Articles

REFLECTIONS ON GRETA THUNBERG’S ABILITY TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER By Lewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Article From The St Ethelburgas website:
In recent weeks young people around the world have taken to the streets in their thousands,
placards reading simple truths, “Planet before Profit,” “Our Earth Matters,” Their actions
and words are speaking clearly, of real concern for their future and for the Earth.
They know “There’s no Planet B.”

We are all present at a moment in our shared destiny when the Earth is crying out to us to help
Her in this time of crisis that is destroying Her ecosystem, the fragile web of life that supports
Her multihued unity. Around us are what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the “bells of mindfulness”—
we can hear them ringing in the unprecedented species depletion (such as the recent awareness of
what is called an “insect Armageddon,” with a 45-75% loss of insect biomass), the oceans filling
with plastic at a rate unfathomable a few decades ago, and accelerating climate change; all with
unforeseen consequences. And, on a different level, though just as painful, is the loss of wildness
and wonder, a diminishing sense of the sacred that nourishes our souls.

And together with the young people, many of us are responding with action and ideas, even as our
governments and corporations—with their values focused only on economic growth and materialism
are unable or unwilling to make this a real priority. This was forcefully articulated at
last year’s UN Climate Change COP24 Conference by the 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg,
who spoke truth to power when she said: “We have not come here to beg world leaders to care.
You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again. You only speak of green eternal
economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving
forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing
to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like is.
Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular.
I care about climate justice and the living planet….”

This last sentence brought tears to my eyes, as my soul heard her speak about real care for
the Earth—for this living, beautiful being who has given us life, who has nourished us with
Her endless generosity, even as we have abused and desecrated Her, raped and pillaged Her
body which our culture regards greedily as just a “resource” for our endless use and abuse.
And since this talk Greta has shown the power of a single person, as she has become an icon,
a catalyst inspiring a growing mass of young people around the world, calling out for the
future of the Earth and their own future, demanding that their voices and the cries of the
Earth be heard.

But behind Greta’s phrase, “the living planet,” is a deeper truth that calls out to our
forgetfulness. As was known to the ancients and to Indigenous peoples, our Earth is a being
with a soul as well as a body, what in the West we called the anima mundi, the soul of the world,
or what the Kogi in the Sierra Nevada in Colombia call Aluna, the spiritual intelligence within
nature. Until we recognize, remember, and reconnect with the spiritual nature of the Earth,
the primal intelligence within all of life, we will be walking in the darkness of our
forgetfulness, unable to find the way to work together with Her, to start to heal and
transform the living oneness to which we all belong.

Every butterfly, every bee, every waterfall, every dream we have, is a part of this living,
spiritual being. She is ancient beyond our understanding, even as She is crying out
at this moment. The great unspoken tragedy of this time is that we have forgotten Her
living sacred presence, and this is the silent censorship that has clear-cut our consciousness.
Our industrialized world has stripped us of our natural relationship, our interbeing with
creation, and now, as the web of life is being torn apart, we do not even know how to respond.
We do not know how to access Her wisdom, how to return to being a part of the great conversation
that belongs to all of life. We remain stranded on the desolate shores of materialism,
as in a supermarket where the shelves are increasingly empty.

Spiritual Activism is an emerging field that calls for a spiritual response to our present
global crisis—to our present social divisiveness and ecological devastation, to our
self-destructive identification with an old story of separation rather than embracing
the living story of life’s interdependent wholeness. Yes, we desperately need to
reduce carbon emissions and pesticides, to stop turning rainforests into ranchland
or palm oil plantations. But there is also a call to reconnect with the sacred
within creation, with the spiritual lifeblood of the planet. Otherwise we will just be
continuing the same one-sided conversation that has caused this devastation.
We need to work together with the Earth, to include Her wonder and wisdom.
We need to reconnect with Her soul.

And this is a work that we each can do—it does not need governments or big organizations,
but individuals whose hearts are open and who have heard the cry of the Earth.
Within our own being we can make this connection, and so help to bring the sacred
alive again in our own daily life and the life of the Earth. There are many different
ways to reconnect, from walking in a sacred manner, to working with the soil with
care in our hands, to including the Earth in our prayers, or simply recognizing divine
presence in the world around us. Whatever our practice or prayer, whatever way we
reaffirm a world of reverence, this foundational work is not complicated,
but rather simply requires our attention, real mindfulness. Then whatever our
outer activities, we are connected to the true nature of the living Earth.
And it can empower us to make a real contribution to enable humanity to rejoin
the great conversation, the sacred relationship with the Earth that was part of
the Original Instructions given to our ancestors.

The Earth will continue. We are now living through the sixth mass extinction of
species in Her history. It is our shared future that is uncertain: whether we will
keep to our ancient promise to witness Her wonder and beauty, honor Her sacred ways;
or whether we will continue our present path, stumbling through an increasingly
soulless wasteland, caught in consumerism, until the sea levels rise, the air becomes too toxic,
the oceans too acidic, our souls too desolate. Again, in the words of the young activist
Greta Thunberg, “We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.” But she also said,
“Change is coming.” The real question is whether we are open to be a part of real change—for
hearts and hands to help the Earth, for our souls to reconnect with the magic and mystery of
Her living being.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Articles, Changing Times, Circles Gathering Worldwide No Comments »

THE FLEXITARIAN DIET TO FEED 10 BILLION

A bit of meat, a lot of veg:

For full article BBC 

  1. Nuts – 50g a dayfrom
  2. Beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes – 75g a day
  3. Fish – 28g a day
  4. Eggs – 13g a day (so one and a bit a week)
  5. Meat – 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
  6. Carbs – whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
  7. Dairy – 250g – the equivalent of one glass of milk
  8. Vegetables -(300g) and fruit (200g)

The diet has room for 31g of sugar and about 50g worth of oils like olive oil.

A group of 37 scientists from around the world were brought together as part of the EAT-Lancet commission.They’re a mix of experts from farming to climate change to nutrition. They took two years to come up with their findings which have been published in the Lancet.

Is this for real, or just a fantasy?

This plan requires changes to diets in pretty much every corner of the world.

Europe and North America need to cut back massively on red meat, East Asia needs to cut back on fish, Africa on starchy vegetables.

“Humanity has never attempted to change the food system at this scale and this speed,” said Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, at Stockholm University.

“Whether it’s a fantasy or not, a fantasy doesn’t have to be bad… it’s time to dream of a good world,” she says.

Taxes on red meat are one of the many options the researchers say may be necessary to persuade us to switch diets.

 

Why do we need a diet for 10 billion people?

The world population reached seven billion in 2011 and it’s now around 7.7 billion. That figure is expected to reach 10 billion around 2050 and will keep on climbing.

Will it save lives?

The researchers say the diet will prevent about 11 million people dying each year.

That number is largely down to cutting diseases related to unhealthy diets such as heart attacks, strokes and some cancers. These are now the biggest killers in developed countries.

How bad is farming for the planet?

The use of land for growing food and forestry accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s about the same as from electricity and heating, and substantially more than from all the trains, planes and automobiles on the planet.

When you look more closely at the food sector’s environmental impact, you can see that meat and dairy are the major factors. Worldwide, livestock accounts for between 14.5 and 18% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

When it comes to other warming gases, agriculture is one of the leading contributors to both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

Agriculture is also a significant source of air pollution with ammonia from farms a major cause of fine particulate matter, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says is a threat to health worldwide.

Similarly when it comes to water, agriculture and food productions are one of the biggest threats, consuming 70% of global freshwater sources for irrigation.

So will this diet save the planet?

The researchers’ aim was to feed more people while:

  • minimising greenhouse gas emissions
  • preventing any species going extinct
  • having no expansion of farmland, and
  • preserving water

However, just changing diets is nowhere near enough.

To make the numbers add up, also requires a halving of food waste and an increase in the amount of food produced on current farmland.

Why isn’t meat being banned?

“If we were just minimising greenhouse gases we’d say everyone be vegan,” said Prof Willet.

However, it was unclear whether a vegan diet was the healthiest option, he said.

So what happens now?

The EAT-Lancet Commission is going to take its findings to governments around the world and bodies such as the WHO to see if it can begin to change the way we eat.

 

Tags:
Posted in Articles, Changing Times, Website Links And Images No Comments »

SPIRITUAL POWER: HOW IT WORKS: Book preface by Llewellyn Vaughan – Lee

When I was twelve, my family moved from London to a house in the country only a few miles from the town of Glastonbury and its mythical Tor. Many times as a teenager I scrambled up the steep slopes of this strange hill to the small chapel on the top. I wandered through the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey with its beautiful octagonal “Abbot’s Kitchen,” or sat in the stillness beside the Chalice Well. Driving from London to our house we would pass by Stonehenge, where one could stop and walk among the ancient stones. These were in the days before new-age tourism, before fences and kiosks. The Tor, the ruins, the well, and the ancient standing stones beside the road, were as they had been for centuries—mysterious but also just present. This was a landscape that held the rich magic of centuries, of ancient peoples and sacred place.

Later, in my late teens, I would come to know about ley lines, the energy patterns in the Earth, and how these sacred sites were at a confluence of many such lines. Even the small parish churches from the Middle Ages that dot the English countryside were built on older sites, part of this inner energy grid. Here the worlds came together, worship and wonder woven into the land. At that time I spent a few weeks in Chartres Cathedral, mainly studying the maze—a pattern on the floor that guides the pilgrim on a journey of initiation.(1) Built on a site sacred to the Black Madonna, this Gothic cathedral was a pinnacle of sacred geometry and stained glass; and one night when a pilgrimage came from Paris—each person holding a candle, linking hands around the building, and then standing in the empty interior—I knew the power of the place. Here there was an ancient wisdom, long forgotten in our present time. Sacred space, sacred land, and esoteric teachings had aligned the hidden energies of the Earth and the heavens.

At Chartres there had been a medieval mystery school that taught the sacred sciences: geometry, music, astronomy. The initiates knew how to channel the spiritual energy of the inner worlds, the power of the sacred that can help awaken an individual pilgrim, but also nourish the whole community and the land itself. This was a spirituality that was not confined to personal transformation, but part of a deeper understanding of spiritual energy, how it belongs to the whole of humanity and the Earth itself.

The Tor that I climbed as a teenager, Stonehenge, and Chartres Cathedral whose maze is a model of the universe, are part of a global network of sites of spiritual power—the ancient power grid of the planet. Many of these sites have been looked after by Indigenous peoples. From the Golden Mountains of the Altai in Siberia, to the “Heart of the World” of the Kogi in the Sierra Nevada, there is a web of sacred sites that traditionally hold the balance between the inner and outer worlds. Many shamans and others believe that in caring for these sites we can restore our reverential relationship to the sacred and spiritual realms, and thus help the forces of nature rebalance the world.

Soon after visiting Chartres I met my teacher. Sitting at her feet in a small room in North London I came to know of another dimension of spiritual power, the presence of spiritual masters who work in the inner worlds of light. The work of these masters is not only to help the spiritual development of their disciples, but also in service to the whole of humanity and its evolution. In the Middle East and India the existence of such spiritual masters has long been recognized. However, when in the last century different spiritual traditions came from the East, for some reason this element rarely made the transition. As a result in the West there is little understanding of the existence of these masters or their work in the world—it does not belong to our collective spiritual consciousness. Our focus on the individual, and understanding spirituality as being primarily about personal transformation, has blinkered us to this vaster dimension of spiritual work.

In Sufism there is a tradition of the awliyâ, the friends of God. They are a fixed number of evolved human beings who look after the spiritual well-being of the world. “He has made the awliya governors of the universe… Through the blessing of their advent the rain falls from heaven, and through the purity of their lives the plants spring up from the earth,”(2) In Judaism there is a similar tradition of a group of evolved human beings who help keep the spiritual balance in the world. They are known as the Lamed Vav Tzadikim, or “Righteous Ones.” In this tradition every generation has 36 such saints on whose piety the fate of the world depends. These holy people are hidden, nobody knows who they are.

Now, the fate of our world hangs in balance. Our planet is dying, ravaged by our exploitation and greed—soil made toxic, waters polluted—we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction of species, or Anthropocene, the first mass extinction caused primarily by human beings. In just a few decades since I first struggled up the Tor, touched the standing stones, our world has lost part of its wild beauty, become more of a clear-cut wasteland caused by our present materialistic nightmare. Some say we have passed the “tipping point” of irreversible climate change, while others hope for a scientific solution, some “green economy” that can allow us to continue this dream that is destroying the fragile web of life. And the Earth itself is crying, her body and soul calling out to all who might listen, what the Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls “the bells of mindfulness.”

And those of us who hear Her cry are responding, searching for “a new story,” one that is not based upon economic progress but real sustainability for all of creation, a story that supports the Earth and Her many communities.(3) This is a story that will restore reverence to the Earth and reconnect our souls to the sacred within creation, a story that will save our planet. Some have even already begun to articulate such a story: a beautiful and compelling vision of the entire universe as a single, inextricably interconnected, living whole, returning to us a sense of wonder that nourishes our body and soul.

But for this story to come alive, to step off the pages of our imagination into living reality, we need spiritual power—both the ancient power and magic of the Earth, and the esoteric wisdom of the masters. We need the knowledge of the wisdom keepers of the ancient traditions, of the Indigenous people’s who walked this land and spoke with its spirits for centuries. They hold the knowledge of the “original instructions” that were given to humanity from the beginning. They can help us to remember the old ways, when everything was sacred, when the standing stones were alive, when the power of sacred space was understood, when heaven and Earth, the Sun and the stars, were bonded together and the names of creation were known.

And we need the power and understanding of the spiritual masters who know the alchemy of light and love, and how to work with the higher energies within the individual and the cosmos—how the individual is a microcosm of the whole—in Sufi symbolism, the lesser adam in relation to the greater Adam,(4) and how spiritual power works not just for the journey of the individual, but for the whole of humanity and the Earth. Because working with love and light is most closely aligned with my own Sufi path, it is this knowledge that this book mainly seeks to uncover. This tradition holds many secrets, some of which are needed at this time of transition.

When I first wrote this book, over a decade and a half ago, it was guided by a vision of this new story, this awakening Earth, arising through the debris of our dying civilization like green shoots coming through a barren and bleak wasteland. And there are such hints of a global awakening or Great Turning—in individuals and groups envisioning the Earth and humanity as a living unity—where we have moved beyond the image of separation into the consciousness of oneness as our collective awareness. And yet we are also witnessing an accelerating destruction of the ecosystem, an ecocide that is devastating the inner and outer worlds. And in our present civilization there is increasing divisiveness, with an ever smaller percentage holding greater wealth and visible power. As this old story holds a tighter and tighter grip on the world and its resources, as its seductive vision of materialism drags even more people into its soulless nightmare, the question remains whether this story driven by greed and desire needs to completely self-destruct before something new can be fully born? Will the whole fragile structure of our world fall apart as we descend into a dark age, or can the world turn before it is too late?

I believe in the ancient powers of the Earth and the work of the masters, but also see the wreckage we are causing, and how it may last for centuries. This book does not make any promises, but rather opens a doorway to a different way of being, to an understanding of spiritual power that can take us to the future that is waiting, whenever we decide to walk through this doorway. It is not a “how to” book, providing instructions how to work with spiritual power. Rather it hopes to expand our awareness to include a dimension of spiritual work that is rarely part of our collective spiritual conversation. In particular it looks at the relationships we need to make, relationships with the inner world of the soul and life itself.(5) The new story of humanity will be formed from patterns of relationship—with each other, with the inner worlds, and with the Earth.

In recent years there have been important steps towards reconnecting with the original wisdom of Indigenous traditions, which are vital if we are to understand how to care for the Earth as a living interconnected whole. Spiritual work that belongs to the inner dimensions of light and love is less well known—traditionally it has been more hidden. But this aspect of spiritual power has an important part to play in our collective evolution. We need this energy, this magic and light, to help humanity to awaken from its nightmare. As I describe in these chapters, much work of preparation has been done, but the world today also hangs by a thin thread.

—Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, October 2018 Purchace Book Here

Footnotes
1. When the pilgrim had traversed the winding path of the Chartres maze, often on their knees, they would reach the center and turning, see the light coming through the mandala of the western rose window, symbolic of an awakened heart. This study of the maze produced the book: Chartres Maze: A Model of the Universe? by Keith Critchlow, Jane Carroll, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
2. Hujwiri, Kashf Al-Mahjub, p. 213.
3. For further resources on this subject, see Vaughan-Lee, Changing the Story: www.workingwithoneness.org/articles/changing-the-story/ and www.workingwithoneness.org/uncategorized/changing-the-story-the- need-for-magic-2/
4. Man as microcosm is also imaged in Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic image of Vitruvian Man, with the square and the circle symbolizing Earth and heaven.
5. The phrase “inner world” refers to subtle states of consciousness that transcend the known physical universe. This concept may be found in religious, metaphysical, and esoteric teachings, which propound the idea of a whole series of subtle planes or worlds or dimensions which, from a center, interpenetrate themselves and the physical planet in which we live, the solar systems, and all the physical structures of the universe. This interpenetration of planes creates a multi- dimensional universe with many different levels of consciousness. © 2019 The Golden Sufi Center.

Tags: ,
Posted in Articles, Books, Changing Times No Comments »

THE GREAT TURNING: Holding Actions, Life Sustaining Systems & Practices, Shift in Consciousness. by Joanna Macy

The Great Turning (adapted from Ch.1)
In the Agricultural Revolution of ten thousand years ago, the domestication of plants and animals led to a radical shift in the way people lived. In the Industrial Revolution that began just a few hundred years ago, a similar dramatic transition took place. These weren’t just changes in the small details of people’s lives. The whole basis of society was transformed, including people’s relationship with one another and with Earth.

Right now a shift of comparable scope and magnitude is occurring. It’s been called the Ecological Revolution, the Sustainability Revolution, even the Necessary Revolution. We call it the Great Turning and see it as the essential adventure of our time. It involves the transition from a doomed economy of industrial growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the recovery of our world. This transition is already well under way.

In the early stages of major transitions, the initial activity might seem to exist only at the fringes. Yet when their time comes, ideas and behaviors become contagious: the more people pass on inspiring perspectives, the more these perspectives catch on. At a certain point, the balance tips and we reach critical mass. Viewpoints and practices that were once on the margins become the new mainstream.

In the story of the Great Turning, what’s catching on is commitment to act for the sake of life on Earth as well as the vision, courage, and solidarity to do so. Social and technical innovations converge, mobilizing people’s energy, attention, creativity, and determination, in what Paul Hawken describes as “the largest social movement in history.” In his book Blessed Unrest, he writes: “I soon realized that my initial estimate of 100,000 organizations was off by at least a factor of ten, and I now believe there are over one – and maybe even two — million organizations working towards ecological sustainability and social justice.”

As an aid to appreciating the ways you may already be part of this story, we identify three dimensions of the Great Turning. They are mutually reinforcing and equally necessary. For convenience, we’ve labeled them as first, second, and third dimensions, but that is not to suggest any order of sequence or importance. We can start at any point, and beginning at one naturally leads into either of the others. It is for each of us to follow our own sense of rightness about where we feel called to act.

The First Dimension: Holding Actions

Holding Actions aim to hold back and slow down the damage being caused by the political economy of Business as Usual. They include steps we take to raise awareness of the damage being done, as well as campaigns, petitions, boycotts, rallies, legal proceedings, direct actions and other forms of protest against practices that threaten our world. Their goal is to protect what is left of our natural life-support systems, rescuing what we can of our biodiversity, clean air and water, forests, and topsoil. Holding actions also counter the unraveling of our social fabric, caring for those who have been damaged and safeguarding communities against exploitation, war, starvation, and injustice. Holding actions defend our shared existence and the integrity of life on this, our planet home.

Holding actions are essential; they save lives, they save species and ecosystems, they save some of the gene pool for future generations. But by themselves, they are not enough for the Great Turning to occur. For every acre of forest protected, many others are lost to logging or clearance. For every species brought back from the brink, many others are lost to extinction. Vital as protest is, relying on it as a sole avenue of change can leave us battle-weary or disillusioned. Along with stopping the damage, we need to replace or transform the systems that cause the harm. This is the work of the second dimension.

The Second Dimension: Life-Sustaining Systems and Practices

If you look for it, you can find evidence that our civilization is being reinvented all around us. Previously accepted approaches to healthcare, business, education, agriculture, transport, communication, psychology, economics, and so many other areas are being questioned and transformed. This is the second strand of the Great Turning, and it involves a rethinking of the way we do things, as well as a creative redesign of the structures and systems that make up our society.

When we support and participate in these emerging strands of a life-sustaining culture, we become part of the Great Turning. Through our choices about how to travel, where to shop, what to buy and how to save, we shape the development of this new economy. Social enterprises, micro-energy projects, community teach-ins, sustainable agriculture, and ethical financial systems all contribute to the rich patchwork quilt of a life-sustaining society. But by themselves they are not enough. These new structures won’t take root and survive without deeply ingrained values to sustain them. Cultivating and sustaining these values is the work of the third dimension of the Great Turning.

The Third Dimension: Shift in Consciousness

What inspires people to embark on projects or support campaigns that are not of immediate personal benefit? At the core of our consciousness is a wellspring of caring and compassion; this aspect of ourselves – which we might think of as our connected self – can be nurtured and developed. We can deepen our sense of belonging in the world. Like trees extending their root systems, we can grow in connection, thus allowing ourselves to draw from a deeper pool of strength, accessing the courage and intelligence we so greatly need right now. This dimension of the Great Turning arises from shifts taking place in our hearts, our minds, and our views of reality. It involves insights and practices that resonate with venerable spiritual traditions, while in alignment with revolutionary new understandings from science.

We take part in this third dimension of the Great Turning when we pay attention to the inner frontier of change, to the personal and spiritual development that enhances our capacity and desire to act for our world. By strengthening our compassion, we give fuel to our courage and determination. By refreshing our sense of belonging in the world, we widen the web of relationships that nourishes us and protects us from burnout. In the past, changing the self and changing the world were often regarded as separate endeavors and viewed in either-or terms. But in the story of the Great Turning, they are recognized as mutually reinforcing and essential to one another.

Tags: ,
Posted in Articles, Changing Times No Comments »

DARKENING: A FOUR – POINT PLAN. Witnessing, Grieving, Prayer, Action. by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Darkening: A Four-Point Plan by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, February 2014
One of the first responses I received to my recently published book, Darkening of the Light: Witnessing the End of an Era, was that it was “a tough read,” and “I wish he would have been clearer as to what steps we can do in our complex lives to try the best we can to return the soul of the world to its former strength and beauty.” Normally I am reluctant to tell people what to do, as we each have our own inner wisdom, our own guidance and way to reconnect with the soul of the world. But this request struck a chord and in a moment of inspiration I came up with a “Four-Point Plan” to respond to this darkening.
The subtitle of the book, Witnessing the End of an Era, is really the first of the four points: Witnessing—an awareness of what is happening in the inner and outer worlds. It means a state of awareness that sees without judgment, without expectation, without wanting anything, and in particular without wanting anything to change.
This is a very, very important esoteric spiritual practice—to witness, to watch. In Sufism the witness is called shahid. Part of our spiritual practice is just to watch—to witness. Initially you watch your self, you become aware of your self just through witnessing. You watch your reactions; you watch the patterns you live by. You don’t try to change them, because only too often when you try to change patterns you use the same attitude of consciousness that created them—then you just create a variation rather than any real change. It is actually a very important step “on the spiritual path not to want anything, not to try to change, but just to be aware. This gradually creates a quality of consciousness, or awareness, separate from the ego and its patterns, desires and fears—and is the beginning of bringing the consciousness of the Self into your life.
The work of witnessing that we practice on an individual level can also happen on a global level. Sufis have been called “a brotherhood of migrants who keep watch on the world and for the world.” We watch what is happening in the inner and outer worlds. The outer world is of course more visible, more directly perceived. But as mystics and spiritual practitioners we also have access to the inner worlds, the world of our individual soul and the world soul, the anima mundi. For example, through meditation you can begin to be aware of how the light within you changes, when you have access to more light, greater inner clarity. You may also become aware of how certain outer actions or inner attitudes effect your inner light, or how your generosity or loving kindness changes, grows or lessens depending on your behavior—what Sufis call your adab. Just as you can be aware of these changes within your self, so you can become aware of changes within the Greater Self—your soul and the world soul.
We watch our self and we watch the world. Nothing is separate, everything is interconnected. And in today’s world it is much easier to keep an awareness of what is happening in the world. For many years I have begun each day with a practice of inner and outer awareness. I like to get up early, and I begin with a cup of tea, followed by meditation, followed by prayer.  In my morning meditation I create a receptive space and inwardly ask if there is anything I need to see or be aware of during the day—I am inwardly attentive. Then, after praying for others, I listen to the news on the radio or read the news on the Internet to see what is happening in the world. So I begin my day attuned to the world. This was something my teacher Irina Tweedie taught us—she was often awake in the night and would listen to the BBC World Service on the radio, and she said it was like seeing a game of chess, an invisible hand moving pieces around the board of the world. In this way we can see things happening in the world not from any judgmental point of view but just from an awareness—a witnessing.
Then, as the first light comes, I go for a walk. I am fortunate to live in nature, and my walk beside the wetlands with the changing tides is a way to consciously connect to the natural world—to begin the day aware of its beauty, its rhythms and quality of presence. Through these simple practices I start the day with an attitude of witnessing, a communion with the world which is also an inner prayer. I am aware of the interconnected world of which I am a part, and I bring my consciousness into this inner and outer web of life.
We are part of this living world. Thich Nhat Hanh says very clearly: “We will survive and thrive together with our Mother Earth or we will not survive at all.” Part of our next step in evolution is an awareness of this living unity, this oneness which is life itself.
We are now a global community, and I think as responsible global citizens we need to be aware of what is happening in the world, whether it is the oil spills in Nigeria or the nuclear disaster that is still unfolding in Japan. Nothing is somewhere else, everything is in our backyard, and we need to hold an awareness of what is happening—like a light shining in the darkness.
Although as a culture we only value action—doing—there is a power in witnessing that can stop something getting worse in a particular way, the light of consciousness can hold back the darkness. While there is an outer awareness of our ecological devastation there is little awareness of what is happening in the inner worlds, which is part of the reason I wrote Darkening of the Light. And during the last five or six years I was made to witness this tragedy unfolding in the inner worlds, what I have called the loss of the light of the sacred. I saw what was being lost and it was so painful for me that I would block it out, sometimes for months at a time. I did not want to see, but something made me witness the inner effect of our outer actions—how the outer ecological crisis is reflected by an inner crisis that is even more tragic because it is unreported, unacknowledged, hardly witnessed. The darkness of our culture of greed and global exploitation, of forgetfulness of the sacred, is covering the light of the inner world, of the world soul.
Witnessing is more important than we realize. There is a mystical tradition that we are the eyes and ears of God in this world. Ibn Arabi says “the mystic is the pupil in the eye of humanity” because the mystic sees with the single eye of truth. In Shakespeare’s King Lear there is a very moving passage towards the end of the play, when the ageing king and his favorite daughter Cordelia are imprisoned, and he talks about how they will hear what happens at the court:
Who loses and who wins, who’s in, who’s out—
And take upon’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies.
Like Lear and Cordelia, we are God’s spies, aware not only of the outer play of events, “who loses and who wins,” but also the inner truth, “the mystery of things.” And part of the inner truth that is overlooked at this time is the effect of our outer actions and attitude on the world soul, the anima mundi. This also needs to be witnessed.
The second of the four-point plan is Grief. Over the last few years, as I have witnessed what is happening to the inner worlds, I have felt deep and at times almost overwhelming sorrow—the sorrow at how the sacred is being neglected and the light being lost. Recently, when I was on a recent panel at Bioneers with Joanna Macy and Dekila Chungyalpa, they each spoke about how environmental work at this time evokes an extreme feeling of grief, as those involved witness what is happening to the natural world, what is being needlessly destroyed and in some instances lost forever. They said that for people in the environmental community the grief is sometimes too much to bear. But Joanna specifically said it’s really important to acknowledge the grief, to feel what is happening.
While witnessing is an objective act, feeling sorrow or grief engages us in a different way. There is the enormous grief over what we are doing to this beautiful planet, and there are places in the world where it is like an open wound. For example, on Midway island in the Pacific, one of the most remote places on earth, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses are lying dead, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Chris Jordan has filmed this, and he writes about his profound grief for the life that is lost. But he also says how he:
came to discover that grief is not sadness. Grief is love. Grief is a felt experience of love for something lost or that we are losing. That is an incredibly powerful doorway. I think we all carry that abiding ocean of love for the miracle of our world.[i]
Grief draws us towards love, opening us to our love for the world. And nothing is more potent or vital at this time than our love for the Earth. Love for the Earth, the most fundamental connection of our heart and soul with our planet, has to be the foundation for ecological work, in both the inner and outer worlds.
To quote Thich Nhat Hanh:
Real change will only happen when we fall in love with our planet. Only love can show us how to live in harmony with nature and with each other and save us from the devastating effects of environmental destruction and climate change.[ii]
I think it requires a certain maturity to be able to feel and hold the tremendous grief at what we are destroying. But it means our hearts are engaged, our love for the Earth is present. This is our Earth, which has given us so much, and this is where our children and our grandchildren will grow up—and what we are doing is almost unspeakable. It is a betrayal of life itself. And we need to feel this, to grieve and to love.
But once you understand that the outer world is just a reflection of the inner world—which is an ancient esoteric teaching—well, sometimes I am glad that no one can see what I have been shown in the inner worlds and what this means. My own journey, my witnessing, has made me see what I find most tragic: the pollution and desecration of the inner worlds. Twenty years ago where there were still inner places of beauty and sacred meaning, now there is just a wasteland; where there were flowers, where there was still a spring, now something has been lost that cannot be replaced in our generation—and I don’t know what it will take to redeem it.
What for me is most tragic is the loss of the light of the world soul in the inner worlds. This light of the soul is what is most precious within our individual self and within the world soul. Without this light we cannot see, cannot find our way—the sacred meaning of life becomes covered over, obscured, almost lost. And seeing the inner worlds polluted, desecrated by our greed and endless desires to such a degree that this substance, this light, has been diminished—in some instances almost extinguished—has evoked an almost unbearable sorrow, the sorrow of my own soul for what is being lost. And this sorrow, this cry from the depths within me, brings to the surface the most primal cry of the soul, a prayer to God: “Remember the Earth, remember the Earth.”
The first stage is Witnessing, the second is Grief, and from this grief comes the third stage, Prayer. Prayer is the soul’s most basic response. It is our cry to God, to our Beloved, in times of distress. And my sense is that this primal cry from the soul is also the Earth’s prayer—the Earth is crying to God through us—our prayer is the voice, the calling of the Earth.
Each in our own way we pray, we cry within our heart. It can be the simple prayer of placing the Earth in our hearts and offering it to God—with our love, our grief, our sorrow at what is happening we lift our hearts to our Beloved. Or it can just be the few words of “Beloved, help!” or “Remember the Earth.” Prayer is born from need, and the Earth is in need of our prayers. Grief has opened our heart, our sorrow has cried out and this cry is our prayer.
I feel very strongly that grace and the power of God are needed to heal and transform our suffering planet. Too much has been destroyed, too much darkness is present for humanity alone to redeem the wasteland we have created, the light we have lost. Only through love and the presence of the Beloved can our world be healed.
I found it poignant that at the end of the interview I had with Oprah, she asked me, “Do you have one thing—main thing you want to say?” And something within me responded and said, “Yes! That the world belongs to God.” We have forgotten that the world belongs to God—in our hubris we think that we are the masters of creation, the lords of the world. But I don’t think that with all our effort we can heal the world—the destruction has been too great. We don’t have the understanding, nor do we have the power. Only through grace can the necessary healing be given.
The forces of darkness are destroying this world, whether you call them multi-national corporations, the oil business, or pure greed and corruption. In the last few years these forces have become more globally dominant and are now rampaging over the face of the world. Personally I am convinced that they are forces of darkness. Not only are they enacting ecocide but they go against everything that is sacred in life. They are destroying our fragile web of life, and also attacking the inner world, the light of the sacred and the world soul.  They are merciless in their exploitation. What we do not understand is that the outer world can regenerate itself much more quickly than the inner world. Nature can push back, “rewilding” can take place. But when the light in the inner world is diminished to such a degree, it is very, very difficult to regenerate. This is particularly true at this time, as we have lost much of the wisdom of how to work with the inner world. How many shamans are left who really understand how to heal the inner, particularly in our present culture that denies the very existence of inner worlds—that does not even know about the world soul?
In the face of this darkness and our own ignorance, our prayers are needed. We cannot fight the growing darkness, its tentacles are too pervasive, its grip on (or within?) our culture too strong. But we can pray—we can cry out to God. And we should never underestimate the power of prayer, the power of this primal connection and communion with the Creator, with the Power that is behind all that exists. In the moment of real despair our cry can be heard and real help and healing be given, the miracle of rebirth can happen.
And from this prayer we can also discover the action that needs to be done. Action is the fourth stage. We live in a world that needs us to act, to respond outwardly just as our prayers are an inner response: in the words of the Shakers, “Hands to work and hearts to God.” The problem with most action at this time is that it comes from the same mind-set that created the problem, the same conditioning and values that are destroying our world. This is why first we need to pray, so that we are aligned with a different set of values, a consciousness that is not conditioned. First prayer, then action.
Through prayer our hearts and minds can become aligned with the real need of the Earth and its wisdom which is deeper and older than our surface solutions.
Hopefully we can be open enough to be guided towards the real work that needs to be done, rather than continuing the distortions of our present culture; a culture which rarely sees sustainability referring to the whole of creation, but rather as sustaining our present materialistic, energy-intensive lifestyle. Through prayer we can respond from a place of real wholeness, and a deeper knowing of the patterns of interconnection that run through all of life. Then our hands can work together with the energy of life, an energy that can restore and heal, that is responsive to life’s needs rather than just our desires.
Personally I do not feel now is the time for big projects. I don’t think there is yet the power, the energy or knowledge to support them. I think they will too easily get caught in the ideologies of the past, the mechanisms and framework of how our present civilization is constructed. I like the work of the English “recovering environmentalist” Paul Kingsnorth who says we have to accept that it’s over, this civilization is over. There is no point in trying to patch it up. It won’t work, and too often then you just feed energy in to the same ideology—you think you are doing something when you are just spinning wheels going nowhere. Yet action is required, and we should begin with what is small but essential, as when Mother Theresa says “small things with great love.”
To counter the darkening caused by the global corporations we need to return to what is most essential, the simple acts of care and loving kindness towards the ecosystem and each other. This is where healing will be born, in the small communities that are already growing around the planet—a return to simple human values that are not based upon greed. To act in our communities with care and concern—caring for a sick friend, cooking a meal with real love and attention—living with right action, mindfulness and common sense, and not being caught in the monster of consumerism that devours so much of our energy and light.
How can we live simply and mindfully, with reverence for all of life? How can we once again learn to listen to life, the Earth, to our hearts, so we act in harmony with the real forces that underlie creation? How can we return to the values that sustain our souls as well as our bodies? What do we really need, rather than what we want? And how can we contribute, how can we help others and the Earth? How can we live the generosity that the Earth continues to teach us?
From this awareness, and the actions to which it gives birth, life can regenerate, organically, holistically. Life evolves and is a living organism that can recreate itself. But this will not be an easy transition, because our world is so out of balance. Our civilization has been running on empty for too long, our way of life too unsustainable. If we continue  our future is too bleak, the inner emptiness too desolate. In pursuit of a few material pleasures we will have lost what is most precious and most meaningful in our existence.  We will have to confront our fears and our weaknesses, find courage that we did not know we had. Nor do we know how long this transition may take. We may be just creating the seeds for a future that will blossom in a hundred years or more. But with grace, commitment and care, with a heart open to grief and to love, life can once again regenerate—together we can create a way of life that is truly sustainable. The light of the sacred will rekindle, and once again the soul of the world will sing the song of creation: the hidden mystery within all of life.

Tags: ,
Posted in Articles, Changing Times No Comments »

LOOKING INTO THE ABYSS: Dispair, reconciliation and the Courage to Love by Justine Huxley

Justine is the director of St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconcilliantion in London and has just published: Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change

In the last few weeks, we’ve all in our own ways been digesting the news that we have less than 12 years before climate chaos hits.  In the last 7 days, we’ve also been hit with reports that animal populations have been reduced by 60%, that the oceans are significantly warmer than scientists realised, and seen Brazil elect a president who has been described as a ‘global danger’.
It seems we have entered a new phase in our journey of self-destruction, and the ecological and social collapse we have suspected to be on the horizon is now coming to meet us.
The culture of astonishing denial that has pervaded the mainstream has made it almost taboo to talk about such things. The reactions of those unable to face reality can close us down or render it pointless to talk honestly.  But in recent weeks, we sense a sea change: the time for reticence is over.
Mainstream media and also the scientific community for years have been ‘softening’ the facts – always presenting them with relentlessly upbeat messages that we still have time.  The idea is deeply embedded that people must be protected from hopelessness and despair for fear of creating panic or even greater paralysis (Deep Adaptation, Jem Bendell, Cumbria University).  But those messages are now sounding increasingly hollow.  We need to act fast, absolutely, but even if we pull out all the stops, the likelihood is we are going to see more migration, poverty, hunger, conflict and war than we have ever known.
Protecting ourselves from hopelessness no longer serves us.  As many enlightened activists have told us (such as Scilla Elworthy, nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize), only if we walk towards the  darkness and not away from it, can we be transformed and be of real service to others or the world.
Many different kinds of responses needed – and I honour those responding with everything from civil disobedience to deepening our relationship with Earth as sacred.  We all need to follow our own hearts prompting.
For me, the theme of reconciliation is naturally to the fore.  I cannot shake off the image of an individual facing a life-threatening illness.  Confronted with a potentially terminal diagnosis, making rapid outer changes in lifestyle is immediate, driven by the determination to live.  But surrendering to the real possibility of death is behind the deeper change – change which could be viewed through the lens of reconciliation.  Reconciliation with our own mortality and with how our individual life has been lived often leads to reconciliation with our family, to making peace with our enemies, and to decisions – made with a sharply awakened consciousness – about which values to live by if time might be limited.
I’ve seen awe-inspiring change made by people in these situations.  I’ve seen people drop grudges and let go of fixed patterns overnight, in a way that seemed almost unbelievable to those around them.  I’ve seen people give up long-held defences and open to the beauty and spontaneity of life. It’s as if a secret reveals itself about what it means to be human.  The seriousness also catapults us beyond the limits of the physical body and into the journey of the soul. Something much bigger than our own individual life makes its presence felt – whether we call that God, or experience it through the power of human love and our existence in a web of  relationship with others.
All this happens when we are brave enough to go beyond denial, to embrace despair and be changed by it.  And miracles are possible in this space – miracles that include but are not limited to physical recovery.
Sitting with this theme of reconciliation, I feel a call to reach inward – to ask my own heart how I can love more fearlessly – not just those close to me, but our whole human family and those around the world whose lives are already being torn apart.  How can I allow my heart to be broken by it all – by the beauty of what we are destroying, by the melody of a solitary blackbird, or by those pregnant moments before first light, as a dark winter night awakens into day. How can I live the knowledge that mystery is present even in the midst of what is falling apart?
I also feel a call to reach outwards –  to colleagues, activists and spiritual companions – to make space for retreat and discernment.  Not to give up on outer action, but to explore in parallel this inner work of reconciliation and see if we can source the resilience that comes only from being in touch with the depths.  How can we prepare honestly for what is coming? How can we act with integrity, and keep acting from that place, even on the days when it all seems futile?  How can we meet this with the full depth of our spirituality – with both the ferocious passion and the ruthless inner detachment that real service demands?
To those willing to look into the abyss – may our love and connection with each other and with Earth make this a time of meaning –  and sustain us in the times to come.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Articles, Books, Changing Times No Comments »

TWELVE CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN APOCALYPSE

‘Twelve Characters in Search of an Apocalypse’ first appeared in Dark Mountain Issue 11 (Spring 2017), and is an excerpt from the author’s current project: I Want a Better Catastrophe.
© 2017 Andrew Boyd | bettercatastrophe.com

I did the math
I did the math. But I wish I hadn’t. It was right after Hurricane Sandy. Over a week-long binge I read everything I could find. I work downtown, you see. And they’d lost power, but uptown I still had it. So I had this string of days. It was a time out of Time: the storm had stopped the world, but I was still moving. The city was wrecked. Well, a few parts of it – The Rockaways, Red Hook, Staten Island. The rest of us were a bit stunned, but fine. The Exchange was down; the Jersey guys who normally run the gym couldn’t make it into the city. My normal routine was a mess. I went for a run in the Park, and camped out at Starbucks with my laptop and just started reading everything I could find – about Sandy, extreme weather, climate change; the deniers, the doomsayers and everyone in between. One link led to another, which led to another. I couldn’t stop; I was in a kind of trance, doing the math as I went.
2°C: the baseline maximum increase in aggregate global temperature that the planet can handle without tipping into total catastrophe. Everyone – the UN, the US, China – everyone but the most fringe deniers – agreed on that. 565 gigatons: the maximum additional CO2 we can safely emit and still stay under the 2°C limit. 2,795 gigatons: the total amount of carbon in the reserves – and on the books – of the world’s fossil fuel companies. Five times the safe amount. Ergo 80% can’t be burned. Choice: extinction or a $28 trillion write-down.
I’m no scientist, but I am a numbers guy. A stock analyst. I’ve got a head for numbers, and numbers for me are realities you base decisions on. But those numbers hurt my head. They hurt my everything. ‘I want the truth!’ shouts Kaffee. ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ Jessup spits back. All that week, chest clenched, I played host to that spittle-flying scene from A Few Good Men, each one shouting each other down, till it felt like no-one was left standing.
The following Tuesday the power came back on, and I was at my desk early the next morning. The subway station downtown was pretty trashed – and would be for months to come – but the office was quickly back to normal. Normal? Nothing felt normal anymore. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not picking up a protest sign, and I’m not signing any of those dumb petitions. Far from it. But that McKibben guy is right: all that carbon simply can’t come out of the ground, and those Oil, Gas and Coal stocks aren’t worth what the market says they are. Sure, in the short-term they might be an OK bet, but in the medium and long-term, they’re just a bad portfolio waiting to happen. The industry, however, hadn’t caught up to this yet.
At the first department meeting after Sandy I circulated a memo where I laid it all out, along with some revised criteria to take the ‘carbon bubble’ into account. A lot of puzzled looks at that meeting. My boss took me aside later that day and basically told me to cut the crap. I never brought it up again at work, but later that month I called my broker and told him to dump every last fossil-fuel stock from my own holdings. Wall Street could play the fool with other people’s money, but I wasn’t going to do it with mine.
It’s been a couple years now since Sandy. The subway is repaired, grand plans for coastal berms are underway. The city is mostly back on track; but I can only pretend to be. I try not to think about it too much, but some days it catches up with me. I’ll be on the treadmill at the gym, my mind chugging along with the iPod and the fake hill I’m going up and down. In a silence between tracks, a truck backfires on the street below, starting a chain of thoughts: truck…exhaust pipe…400+ ppm atmospheric carbon … and in a cascade of associations, this horror comes over me. A horror that’s by now all too familiar. I imagine the slow plink! plink! of Greenland’s glaciers melting (49% recession of Arctic ice since 1979). I can almost smell the diesel fumes of Amazon earthmovers ripping out the lungs of the world (78 million acres of Brazilian rainforest lost every year). And because I’m a numbers guy, I follow in my mind’s eye the asymptotic curve of ocean acidification as it creeps along the graph paper, bending relentlessly upwards.
I know where all this is heading if we do nothing – and almost nothing is what we seem to be doing. What I don’t know is where to go with this dreadful feeling. It feels like I’ve been told a terrible secret. A secret that could poison the happy days of everyone I know. A secret (sshhhhh, 2; 565; 2795) no-one wants to hear, least of all me.

Let’s party like it’s 2099
The apocalypse is coming and we have no-one to blame but ourselves. We’ve screwed up the planet and we’re never gonna turn things around in time, there’s just no way. So fuck it. I don’t have any kids. I’m gonna be dead by the time the worst of it happens. Why not just party? Just have the best time I possibly can. Dancing, drinking, jet-skiing – whatever I want – and to hell with global warming. The apocalypse is coming regardless. If, thanks to me, it comes five seconds sooner, who really cares?
I mean, really, what else am I supposed to do? Knock on doors, go to meetings, try to convince people to scrap their SUVs? Seriously? That’s just sad. Almost a sin. A pathetic way to spend the little time we have left. No way. Not for me. Before the oceans roll in, before they jack up the price of oil, I’m heading out to Thailand, Machu Picchu, New Zealand, Paris, wherever – to see the world. I’m gonna scratch as many things off my bucket list as I can.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not happy about all this. But the way I see it, there’s nothing I can do, and we’re the last generation that gets to let it rip full throttle. When I hit the clubs with my friends, apocalypse is in the air. You can almost smell it, heady and voluptuous. I breathe it in. I feel fierce; I feel free. I’m a warrior of the now. I’m running down the clock, jonesing for more life at the twilight of all things. We’re the last ones, after all. We have to make it count.

I am prepared
It’s all going to hell, but I’m prepared. The rest of you can try to stop the disaster. Go to your protests, your fancy international treaty-meetings, and all that. Not me. There’s no fixing this. It’s all falling apart – and soon. Some of us are going to be ready; some of us aren’t. My family and I are going to survive this, even if we’re the last ones on Earth.
I’ve got the bunker all provisioned: enough canned food for two years. Ten guns. Lots of ammo. A generator and an underground tank of diesel. There’s a couple of us in the same county. We’re all self-reliant units, but we’re in touch. The cities are going to be hell, a total race war. We have to be prepared to protect our own when the exodus comes. I’ve got the entrances booby-trapped and the exits camouflaged. I’m ready for things to get ugly. And, mark my word, they will.

It’s gonna happen – but to somebody else
‘Only the little people pay taxes,’ said notorious billionaire socialite, tax-dodger and lover of little dogs Leona Helmsley. It’s a gross and elitist sentiment, but I realise that’s how I feel about the apocalypse. It’s gonna happen, but it’s going to happen to somebody else, not me.
It’s gonna happen to those poor fuckers in the Pacific whose islands are disappearing. It’s gonna happen to old people in the inner city with broken air conditioners when the next ‘unprecedented’ heat wave comes. (I think they’re gonna have to retire that word soon.) It’s going to happen to all those folks who live on the low-lying coasts – whether in Bangladesh or the Mississippi Delta – who don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s gonna happen to Africans. Why does everything bad happen to Africans? They’re already half starving. Just wait till their farmland dries up and their crops fail and there’s food riots in the cities and millions teem across the Mediterranean in teetering boats. Fortress Europa is going to go right-wing in a flash and turn all those boats back. To where? I don’t know where. All I know is I’m not the one who’s going to be doing all the drowning and starving.
Do I think justice is at work here? Hardly. It’s pretty much the opposite of justice. I’m just telling you how it looks from where I stand. When I imagine the climate apocalypse, when I play out the nightmare scenarios, I’m never in them. When the final storm comes, I’ve always got someplace to fall back to. And the means to get there. And friends to be there with.
In my post-apocalyptic future, somehow I’ve always made it out of the City to a nice farm in Vermont. The rest of the world is a living hell, but I’m OK.

What will the future think of me?
I took Jean and my two boys to Normandy last year. We went to the sprawling graveyards at Colleville-sur-Mer, just above Omaha beach. You’ve seen the photographs, but it’s quite different to actually be there. White crosses stretched in ordered rows literally for a mile. We walked and walked. It was beyond sobering.
It took a while, but we finally found him. James Davies, 1922–1944. My great uncle. Third Infantry. Killed in action around Bayonne three weeks after the invasion, just before the breakout across France. We’d brought blue ribbons, and each of us placed one on the grave. My youngest first. Then Jean and I. Then my eldest.
I stood there on the grass and gazed down at this man my dad had named me after. I envied him his place of honour, and – at least from where I stood – the moral clarity of his short life and death. This James Davies came of age at a heroic time. He’d stepped up, and made the ultimate sacrifice. The country still honours him. His family still remembers him. It doesn’t say ‘Hero’ beside his name, but it might as well.
One day they’ll lay me down. James Davies, 1962–2050-ish. Probably in the city plot, alongside Jean, back in Akron. Will my as-yet-unborn grandkids and grandnephews come visit me? Maybe. Though not with blue ribbons, I suppose. What will the future say about me? He lived a full life, he was a good father, but he was asleep at the switch when we needed him most.
We live in an age of soft comforts and distractions, sprinkled with some vague doom-dust. No-one would call this a heroic time, but maybe it never feels that way when you’re actually living it – it’s always just a slosh of headlines and noise. And yet we are a critical link in the chain of generations. Because before I die, if we don’t get 90% of the global economy off carbon, we’re toast. We don’t need to be another Greatest Generation, we just need to not be the Worst Generation, the generation that blew it for all the generations to come.
Jean and the kids were looking the other way, so I don’t think they saw me – and this is going to sound corny to most of you – but as I was standing there, I gave a tiny salute to this fallen young man who bore my same name, and I swore to him I’d do my part. For starters, when I get back home, I swore to him I’d finally sign that contract and install rooftop solar on the house. And I’d dig out that email from my old fraternity brother – maybe if enough of us make a fuss, we can get Ohio State to divest its fossil fuel holdings. In the scheme of things, none of this felt particularly heroic, but I realised: I don’t need to be a hero. I just need to try to do enough decent things so the future won’t think I’m a dick.

The apocalypse is my gravy train
I’m not going to bullshit you – or myself: climate change is a natural and social disaster of unprecedented proportions and it’s heading our way.
I’m an engineer. I oversee large construction projects. I can be part of the solution here and, frankly, make some money along the way. I’ve got to put food on the table like everyone else, and this isn’t war profiteering we’re talking about. Our firm doesn’t blow stuff up, we build things. And this is going to be the biggest construction boom in history. Bigger than the Marshall Plan. Bigger than the New York skyscrapers, Eisenhower’s Federal Highway System, and the Beijing Olympics all rolled into one.
We’re talking large-scale terraforming here. We’re talking coastal berms, seawalls, you name it, whatever it takes to keep our cities safe. No offense, but it won’t be about the folks in New Orleans’ Third Ward this time. We’re looking at Manhattan, Miami’s Gold Coast and Boston’s Financial District, for starters. Now that’s some property there. I’m guessing the government is going to come up with the cash needed to do the job right this time, and our firm is well positioned to help. We operate on a long-term time horizon, and the sooner we can get started the better.
Some folks still don’t realise this, but you always have to win the battle twice: once over the problem, and again around the solution. All you deniers – and all you enviros trying to prove them wrong – go on and have your silly votes in the Senate. Keep on arguing about the problem. That’s all just a sideshow at this point, because us big boys have already moved on to the solution. That’s where the big money is, and we sure don’t want the kind of solution they’re rolling forward in Germany or Boulder, CO, with municipally-owned renewables and every farmer with their own wind turbine. We’re running out of time. This is a big crisis, and we need big solutions. On the energy production side: clean coal, concentrated solar thermal, massive wind farms, biofuels, and the next-generation nuclear – they’re zero-carbon and we won’t build them on top of an earthquake fault line this time. On the remediation side: carbon-sequestration sinks, heat-shielded residential, you name it, we’re just getting going.
I’m planning for my firm’s – and my family’s – future. I’m honoured to bring my skills and my company’s global expertise to the task. If we succeed, what greater legacy could I possibly ask for than having helped save the planet? If we fail, well, gated communities are going to be in high demand, and we build those too.

Bring it on!
We are living in sin, in a kind of hell, in what the Buddhists and Hindus call Maya. We recognise fewer than ten plants, but over 1,000 corporate logos. We’re so lost in the supermarket, kids keep on killing each other over sneakers. The corporations have sweet-talked the FDA into letting them put so many chemicals in our food and air that we don’t even know what things are supposed to taste or smell like anymore. A carbon disaster will free us. A disembowelling of industrial civilisation is what we need to bring us back to our true selves.
Everyone’s all gaga for green capitalism, but that’s just a kinder, gentler way to destroy the planet. You want a ‘green roof’? Just wait for it to cave in. Let the seed pods land in the cracks in the concrete, they’ll sprout, and take it all back. That’s the only kind of green roof I want. When Nature finds its own rhythms again, we can, too. The only way forward is backwards. The only way forward is collapse.
Right now, I’m living in a squat and dumpster-diving my food. Any SUV that parks in the neighbourhood, we let the air out of its tyres. Small-fry stuff for sure, but we’re just biding our time. After the collapse, we’ll make campfires in abandoned office buildings, smashing up the cubicles for kindling. We’ll hunt deer with bow and arrow through the hollow, echoing ruins of downtown. After the collapse, the rest of you had better know how to do these things too.
Most people find this pretty far-fetched, but you’ll all see. Every civilisation before us has collapsed, and we’re far more precarious and out of kilter than they were. We’re literally consuming ourselves into oblivion; it’s only a matter of time before the system implodes from its own exhaustion, fury and hollowness. My job? To help push things along.
There was a meeting last night in the basement. We all took the batteries out of our phones so they couldn’t hear us. All kinds of things were floated: breaking animals out of the zoos, hacking the genetic trials at the university, even blowing up the dam up north. We’ll see.
No matter what, it ain’t gonna be pretty. Millions, maybe billions, will die. I can’t say I’m not anxious about it, I just know the sooner it happens, the better – for us and the planet. So: Bring. It. On.

Better to be hopeful
For me, it’s not about the future. It’s not about what’s going to happen or not happen. The science is dire, that’s obvious. And I know humans have a long bloody track record of being our own worst enemy. I also know we sometimes pull it out in the clutch. But I’m not banking on one outcome or another. I’m not hoisting my flag over any particular narrative of history or view of human nature. I just know how I want to be in the world. And I want to have hope. I choose hope. It makes me feel better. I get fewer colds and stomach aches. I’m happier and more focused; I feel right with the world. I’m going somewhere. We’re all going somewhere, and we’re going there together.
Oh God, some of you are thinking, please don’t pair me up with this Pollyanna-ish bore at group therapy. Don’t wet yourself. I’ve got the full Cards Against Humanity box set. I’ve got my share of black moods and I do irony just fine, thank you. I won’t reassure you that everything is going to be OK. It most certainly won’t be. I’m not over-bubbling with enthusiasm and cheerfulness, I’m just quietly, soberly hopeful.
The world is fucked up. Anyone can see that. War, religious hatred, rape, thousands of square miles of swirling plastic in the ocean. The list is long. But life is beautiful. And that list is longer: the Chrysler building at twilight. Bill Murray. A mother cradling her newborn. The intoxicating smell of my girlfriend’s armpits. Snow. The world is fucked up. So, so fucked up. But life is beautiful. And that is enough.

Defend this ground
I grew up here: Iron Mountain, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. Twenty street lights, three churches. I sang in the choir at Her Lady of Redemption until I was 14. Back then the town was 10,000-strong, mostly Germans and Swedes, along with some Italians, my folks included. Now, we’re down to barely 7,500. The mining and timber companies ravaged the place, like they did the whole region. Took everything, left a few broken backs, and scars all over the land. My cousins worked in the mines. My step-dad was a cop. When he died I left the state. Came back decades later to take care of my mom. She’d gone blind those last years, and had no-one else. By the end, the place had become home again, and I’ve stayed on.
I have my dog, my garden, and pipes to patch after the winter. I’ve got things to take care of. I still battle the same old demons – the depression comes and goes – but I’ve developed some new disciplines: canning, pressing flowers, painting. I’m seventy now, I’m slow. I’ve got arthritis. My left leg is effectively lame. But I work on the things I can.
What keeps me going is this patch of ground, this sacred bit of Earth. Lake Superior, that God, is the heart and lungs of the continent. The Devil is the mining companies and the real estate developers. I don’t have a lot of strength left, but I’m still putting up a fight where I can. I choose my battles carefully. I look for smart places to intervene, no matter how small. I find things I can do to keep these lungs breathing.
There’s a development they’ve been trying to put in ten miles west of here. Summer home resort for down-staters: golf course, the works. We know what that means: dozers, clear cutting, chemical run-off, you name it. Our little group – two students, a retired lawyer, me – has had ’em gummed up in court for two years now. And that pipeline coming down from Canada – we pulled up the surveyor stakes from a three-mile stretch last spring. They know it was us, but can’t prove it. They stormed into the county commissioner’s office but he just shrugged. That was fun to watch.
I know what we’re doing is just a sideshow of a sideshow of a sideshow – small rearguard actions in a centuries-long war. But you fight where you stand. You do what you can. You defend your little patch of ground. I’m not going anywhere.

Despair is our only hope
I used to believe.
 As a kid I trusted everything was more or less OK, that progress
happened, that the people in charge were trying to make things better, and the good guys would eventually win. Hawaii 5-0 was my show.
As a young man I realised that the people in charge were not trying to make things better for everyone, just for themselves. And so – because I’m a hopeful kind of guy – I came to believe that the people not in charge could get together and change all that. I loved the movie Hair. I used to believe the revolution was just around the corner, that before I turned thirty, we’d be celebrating in the streets.
Well, that didn’t happen.
Into my forties, I still had faith in humanity. Not blind faith, not even a faith in our essential goodness. But I believed that we would somehow stumble through, that the small acts of kindness among people would somehow make up for the evil and folly of the gangland of States and capital. I could still see a future, maybe not a better one, but no worse, either.
I’m now in my fifties, and I’ve lost even that meagre faith. Now I binge-watch Game of Thrones and House of Cards. I have no illusions about how power operates. People talk about ‘intersectionality’, but it isn’t so much movements that are intersecting, as catastrophes. I see no way forward. I am filled with a dark, desolate despair.
And then a strange thing happens: I feel fierce. I feel clear. I feel free. I don’t give a fuck anymore. I’ve got nothing left to lose. I’m willing to take risks that I wasn’t before. I say true things, things you’re not supposed to say. And people notice. Hell, I notice. It turns out despair is its own kind of power, its own kind of freedom. And then I think: if enough of us fall into a dark enough despair, who knows what we can do together. This is the only hope I have left.

This means war
At first everything happened so piecemeal – a tragedy here, a little catastrophe there – I didn’t know I was under attack. It felt like the rumble of far-off gun fire in somebody else’s war. It took a while for it all to come into focus.
If it had been an army of Orcs led by the Eye of Sauron, or gangly robots from Mars, or jackbooted Nazis and their henchmen marching into town, then I would have known. I would have seen it plainly. I would have taken up arms, joined the Resistance. But our 21st Century Lords of Carbon, in their suits and pipelines and feel-good logos, blend in better. Their ultimate designs, however, are just as evil. They plunder the land, poison the water, slaughter our animal brothers and sisters. With five species lost to eternity every day, and the slow-drip of carbon dismembering the planet, they’re driving us all to extinction. What else is this if not war?
My enemies, it turns out, have names: Exxon. Peabody Coal. BP. Shell. David Koch. And addresses: with a few clicks on Google I can find their homes and headquarters. They are driven by a logic of endless growth regardless of the limits of nature. They can do nothing else. As such, my foe is implacable. I accept this without illusions. They will not – can not – listen to reason; only power.
We must raise an army to save the world.
And so, I cross over. I become an instrument of resistance, a vessel of necessity. I find my unit and train in the strange arts of civil war: encryption, encyclicals, sabotage, message discipline, persuasion, science, disobedience, justice, courage, love, mass action. Maybe I will not survive; maybe none of us will survive. So be it. I prepare myself for battle.

Hopelessness can save the world
We have broken Nature. We have broken the world. Even the moral logic of struggle has been broken. Gandhi said, ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.’ But in the shadow of climate catastrophe, we’d have to update that to: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then a 6°C increase in the Earth’s temperature wipes out all complex life forms.’ Martin Luther King said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’ But from where we stand now, it’s more accurate to say, ‘The arc of the moral universe might be long, and it might bend towards justice, but we’re never gonna find out because: total ecosystem collapse.’
I used to run on hope. I used to sign those petitions, show up at those demos, knock on my neighbours’ doors – because I believed we could change things. But I don’t know anymore. As a good friend of mine recently said, ‘So what if we’re making progress on police brutality. Given the climate math, the police might as well shoot us all now.’ It breaks my heart, but it seems our situation is hopeless, and our cause – all our causes – are impossible.
Then again, hasn’t this always been the case? Look across the full sweep of human history, with its wars and rebellions, its dark and shining moments: every revolution is replaced with the slime of a new bureaucracy. Every time you manage to overthrow slavery it seems there’s a new Jim Crow waiting for you. I used to think it was two steps forward one step back, now I’m not so sure. Things don’t seem to change much for the better, and with the tick tock of carbon slowly poisoning the world, you just stop pretending that they will. Now, instead of fearing this loss of faith, I welcome it as a revelation: our situation is hopeless. Our cause is impossible.
Which leaves us with a stark choice: do we dedicate ourselves to an impossible cause? Or do we pull back and look after our own? The choice – once you’ve sat quietly with this question – is clear. You must dedicate yourself to an impossible cause. Because, as Archbishop Oscar Romero said when asked why he was attending to the sick at a hospital for incurables: ‘We are all incurable.’ Because solidarity is a form of tenderness. Because the simple act of caring for the world is itself a victory. We must take a stand – not because it will lead to anything, but because it is the right thing to do. We never know what can or can’t be done; only what must be done. I dedicate myself to an impossible cause.

Tags: ,
Posted in Articles, Changing Times No Comments »

Mind And Morality: Where Do They Meet? An Essay by Larry Merculieff

I have had a traditional Aleut (Unungan) upbringing in the Bering Sea which guides me in writing
this essay
My people were in the Bering Sea for over 10,000 years, and we are still there.
From an indigenous person’s perspective, I find the question to be critical in terms of the
violence around the world today in all its forms and the continuing decline of life support
systems of Mother Earth. The questions we ask about our plight as human beings are central
to where we go from here. Alaska Native Elders say that we must look at the root causes of
our challenges and not at the symptoms. The root cause of our plight is disconnection from
our hearts—which inform our minds, and our minds then direct what we do.

In today’s society, we are focused on how the brain works and what it produces.
The qualities of mind, according to The Free Dictionary, deal with “thought, perception,
memory and decision.” Merriam-Webster defines mind as “the organized conscious and
unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism.” If this is the case, where is the heart?
The “heart” I am talking about is the inexplicable aspect of us that is in connection with
the divine and guides us impeccably. “Heart” is the source of correct thinking and being.
Einstein is quoted saying,
“we cannot solve the problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.”
I would argue that the consciousness of the mind, as we define it,
is the consciousness that created all the problems faced by humans today.

When veterans returned from Vietnam, thousands came back with a peculiar disorder that the
doctors had to deal with. It was invisible until they put a name to it:
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The vets took to addictions and other behaviors: drinking alcohol, taking drugs,
watching TV for seventeen hours a day, and even isolating themselves in the wilderness or in other ways.
Most of these veterans had depression. They used these coping behaviors to try to escape from their
reality of remembering the horrors of war. To escape required detaching from the present moment
because it was too painful. One definition of an addiction is a strategy to escape the present moment.
These veterans used this strategy to detach, as much as possible, from the heart.
Native Elders say that this is like creating a big stomach that is always hungry and is never filled;
the result is addictions.
The Elders also say that when we swallow feelings we create a stagnant pool inside ourselves
and these stagnant pools create depression. The addictive behaviors were passed along from generation
to generation for coping with anything that hurt one’s spirit, and these behaviors remain with us today.
The addictions, one can argue, are society-wide wherever we take without thought to the consequences
and do harm to others and to Mother Earth.

Prior to the “beginning of time,” all people had an internal guide for how to behave and how to think.
Time began when we focused on guilt, shame, remorse, anger, rage, jealousy, and like feelings; or fear,
which is a projection into the future of something that has not happened yet.
Time began when we focused anywhere except the present moment where the “heart” can be found.
Instead, we simply replaced the present with feelings of the past or future, and so we live there today.
Someone once said, “God can be found in the silence between one’s thoughts” and,
according the Depak Chopra, “the point of power is in the present moment.”
Native Americans say that one who lives in the present moment
is the “real human being”: one who is whole, who knows their place in the world.
In the names they gave themselves as a people and cultures, Alaska Native peoples call themselves
the “human being” or the “real human being.” They understand that human laws and the study of morality
are creations of those who live outside of the present, necessitating that these things be memorialized
and made into laws and fields of study because they have forgotten how to be integrated into life as
real human beings. In the time before time began, we never had prisons. Why? We never had to deal with
human-caused things like warfare, felony, and climate change—the destruction of the life support systems
of the planet.
Why? We never invented the term “sustainability” as a concept to guide how we interact with the earth.
Why? Simply put, the Indigenous Elders say these society-wide struggles stem from a memory lapse:
we have forgotten how to be “real human beings” guided by divinely-inspired laws for living.

We need to listen to these Elders who know. They say that “nothing is created outside [of us]
until it is created inside first.” We are in conflict outside because we are in conflict inside.
We judge others because we judge ourselves first. We criticize and find fault in others because
we are finding fault inside of ourselves first. And we trash the environment outside because
we trash the environment inside. As long as this kind of consciousness exists,
we will never create anything truly new, inside or out.

So, where do the mind and morality meet? The answer is the heart, which directs our individual thoughts,
feelings, and actions if we have the “ears” to listen to what it is saying in any given circumstance.
It is the only aspect of us that guides without doubt or hesitation, and it guides us perfectly.
How do we get back to being heart-guided people? The Elders say that the model for our cultures
should be a two-year-old child. The two-year-old cries when she feels like crying; she laughs in the moment.
When she is angry, she deals with it in the moment, and then she is fine.
Two-year-olds are masters of moving energy.
We need to remember how to move energy to be real human beings’.

Quoted  from Humans And Nature http://www.humansandnature.org/

Tags: , ,
Posted in Articles, Indigenous Wisdom No Comments »

We Are Made For These Times by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered.
They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now.
Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the
degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while
endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded,
the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your
spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly
because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning,
practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened
souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across
the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the
history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you.
Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the
long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber
is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended
in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by
dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there.
That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet
great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear.
Didn’t you say you were a believer?
Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater?
Didn’t you ask for grace?
Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend
the part of world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to
another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely.
It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip
toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more,
continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace,
but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second,or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to
stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul
throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire.
To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy
toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

I hope you will write this on your wall:
When a great ship is in harbor and moored,
it is safe, there can be no doubt.
But that is not what great ships are built for.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian Psychoanalyst.
Author of ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves.’

Posted in Articles No Comments »

Making Friends With The River by Bruce Garrard

The Black Line Initiative has arisen as a result of the film ‘Aluna‘ and interest raised in the Kogi people of northern Colombia.
The (much delayed) general release of the film towards the end of last year coincided with two significant things. One was a series of dramatic events – including a massive and lethal thunderstorm – in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where the Kogi live; this has convinced them that they need to be proactive in working with ‘little brother’, the people of the modern world, in making efforts to turn back the tide of ecological destruction that is now threatening life on our planet. The other was that the film’s producer, Alan Ereira, found himself inundated with messages from people all over the world saying ‘great film, but what can we actually do?’

The result is the Black Line Initiative, which is just beginning to take shape. In Kogi terminology the ‘Black Line’ is the connection between everything, both physical and spiritual, and in this particular context the link between people all over the world who are committed – within the context of their own local environment – to being part of making the necessary global change. The Kogi are preparing to give direct support to people working in their own localities around the world. This initiative, inspired by the thinking and actions of the Kogi themselves as indigenous people, is different from what we would think of as a ‘political movement.’ The Kogis’ exhortation to ‘make friends with your local river, forest, mountain, desert …’ directly addresses the key problem of modern peoples’ disconnection from the natural world – physical, emotional and psychological. The Kogi are particularly concerned that we should look after our rivers. All this has arrived just as my own project with the River Brue is picking up momentum. I have compiled a history of the river over the winter, and I am planning a five-day walk from the source of the River Brue to the mouth of the River Axe over midsummer in June.

Back in the 1980s, the Kogi had appeared in Alan Ereira’s film ‘Message from the Heart of the World’, to say that the way we treat the planet has to change otherwise it will not survive, and neither will we. The only rational, intelligent thing would be to do as they suggested. At that time, as many people were pointing out, humanity was at a cross-roads; we could go this way, and sort out the mess, or that way, where the consequences would be unthinkable; and we were bound to make the right decision, we are such an intelligent species. But we didn’t go this way, and neither did we think about the consequences of going that way. We sleep-walked towards the abyss. Another quarter century of environmental destruction ensued. The Kogi called back Alan Ereira and made another film: ‘Aluna.’

So, back then it was urgent; now, it is beyond urgency. Perhaps it’s too late. What can we do? What’s the point? But there were the Kogi; they’d called back Alan Ereira to make another film, to re-state their message in a new way – and, in spite of everything, they clearly weren’t giving up. An important part of this message, I had heard, was that we have to look after our rivers. I went to see the film in a crowded café in Glastonbury; and in the mean time I had been thinking about my local river, the River Brue. In the middle ages it had been diverted and the source cut off from the mouth of the river; once it had joined the River Axe and the two had continued to the sea as one substantial stream, though not many people know that now. ‘Aluna’ woke up a feeling that they must be joined back together, at least in a spiritual sense, this connection must be re-made; and people must know. By the end of the film I knew what I had to do: I must go to the mouth of the River Axe and find something, whatever it might be, to take to the source of the River Brue, as an offering. It seemed like a mad idea, but the sense of needing to do this, that this was absolutely the right thing for me to do, was very strong. All of a sudden I was on a mission.

The mission was inspired by the Kogi and their film ‘Aluna;’ it was given shape by the Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and his ‘four point plan.’ Llewellyn has written a lot about what he calls ‘spiritual ecology,’ pointing out the growing crisis that is overtaking the natural world is also a spiritual crisis, that arises from our culture’s materialism and disconnection from any spiritual reality. His message, certainly as it relates to the natural world, is much the same as the Kogis’. Those who have taken note have asked him, ‘What can we do?’ At first he would simply say that it was not for him to tell people what they should do; they should look within and follow their own guidance. But one day in what he described as a moment of inspiration he came up with a ‘four point plan’ for how we can creatively approach this situation on the material level as well as the spiritual.

The four points are: witnessing, grieving, prayer, and action. The first point, witnessing, is actually asking us to stop habitually trying to ‘do’ anything at all. To witness, with awareness, what we and our culture have done to the world. To look for no outcome, no result; to refrain from trying to fix things, but to thoroughly acknowledge how things really are. The second point, grieving, is to allow ourselves to fully feel the pain arising from that witnessing, that understanding of what we as a species have done. This is the honest and appropriate emotion that we must feel, and in a strange sense – in the situation we are in – the greatest gift that we can give to the world. For those of us who are products of white, middle class, English culture, trained through our up-bringing to keep it under wraps, this will not be easy. Praying, even more so. I do not understand or relish the idea of an act of prayer. It is embarrassing. But I am beginning to suspect that the world situation is by now beyond what we little humans can figure out and put to rights ourselves. We, after all, are the problem; not the rest of the world. Perhaps our best hope is some form of divine intervention. Llewellyn tells us that prayer, as a cry from the heart, arises naturally from our feelings of grief. All I can say for now is that I am prepared to go there and find out. And finally, action. Once we have re-oriented our minds through the practices of the first three points, and not until then, not until we can think in a genuinely different way about the task at hand; then we will know what to do.

So far I have made what I think is a good start on the witnessing, and I have been doing this in two inter-connected ways. First, by walking along the river, getting to know it, making friends with it. One friend took me kayaking on the river; another encourages me to go swimming in the river with him. Gradually I am building up an intimate knowledge of the river, what it looks like, what it feels like, the shape of the land through which it flows. The other is by reading about the river and subjects related to it; its history and natural history. I am compiling the river’s story, and it is very interesting. It is a story that mirrors the story of the world.

The River Brue is a disconnected river. Quite literally: the medieval monks effectively cut it in half. And the disconnection is metaphorical too: once the river flowed past the island chapels of saints in a consciously sacred landscape. It was changed from a river to a canal, and finally to a drain, its perceived purpose simply to get rid of the water. In times of flood, water can be deadly dangerous, but that doesn’t stop it being the stuff of life, the most essential ingredient for all living beings – and also the flow of existence. The Somerset Levels are drying out and the millions of birds that once lived there, or visited on their migrations, are year by year disappearing, dying. The river and its story makes an allegory for the whole of the natural world.

Inspired by the Kogi I went walking along the river, sometimes on my own and sometimes with groups of friends, bit by bit during the summer walking the whole length from above Bruton down to Glastonbury, then across the moors where only remnants and ditches remain to show where the river once flowed, into the Cheddar valley and along the River Axe. Finally I visited the mouth of the Axe at Uphill near to Brean Down, where I collected a handful of beautiful sea shells tinted in a variety of pastel colours. I took them to the source of the River Brue, where there is a little stone structure like a miniature shrine to the river goddess, and I gave these sea shells to the water as the offering that I had intended, what the Kogi would call a ‘payment.’ I cannot explain quite how or exactly why, but the result was extraordinarily profound. Somehow, in my mind, in ‘Aluna’ perhaps, I was making a first step towards healing that disconnection. In the silence that followed the river quietly said that it was pleased.

Tags: ,
Posted in Articles No Comments »