We may ask forgiveness of the bee
The flower in the meadow or that tree
Bulldozed for a highway
For the low-way, the die-way
But we still think we own this place
That we have chosen to erase.
Think what you want to think
But we are teetering on the brink!
We look up and claim the stars
Or down and think it ours.
Nothing in the world can hide
From our narcissistic omnicide!
Our cities only go so high
Before they pierce the lie.
There is only so far for our drills to go
Before they reach the fires below.
The devils have an easy time
Now that we are all to blame.
Everyone's an easy snatch
Any capitalist's a fair catch.
We are the masters of extraction
In a world reeling from subtraction.
Climate change is ours to own;
If we survive, we'll be alone.
What do you think, is it too late
To change our abhorrent fate?
I end by simply asking you,
Does this poem ring false or true?
I had a dream the night before I wrote this poem. Here is an excerpt from the dream exactly as I recorded it:
"We are in a car, driven by a man I don't know (like an Uber driver, he owns the car). As we clear a rise there is a scene of utter devastation of the land almost as far as I can see. It is like tar-sands, a vast mining and extraction project. . . not just mining, but the corporate entity in charge has fashioned the bedrock of the operation into a city for the industry. I am shocked and over-whelmed by the scale of what I am witnessing. I exclaim in wonder and the driver, even though he sees what I see, is dismissive. He says 'it's not really there'. Almost as if he is saying I can choose not to see it, or it is just a vision of a possible future."
This dream haunted me all day. In my dream, relative to the world depicted by the dream, there was no denying that the devastation was there, but as I thought about it, it is analogous to Tar Sands in Alberta, a gargantuan extractive wasteland roughly 600 kilometers (from east to west) by 70 kilometers (from north to south), in the sense that, I would guess, for most of us, it "isn't there" because we don't see it or think about it. But my dream was not letting me off that easy. The driver has to drive us way around this manmade wasteland that's "not really there". This poem, "We are all to blame", was my way of writing about my dilemma of owning up to an environmental catastrophe that is largely being ignored -- the "Tar Sands" that is in each of our psyches.
There is more to say: I took a walk with a friend the day after this dream. On this walk we talked about many things. Both of us being counselors and dream workers we shared a fascination with the role of consciousness in healing on both a personal and collective level. Both of us have also been to Peru and worked with indigenous plant spirit-medicines. We are also both familiar with the work of Joanna Macy (Click Here) who teaches that we are living in a time when two great cycles of awareness are over-lapping, the age of endings and the age of beginnings which she refers to as The Great Unraveling and The Great Turning. You might say my dream was confronting me with the reality of her teaching.
My friend and I agreed that there is no denying that the world as we know it is ending. And yet we also agree it is equally true that there is another world that we also "know", or have glimpsed or experienced, that is coming up or beginning. But, I am aware that right now, at this stage in my life, I spend more time in the world of The Unraveling. There are reasons for that that are impossible to ignore, Covid being one of them. On a good day I can skirt some of those reasons, those unraveling-realities, but some, such as the reality of mass extinctions and the reality of over-population and the reality of environmental collapse (in addition to my living with chronic Lyme) are simply too big to ignore. Was it merely a coincidence that my friend and I were getting together to walk and talk the day after this big dream in which I was witness to one of the ugliest examples of The Unraveling - the raping of the physical planet? With that dream front and center in my mind's eye, I asked him, How do you cope with the Unraveling? His response was,(in essence) he meditates. He explained that meditation can be as simple as breathing mindfully. But as much as anything he said (which was, in fact, very helpful), it was my friend's composure that most impressed me. He came across as centered to me and comfortable in the moment despite the fact that we were both hyper-aware that the world is unraveling.
I won't go on and on, but I just want to say that I learned something from this man . . .That shifting from The Unraveling to The Turning is less about some kind of epic revelation or inner transformation. It really is about what we do with our attention and where we focus our energy at any given moment. The Turning is not about turning away from, say, the reality of Tar Sands. I think the Turning can happen even when we are confronting the ugliest truth that The Unraveling can clobber us with, because being the master of our attention is a way of stopping time or at least slowing time. Where else is true healing, not just for ourselves but for the planet, going to happen except in the moment. It isn't going to happen tomorrow. It happens now at what T.S. Eliot described as "the still point of the turning world".
One other thought occurs to me, an image actually. Right after Chernobyl blew Joanna Macy travelled to a small village in Ukraine that was directly in the path of the fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown. She was there to help the villagers deal with the trauma of coping with ongoing radioactive exposure and the insult of not having been warned that they were going to be poisoned. Their depression was so profound she was out of ideas until the women mentioned a traditional dance called the Elm Dance (https://vimeo.com/302316072). In this dance, which she teaches at her workshops, men and women form two circles which move in and out and turn clockwise while the dancers sway and lift their arms in unison emulating the branches of an elm blowing in the breeze. Dancing is another form of healing meditation and it is a way of experiencing what it feels like to enact The Turning that is the principle antidote to The Unraveling where, unfortunately many of us spend most of our time these days.
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