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The Illusion And Truth Of Courage

The Illusion and Truth of Courage

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The other day, I received an email from someone who has been invited to speak at a conference about the state of the ocean. To set the tone, it’s a political conference about “protecting our resources and fisheries for those who economically depend on the ocean for a sustainable future”. Note the separation-steeped language: resources, fisheries, economical dependence, sustainability. In other words, this conference is no more than an ego-stroking, conscience-appeasing, money-pit funded by taxpayers designed to ensure the ongoing rape of the ocean. Sure there will be prattle about pollution, climate change and marine protected areas, but only far as the bottom line is concerned.

This is “sustainability” as defined by the industrialized machine.

According to Climate Healers founder, Sailesh Rao, “Compassion for all creation is infinitely sustainable.” This makes sense to me. As far as I’m concerned, everything else is a lie. With the pillaging mindset of homo sapien, a “sustainable” ocean is a crock of shit.

A few pertinent words from the preliminary email are as follows: “I know that you feel the vital importance of the oceans, and maybe sense their imminent collapse. I wondered if you have any more detail on what needs to be done first to save them, if we can? I want to be as spiritual as I dare in this speech. I feel I’ve got a real chance to be courageous, and thereby to set the tone of the conference by inviting others to be courageous too.”

Courage. A word I know well. A word I wear often—even when I’m soaked in my own fear.

Activist Maggie Kuhn once said, “Dare to stand before those you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” This is the path of the warrior.

In my world, the greatest courage is the willingness to be authentically yourself and speak from the bloodiest depths of your truth. When you love the Earth as I do, you are the Earth and your willingness to speak out overrides your willingness to be nice, to conform, to make friends, or to look the other way.

Simply put, Gaea doesn’t want our culturally conditioned bullshit. She wants our essence. She doesn’t want us to play nice. She wants us to play by her rules. Gaea’s rules support life. They don’t support “sustainable” fishing, “humane” slaughter, “grass-fed” beef, “free-range” pigs, “cage-free” chickens, “responsible” forestry, “conscious” consumption, “eco” this, “green” that, or any of the other semantic lies we tell ourselves to appease the guilt-ridden conscience birthed from our separation psychosis.

My reply was as follows:

“The short answer to your “can we save the ocean” question: the ocean doesn’t need saving.

The ocean doesn’t need us and never has. The Earth doesn’t need us either for that matter. The ocean is doing what it needs to do to adapt to the destructive ways of homo sapien. Case in point, see the photos below. The photo with the blue ocean was taken in the summer of 2014. The photo with the green ocean was taken a few days ago. This is my front yard. It has been determined that this is an “unprecedented” (language being used a lot these days) phytoplankton/algae bloom caused by ocean acidification and deoxygenation. Since this photo was taken, the bloom has spread and is more vibrant in color. It can be seen from space. This is a deeply disturbing problem and the only conversations I hear are how “pretty” the water color is. My partner released a powerful post that is worth the read.

Blue ocean

Sechelt Inlet, summer 2014

Green ocean

Sechelt Inlet, summer 2016

The problem with “saving” the ocean is that “saving” implies superiority and separation. And really, what would we be “saving” it for anyways? Continued plundering, pollution and exploitation?

Aside from my premonitions (which are playing out much faster than anticipated), there are too many markers indicating a runaway train of ocean/planetary collapse. With everything humanity has done to the ocean, the chemistry of the water has been altered beyond repair. In other words, the ocean is very, very sick. I’m bold enough to say terminally ill—certainly as far as life as we know it is concerned.

Sure we can blather on about heroic attempts to “save” the ocean, but do we have the collective will to stop the arrogance of cruise ship vacations, thus ending the entitlement, dirty emissions and ruthless dumping practices; to stop transporting cheap shit from Asia, thus drastically reducing consumption, planned obsolescence and tanker pollution; to stop using the crack cocaine of industrial civilization—oil, thus preventing future spills and the desecration of the Earth; to stop using nuclear power, thus ending the insane dumping of radioactive waste; to stop using plastic, thus preventing its eternal scourge from choking out life in the sea; to stop using indoor plumbing; thus preventing the ignorant dumping of billions of liters of raw sewage; to stop using fertilizers and pesticides, thus preventing the poisonous runoff that contributes to acidification; to stop mining, logging, fracking, mountain-top removal, and Earth rape, thus ending the chemical runoff from these dirty, destructive industries; to stop eating meat, eggs and dairy, thus ending the nutrient spills that create ocean dead zones, deoxygenation and untold suffering; to stop consuming aquatic life, thus ending the rapacious massacre and allowing life to recover from our arrogant plundering. This is only the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. Unless the global addiction to industrial civilization comes to an abrupt halt, all attempts to “save” the ocean are guaranteed to fail. Sadly, I don’t see any indication of anyone with the will to forsake business-as-usual, and so we will continue to add to the problems exponentially faster than they can ever be remedied. As a result, we will pay dearly with a dead ocean, and therefore, a dead planet. As Sylvia Earle says, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” So the question about “saving the ocean” is a moot point. It’s not about saving the ocean, it’s about waking up. And we’re so far from an awakening that it seems absurd to even mention.

Let’s also not forget the accelerated arctic sea ice melt that is exposing horrifying amounts of ocean methane from lack of albedo. This is a whole other problem that makes everything else look like child’s play.

I could go on, but the gloom gets monotonous.

James Lovelock said that we may have had a chance of turning this ship around if we acted collectively in the 1960’s. Instead, we’ve bred ourselves out of control with the same consciousness that is now more deeply entrenched in the collective psyche. This means more than twice the global population with no collective will to change. There’s also the 40 year lag-time between behavior and outcome to consider which means that we’re only now experiencing the repercussions of our collective behaviors and actions from the 1970’s. Nothing more to add there.

So the ocean doesn’t need saving. It never has. The Earth is adapting to the hallmark of our society: willful ignorance. We are the ones who will not be able to adapt however. The only entity that has ever required saving is homo sapien. If we were courageous enough to evolve beyond our cultural conditioning, the planet would never, ever be in the state of collapse we’re currently experiencing. Personally, I’m not worried about the Earth or the ocean. I’m heartbroken about what we’ve done to the many living beings who wanted no part of the human story of separation however. While the fires, flooding, droughts, heat waves, ice melt, permafrost melt, superstorms, ocean deoxygenation, acidification, warming, etc. are Gaea’s way of adapting to human ignorance, this new climate doesn’t bode well for animals, plants or humanity.

Again, I stress, Gaea doesn’t need us to save her. She never has. She has always needed us to save ourselves from the conditioning that removed us from the soul of who we are.

If I were invited to speak on that stage, I would say things that nobody would want to hear. I would firmly, yet kindly inform people that we are in a planetary hospice situation. I would be the compassionate nurse who would no longer lie to the dying patient or feed her false hope. I would liberate her so that she could live and love fully to the end. The only revision to this scenario is that the nurse (me) is also in hospice. This makes for a role that requires the greatest courage ever.

The one thing that few are willing to say is that it’s too late. By not speaking this truth, we carry on with business-as-usual and live in delusion and denial rather than love and grace.

Powerful questions empower the recipient to reach their own conclusion. By asking the question, “What if it’s simply too late?”, you leave it up to the audience to figure it out. I personally believe that everybody knows on a subconscious level anyways. We just need courageous people to give us permission to stop pretending otherwise.”

For the next week, there was nothing but silence. This is a typical response to my sharing of deep truth. Today however, a reply arrived.

A condensed version of the reply is as follows: “I really agree with what you’re saying, but at the same time, I’m not going to be able to say that. My speech is specifically to be energizing and bold to get the conference off on the right footing. Sure, I can say whatever I want to say once I actually get up there, but I don’t think anybody is going to thank me for demoralizing people right at the start of the conference. I totally get what James Lovelock is saying, and I agree. But I don’t want to totally squish morale when there are people in the room who could really do something to make a difference, even though you and I both know that anything is going to be too little, too late.”

Huh???

First of all, nobody in that room really gives a damn—the talk is for the old boys club. One needs to simply look at the state of the world to see how well the old boys have managed things. Secondly, every time we bridge a sentence with the word, “but”, it negates everything that precedes it (notice how many “buts” were in this short paragraph). Thirdly, whatever happened to, “I feel I’ve got a real chance to be courageous, and thereby to set the tone of the conference by inviting others to be courageous too.” How is feeding false hope courageous? How is lying helping the Earth? Why is despair a bad thing?

In our deepest heartbreak we remember our connection to the Earth and we’re finally motivated to act in ways that serve rather than deplete. As author and sacred activist Andrew Harvey says, “If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”

Why is this so fucking hard to understand?

It may seem like I’m picking on the author of the fateful email that inspired this post, but I see it differently. I see it as a metaphor for how the bulk of humanity chooses to live in the world, that is, willing to go only so far before denial and fear close in on their hearts.

When I read between the lines, I see the email response from many angles. Most obvious is the need to please. Although my words were acknowledged, they were also negated in favor of the status quo. This implores me to then ask, what is this person’s truth?

Elizabeth Kubler Ross realized the 5-stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This email response is a typical example of bargaining peppered with a hefty dose of denial and fear. Bargaining is about negotiating one’s way out of painful or uncomfortable situations. In other words, if this person placates the boys club with false hope and inspirational drivel rather than “demoralize” them with truth, they may well be motivated to use their almighty powers to save the ocean so that all will be well again for life on Earth.

How deeply, deeply delusional and sad.

This person has the opportunity to make a difference—if not for the audience, for their own soul. Instead of stroking egos and conforming to the status quo, this person could actually inspire people to stop, take notice and choose a different course of action—a course of action that is authentic and that honors the ocean rather than placates the people responsible for ensuring that business-as-usual carries on. Rather than choosing the path of the warrior, the well-worn path of the wimp has been chosen and Gaea is once again negated. This is not courage, this is a wasted opportunity fueled by conformity, bargaining, denial and fear. As psychologist Rollo May says “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

Sadly, this wimp-out is not uncommon. How often do we say or do things to not “rock the boat”, or to be “nice”, or to be popular or to be liked? How often do we compromise our truths at the expense of our souls?

Inside every one of us exists two heartbeats. The one that sustains us in the physicality of our everyday experience, and the one that pounds with the truth inside—from the essence of our soul—with the love that connects us to the web of life and each other. When we say yes to this heartbeat, we say yes to life, love, truth, and courage. We say yes to the courage to be fully alive right now in the face of impossible odds.

True courage takes every ounce of inner strength to cultivate and maintain. It’s the courage that inspires us to walk away from the rules imposed by our families, friends, authority figures, religion, and culture. It’s the courage that implores us to stand up, live out loud and follow our own internal cues. It’s the courage that exposes our vulnerabilities and brings our shadows into the light to be healed into wholeness. True courage allows grief to swallow us whole and spit us back out with a renewed passion for life.

True courage activates our love for the Earth in ways that say fuck you to culture, fuck you to playing nice, and fuck you if you don’t like my truth. True courage ignites a passion for Gaea that puts your soul on the line by speaking out boldly despite the comotose ignorance of the status quo. True courage energizes you to love, act, choose, and behave in ways that align with life even if it makes no difference…regardless of outcome. True courage is the path of the spirit-driven activist…the warrior of truth…the status quo crusher.

When I refer to courage, I speak of the courage at the very core of who we are—our deepest core essence. The pure essential courage that lives permanently in our hearts as a testament to who we authentically are. The courage that isn’t sustained by external validation or the ego gratification of culturally defined success, results, degrees, titles, fanfare, awards, or recognition.

I’m talking about the courage to be 100% authentically yourself.

This is the courage that connects us to the web of life and reminds us that we are not separate—that when we honor Gaea, we honor ourselves. It is the courage of a true leader whose fearless willingness to speak truth trumps all else.

When we claim the truth that lives in our hearts, we claim the courage to be our purest self in a culture that demands we conform to its dysfunctional standards. We demolish the status quo: we become mavericks, trailblazers, warriors for the human spirit…and for Gaea.

Courage emerges the moment we no longer choose to conform to what others expect from us and when we no longer choose to be a victim to the circumstances in our lives. When we claim this inner power, we can do anything.

I believe that the essence of courage is the capacity to fully trust ourselves without the need for external validation. It’s about trusting ourselves from the inside out so that we don’t need repetitive external recognition to validate who we are.

Courage is the external manifestation of an internal state that comes from a place of deep trust. The greatest courage is the courage to be authentically yourself by saying yes to yourself and then following through.

I feel there is no need to further engage with the email conversation that spawned this post. I spoke my truth. It fell on deaf ears and so be it. Gaea doesn’t want for us to fight to be right. She wants for us to trust ourselves, speak our truth, say yes to life and follow through—even when our voices shake.

Now more than ever, Gaea wants for us to cut the bullshit and speak out as if our lives depend on it. Because they do.

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This Post Has 24 Comments
  1. Well said Deb, courageous and inspiring.

    We all need need to wake up, man up and grow a pair… But will we?

    It’s time to stop sugar coating the inevitable just to appease the status quo and keep the unprecedented pillaging unchecked.

    Sorry for the rant.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Never apologize for ranting in my blog space Tim. This is a safe space for passion, and wow, do we ever need more of that! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. It has long mesmerized me: our individual and collective ability ( read: entrainment) to ignore truth and choose not to recognize a lie…even when it’s killing us. Indeed, even when WE are killing OURSELVES.

    It’s simple, really: if what I am saying is not true/accurate/real, then I am saying is untrue, inaccurate and illusion (in other words, a lie). As such, I am then required to create a future based on lies.

    Given this, why would we be surprised at the intention and force of our great and imminent demise?

    Perhaps, when more voices raised choose to speak differently, we will shape our world differently .

    Thank you, Deb, for your Voice…. always, authentic, real and true.

    Louise

  3. Thank you for your powerfully direct way of cutting through the BS! I personally agree with you that the train wreck is long past doing anything to save humanity. My “premonitions” are that as ecosystems collapse, vast areas of the world will become completely ungovernable, (already happening in the middle east), and it is only a matter of time until a country with nuclear capacity slips into anarchy, and that’s not going to end well. Long before the planet becomes uninhabitable due to total ecosystem collapse, we will annihilate most life-forms on earth more sophisticated than bacteria, with nuclear war. Even if that is somehow avoided, I doubt it is possible to change the status quo to save humanity.

    Your call to courage however, in my mind demands that we don’t simply give up and party till the end. I’m planning on trying anyway to do what can be done. Knowing full well it is likely hopeless. To that end, a local not for profit organization that I’m on the Board of, is putting on a Deep Ecology event. Dave Foreman, Eileen Crist, Joe Bish, Jerry Mander, Stephanie Mills, Derrick Jensen and others are some of our topic leaders, that will be at the event. Hey, at least there won’t be any trying to excuse the “pillaging mindset of homo sapien” as sustainable! 🙂 (Love your quote)

    Maybe you’d be interested in coming? You could take the train down, it is in San Luis Obispo, CA and Amtrak stops here. https://ecologistics.org/deep-ecology-collaboratory/

    1. Hi Tori,

      Thanks for your thoughts. An important note however, if you believe at all that I’m suggesting giving up and partying until the end, you haven’t read my words. In fact, I’m suggesting loving harder than ever before…only now, with no attachment to any outcome. I can tell you this, it is more liberating, more empowering AND far more effective. I call this the path of the spiritual warrior.

      1. You’re right, that second paragraph was really unclear, I’ll try again:

        Despite my pessimism, your call to courage, in my mind demands that we don’t simply give up and party till the end. I’m planning on trying passionately to do what can be done. Knowing full well it is likely hopeless.

        Hope that is better? 🙂

        1. Hopeless is not a bad thing. As my friend Sailesh Rao says, “Hope comes from a place of Fear and it blurs our vision. Faith comes from a place of Love and makes us clear-sighted.” I have Faith in the Earth. That is what fuels my Love. So it may be hopeless to change the world, but love doesn’t need hope anyways. Nothing more powerful than that! 😉

      2. Thanks so much Deb.. yes, the clarity is starting to emerge as the fog dissipates. I read your previous blog posts inspired by the “hopium” email and admit to being seriously challenged by the idea that we should now enter the narrative of “we’ve missed the boat.. the ecosystem collapse has begun and the world as we know it is over”. However, as I read your response to this post it resonated with what was bubbling to the surface in me, and that is this: Whether the planet is dying or can be saved is not the point. The point is REGARDLESS of whats going to happen we have to act to do everything we can to remember we ARE the Earth and Love her accordingly. The very fact that we are asking the question of whether its over or not should shock the shit out of us and make the question burn in us that seems so obvious: “What the hell have we been doing that we havent changed course given where we are NOW?!” Its astonishing and so amazingly sad. To me it says everything about our disconnect with nature at every level and like you say, the semantics that are used to disguise our ongoing plundering are infuriating.

        Here in Australia we are celebrating 25 years of sustained economic growth (seriously) and nothing is being said by anyone (including any green political party) about the cost of that growth on the planet. The affluenza that now defines the societies we live in consumes the planet with almost all resources on saving the environment going towards renewable energy…. as if that will be the silver bullet to our problems… when having green energy will change nothing about consumption patterns.

        To me everything is directing homo sapiens to the greatest wake up call possible. Not a wake up to act to change course and avert disaster, but a wake up in the real sense of the word… to come out of the dream that we could ever live separately from the planet, from each other, from the Source of Love which is our real birthplace.

        The greatest learning is upon us as we see that false dream blown apart by us, homo sapiens, the very inventors of that dream. But in this time that we are now in, which could be described as the final moment, we have the opportunity to turn towards Gaea and say “I finally get it… I was wrong… I Love you and Im so grateful for all that you have given me and all of us who have lived because of you”.

        Thats the message that lands in my heart from your reflections Deb and I thank you deeply for it.

          1. Wonderful Deb! I’ll look forward to your next instalment and try to work out how to integrate this learning in the work I do in the facilitation world. Its a powerful but very challenging message for people to hear. Thanks again 🙂

  4. Waking up ain’t easy. I may as well be that emailer… I believe you, but I’m too afraid to wake the other sleepers. Guess I’m still half asleep myself…

    Keep shaking me Deb, I’ll get there.

    1. Yeah Rebekah, Deb’s right, just coming to self awareness is the big step. Always remember, you should always speak truth, but waking anyone else up is not your responsibility. The e-mailer “knowingly” justified and sugar coated (was not truthful) while speaking from a place of authority. You are not responsible to “fix” other people, just don’t lie to them. Don’t enable them. Do speak your truth when able, or asked, but the listening is on the “listener” not the other way around! ~_^

  5. We are slowly technogizing ourselves into extinction. Technology is seductive. Is it the power? Is it the comfort? Or is it some internal particularly human attribute that drives it? Technology surrounds us and becomes part of our story and myths. Technology tantalizes the human mind to make, combine, invent. There are always unintended consequences with technology. It affects how we experience the world in time and space. It affects how we feel the world. If all the externalities were included in the prices and cost to nature, we would be very, very wary of technology.

    I think we have moved from technology in the service of religion (pyramids and gothic cathedrals) to religion and culture in the service of technology. It isn’t a deity that will save humanity but in the eyes of many – it will be technology.

    We will do more of the same, business as usual until there are no more holes in the ground to dig, no more water above and below to contaminate, no humans to wage slave, no other lifeforms to eliminate. Yes, we are building Trojan horses in our hearts, minds and spirits. It will be elitist and entitlement and hubris – it will end with both a bang and a whimper.
    http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-bang-and-whimper.html

    1. Beautifully articulated John. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I couldn’t agree more…spoken with profound sadness in my heart.

  6. Thank you Deb.
    An excellent piece which I will be sharing.

    I have spent a decade echoing these sentiments and have come to the conclusion that, it is too late to wake the masses from their delusion and am preparing as best I can for post collapse. I don’t fancy my chances.

    Cheers.

  7. Hi Deb,

    Just found your site via this article. Great work you’ve been doing.

    Here’s a story that illustrates how far we seem to be from awakening to our collective foolishness:

    I was with a friend at a park yesterday. This friend is currently unemployed, so the conversation naturally turned to his concern about getting a job, money, etc.

    To kid around with him to lighten the mood, I pointed out some birds and squirrels in the park, and mentioned they don’t have jobs or use money.

    His response: “But their lives are much worse than ours.”

    1. Sigh… I can only shake my head. There is so much wrong with that reply. It’s one of those statements that shuts down a conversation and really tells all about the dysfunctional illusion so many believe is real. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thank you Deb! Your work continues to expand and challenge my young mind! I feel so empowered every time I read one of your posts or listen to one of your podcasts!

    1. Thank YOU Dareios! My aim is to shine a light on the cracks in our consciousness that separate us from life. I include myself in the mix. 🙂

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