There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
Recently a friend told me that she had been talking up my book Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse and suggesting to friends who are aware of collapse that they read it. On several occasions the response was, "Well, I don't want to engage in ‘negative thinking'. I'd rather keep a positive attitude and stay hopeful in the face of what's going in on the world." When I heard this, I smiled inside because this perspective in particular prompted me to write the book. One of my intentions in doing so was to help heal the false assumption that looking honestly at the end of the world as we have known it is synonymous with wallowing in negativity.
First, let me begin by assuring the reader that I do not recommend staring down collapse 24-7. Initially, admitting the reality of collapse is frightening and disheartening. People at first tend to become overwhelmed with fear or hopelessness or both. At that point, we can do one of two things: We can back off and process the facts in bits and pieces, interspersing doing so with living our everyday lives, doing things we enjoy with people we love, and savoring everything in life that nourishes us. Or, we can immediately engage one or more defense mechanisms in order to assuage our fear and cognitive dissonance. The defense mechanism most frequently employed is denial, and unfortunately, some forms of spirituality are particularly useful in fostering denial because inherent in them is the assumption that accepting the demise of industrial civilization will drag one down into permanent depression, anger, hopelessness, or despair. While it is true that when first acknowledging collapse, one might experience such feelings, this does not guarantee that one must choose to take up residence in dark feelings, redecorate, change one's address, and permanently reside there.
I wrote Sacred Demise from the perspective of exactly the opposite experience. Did I feel negative feelings when first learning about collapse and its implications? Of course. Do I still have moments when negative feelings return and cloud what was an-otherwise normal day? Absolutely. But for me, acknowledging and preparing for collapse has been a sea-change in every aspect of my life which includes a full palette of emotional and spiritual colors and hues. It has indeed made me more fully human and alive.
Rather than dragging me down into depression and despair, my acceptance of what is, has liberated me both emotionally and spiritually. As I have released false hopes of "fixing" civilization cosmetically or creating a mass consciousness change that might engender mass movements, I have gained much more energy for my work and for preparation for the daunting days ahead. In other words, I have gained a visceral understanding of "crisis as opportunity"-a cliché which I bandied about earlier in my life could not fully appreciate until I allowed myself to deeply understand collapse and its ramifications.
Last month, Oregon Peak Oil researcher and blogger, Jan Lundberg, put out a call to his readers to respond on three questions regarding collapse:
- What we are acting toward? What main outcome might we be looking forward to?
- What do we relish leaving behind, as collapse begins or as it will be intensified?
- What do we not want to leave behind unresolved; or, what needs to be done before it's too late to accomplish it?
This week, Culture Change published the results of the survey which I strongly encourage everyone to read. Here are a few responses:
•· I look forward to the world breaking up "into small colonies of the saved" (Robert Bly). I look forward to a simpler, less neurotic life for me and my children. I would like to think that my children, while their chances of survival may be lower, their chances of happiness will be higher.
•· The central change I would like to see is abandonment of the addictive, frenzied, exploitative American way of life in favor of a tribal, cooperative, relaxed way of life that puts responsibility toward other species and the Earth, as well as other human beings, first.