to life is enough.
There is no enemy.
There is another living organism in full migratory flow and we must stop so that our respective currents do not clash too much.
We are at the pedestrian crossing and the light is red for us.
Of course there will be, on the scale of our billions of humans, crossings off the nails and accidents that will be painful.
They always are.
We have to be prepared for that.
But there is no war.
Life forms that do not serve our interests (and who can say?) are not our enemies.
This is yet another opportunity to realize that humans are not the only force on this planet and that they must — oh so many — sometimes make room for others. There is no point in living it in a confrontational or competitive way.
Our bodies and our immunity love truth and PEACE.
We are not at war and we do not have to be to be effective.
We are not mobilized by weapons but by the Intelligence of the living that compels us to pause.
Exceptionally we are obliged to push ourselves aside, to leave the place.
It is not a war, it is an education, that of humility, interrelation and solidarity.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to support my work, please consider contributing via my Patreon.
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