“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.” —Joanna Macy.
NOTE: This is part two of my Letting Go of a World in Collapse essay. If you haven’t yet read part one, you can read it here. I’ve also created a downloadable pdf file of the entire essay that can be read in multi-page format.
The Same Old, Same Old
Like a perpetual looping track, history persists in repeating itself. Throughout the millennia, the same old story of separation plays out. Consciousness deteriorates. Civilizations collapse. Extinction events eradicate life. And here we stand again: collapse, extinction and a collective consciousness that has flatlined. Are we some kind of cruel cosmic joke—a 200,000 year old failure, an outlandish biological mistake? Is it possible that we rendered all other known planets uninhabitable before being plopped on our beautiful Earth for one last ditch effort to get it right? Why do some of us remember who we are while the collective remains trapped in the mental illness of separation that disconnects them from life—from their souls? What kind of world do we live in where the masses care more about the size of Kim Kardashians ass than they do the dwindling size of arctic sea ice?
The tentacles of culture have a death-grip on the psyche that has destroyed our conscience.
The sad reality is that the cultural system and those who control it are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and the masses don’t give a damn. Most people are too distracted by the daily minutiae of their own lives to care about the state of the world. Despite the low grade unease that relentlessly tugs on their hearts, every day is ‘business as usual’. Make money, pay the bills, Facebook, text, a selfie here, a selfie there, buy stuff, eat, tweet, sleep, text, down a beer, a glass of wine, watch tv, text, repeat. The monotonous machine of relentless distraction that silences the heart and swallows the soul.
Only by healing ourselves will the Earth stand a chance of healing herself with humanity still in residence. The grim reality is that the masses are unwilling to even acknowledge their wounds, let alone dive headfirst into their pain. If this were not so, the widespread afflictions of anxiety, depression and addiction would no longer be rampant, and synthetic emotional suppressants (read: pharmaceutical anti-depressants) would no longer be a food group. It’s a lovely, feel good thought to believe in an epidemic of spontaneous kumbaya healing, but let’s face it, the odds are greater that Ted Nugent would give up his arsenal of weapons, embrace compassion and go vegan long before that ever happened. We’ve been broken, tainted and corrupted by centuries of separation-based patriarchy, and there is no way out of a mental illness so deeply embedded in the collective psyche unless we allow it to die. But we won’t. Our compulsion for abdicating all personal responsibility in every aspect of our lives ensures our disempowered servitude.
The greatest crisis facing the world today is not war, terrorism, or even climate change. The greatest crisis facing the world today is the crisis in consciousness that traps us in the paradigm of separation. As such, we live in a self-created, life-hating, death phobic, zombiefied planetary asylum where everything beautiful, good and real is mindlessly consumed, commoditized and destroyed by its compliant inmates.
Our culture rewards destruction and punishes love. We’ve traded our humanity for profit. For anyone with a trace of critical thinking skills, it’s impossible to deny that the earth is terminally ill, humans are completely insane, and a rapid acceleration of extraordinary collapse is occurring. It’s both confusing and disorienting as we careen our way toward an uncertain abyss.
The truth is that we’re long past the feel-good “change your light bulbs, bring your own cloth bags, shorter showers, ride your bike and recycle” mindset. Most people can’t even bring themselves to do these simple actions anyways. And let’s get real about the “salvation” of solar, wind, and renewable energy. What for? To fuel the very same consumption consciousness that got us into this mess in the first place—only this time with a green hue? If everyone on the planet chose to go vegan, live off-grid, grow their own food, and never buy a single plastic item again, it still wouldn’t be enough (but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still choose to live this way). The runaway momentum from our destructive behavior is well underway. In most cases, the damage is irreversible. The lag time between our past and our present actions, and the subsequent repercussions of these actions will likely play out for several millennia to come. There’s no escaping the consequences of our willful ignorance, and contrary to our conditioned arrogance, we are not invincible, infallible or immortal. Let’s get real here, we’ve screwed the planet and ourselves. Surely I’m not the only one who gets this?
For the city dwellers who’ve read this far and haven’t tuned me out, please don’t allow yourself to believe that you’re insulated from collapse. One only needs to bear witness to the escalating intolerance, road rage, arrogance, entitlement, rudeness, selfishness, anxiety, depression, addiction, irritation, short-fuses, traffic, tailgating, long lines, finger-flipping, stress, agitation, busyness, and endless noise to know that something is very, very wrong with our ‘civilized’ ways. This may all be ‘normal’, however it’s anything but natural. Collapsing energies are playing out in a plethora of dysfunctional ways.
In the dogma of our arrogant ignorance, we’ve betrayed the insects, we’ve betrayed the fish, we’ve betrayed the reptiles, we’ve betrayed the birds, we’ve betrayed the mammals, we’ve betrayed the Earth … we’ve betrayed ourselves.
We stand alone, isolated from life, love and truth on our soulless island of separation. We are the zombie apocolypse we so deeply fear.
We’ve chosen, and the sooner we can accept what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, the sooner we can connect with our deepest core essence and be fully present for whatever comes next.
The Need for Grief
For thousands, perhaps even millions of years, we’ve allowed our separation-based mindset to rule our interaction with life. The problem has never been the human condition, it has always been the conditioned human. There is no way that a species steeped in separation sickness could possibly have a glorious future. Even as a child I knew the Earth would never allow it.
The collective coma of the conditioned human mind runs deep and we’ve taken it too far. It’s long overdue for this nightmare to end. There is no changing antiquated patriarchal systems built on the foundation of the wounded inner child. There is no 5th dimensional consciousness, age of Aquarius, feminine uprising, new age awakening or extraterrestrial deliverance to save us. There is only the irreparable damage that we’ve inflicted on animals, the Earth and our souls. There’s only the inevitable cultural collapse and fall of humanity.
In his book, Endgame, Derrick Jensen writes, “The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here— the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.”
If we would only just allow ourselves to slow down and breathe, we would connect to the heartbeat of the Earth and feel the depth of her pain. This is the only way back to our love for the world.
The question for many of us right now is how to remain engaged and activated in a collapsing world without falling into despair, depression or apathy. How do we remain present to it all?
In our pain is our compassion. In our compassion is our love. When we run away from pain, we run away from love. By stepping into our pain, it transforms. It doesn’t remain static. It only remains static if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at it and bring it into our hearts, it reveals its other face, the face of our love for the world—our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.
I cry for the Earth every day. I don’t know if there is anyone on the planet who has shed more tears for Gaia than I have—whether in awe for her breathtaking beauty, or in grief for the gut wrenching devastation. I’m intimately familiar with the power of this continuous flow of tears. When I cry, I’m cleansed. When I cry, I’m connected. When I cry, I find joy much easier. When I cry, I know that my heart and my mind are twinned.
It’s ok for our hearts to be broken. In fact, we need our hearts to be broken to allow our grief to be transformed into an inexorable love that cares—not because there’s a sliver of hope for a happy ending—but because love is the essence of who we are—the force that plugs us back in to the web of life.
I believe that we all carry an overwhelming amount of grief in our hearts. For the childhood we never had, the dreams we never lived, the calling we never expressed, the love we never shared, the people, animals and relationships we’ve lost too soon along the way, and for the dire state of the planet that we know—either consciously or unconsciously—is teetering on the precipice of irreversible collapse.
We only grieve what we love, and contrary to the cultural shaming of our pain, grief and pain are powerful motivators for transformation. In our pain phobic culture, is it any wonder that we stand where we do today? When we fear the immensity of our grief, we shut down and move into a state of denial.
In most cases, denial is the manifestation of suppressed grief—a refusal to look at the severity of what we’ve done to the world because the pain is too great. Suppressed grief is unexpressed love, and I think we can all agree that we live in a world devoid of true, essential love. Our “don’t worry, be happy, everything will be ok” culture of denial promotes our disconnect from the Earth and each other. Denial traps us in the status quo and prevents us from taking the action required to think, feel, choose, and live in a way that is more aligned with our true nature.
In a recent conversation someone once said to me, “Boy, that sure is some dark, heavy stuff.” I found this rather amusing. My take is that it’s only “dark and heavy” when denial is the primary modus operandi. The truth of our current world is pretty dark and heavy, but it gets (somewhat) lighter when not denied or ignored. There is no happy ending anymore (was there ever?), and this realization has brought up more real moments of joy, presence and tenderness, like epic moments with goofy dogs and cats, ‘lip licking’ acorn barnacles (so cool!), dive-bombing bald eagles, curious sea otters, playful seals, whispy cloud formations, stunning sunsets, and breathtaking starry night skies. I notice all of this because I don’t fear the pain, duality and truth. I now see the importance of savoring moments, and it’s beautiful thing.
Our ignorance, indifference and apathy all stem from our fear of pain, which is rooted in our fear of expressing the immensity of our love. Our invitation to dance with despair is an invitation to be present with our grief and our love for the Earth.
When we move beyond our own denial and the false sense of hope that holds us captive to a complacent mindset, and when we accept the severity of our situation, only then can we open our hearts to the pain of our grief—the gateway to our deepest love for the world.
Freedom from Hope
Since emerging from the womb, I’ve had a passionate love affair with Gaia. I’ve consciously participated in the healing of the Earth through ongoing activism as well as my personal choices and actions. Although I’m not perfect, I have a tireless hunger for living as close to my essence as possible. With that in mind, I’m always willing (though not always eager) to examine my own inconsistencies, conditioning and separation. This is the only way to reclaim my wholeness. It’s an ongoing evolutionary process.
Accompanying my love for the Earth is a heightened sensitivity and awareness that has allowed me to feel and see what most people don’t. Sadly though, the things that bothered me as a child, bother me even more so today. There were 3.2 billion people on the planet in my birth year of 1963. There are now almost 7.5 billion people a mere 50 years later. Because of humanity’s aggressive population growth, there are exponentially more of us doing more of what has always upset me. We’re a prolific species in our ability to reproduce ourselves, but we fall flat in our willingness to disengage from the coma of consumption and denial. As a result, each new child birthed to the world is indoctrinated into the soul-destroying machine that perpetuates the paradigm of separation. More humans equals more violence and destruction toward animals, the Earth, and each other. The hardest part to swallow is that never had to be this way.
I used to believe that I could be an influential voice for the transformation of this world. I used to believe I could make the world a better place for animals and for Gaia. I used to believe I was an integral player in the uprising of consciousness inspired by the ‘emerging feminine’.
I even bought into the whole caterpillar/butterfly metaphor, where humanity is said to be in the final stages of the consumptive, destructive caterpillar phase before cocooning its way into the magnificent butterfly it has always been meant to be. But the truth is, caterpillars are biologically created to become butterfly’s. They have no choice. We do.
I wanted so badly to believe that homo sapien couldn’t possibly be vacuous enough to destroy its very own life-support system. I just couldn’t allow myself to believe that evil—meaning, ignorance, denial, apathy, and indifference—could prevail. It’s been unbearable to witness how a species with so much potential for kindness, empathy, courage, and love would choose an identity that was anything but.
For much of my life, hope was a tenuous thread that bound me to magical thinking and wishes for a kinder world. In my heart, I knew better, but I just couldn’t go there. If I didn’t know hope, what else was there? How else could I navigate my way through the darkness of a world built on the foundation of conformity, consumption, compliance, entitlement, narcissism, scarcity, denial, fear, judgment and indifference—the flatlined consciousness of separation. How else could I cope without this beacon of light? I was desperate to believe that compassion would cleanse the human psyche of the blight of separation and set free the forces of the essential soul. I wanted to do more than just Imagine the world that John Lennon sang about, the world that still makes me cry every time I hear that song.
I used to believe I was a significant player in the creation of a new story for humanity—a story based on the essence of who we’ve always been meant to be. I used to hope for a happy ending for all.
I duped myself.
I tried on so many different versions of hope that I could almost convince myself they were true had it not been for the persistent ache in my heart telling me otherwise.
I now see how the real story is being written by the billions of fish, birds, mammals, trees, plants, fungi, insects, reptiles, amphibians, coral reefs, and phytoplankton who are needlessly dying because of human ignorance, greed, entitlement, bloodlust, appetite, indifference, and inaction.
The real story is being written by the escalating wildfires, droughts, floods, cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes, sinkholes, hurricanes, heatwaves, ice storms, record snowfalls, desertification and ocean dead zones.
The earth is bleeding and we’re doing nothing to tend to her wounds. Until the blood soaks our front yard, it’s just not our problem. Even then, we look for others to blame.
With abrupt climate change rapidly engulfing us, and with a culture collapsing at an accelerated rate, I no longer believe that we have it in us to evolve to the consciousness required to create, as Charles Eisenstein says, “The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible”. Our hubristic sense of entitlement has fragmented our consciousness and severed our ties to everything good and real. Our obstinate persistence to remain trapped in an anthropocentric mindset ensures that we remain infected with the sickness of separation.
A stroke of midnight miracle would require a massive upgrade in our collective consciousness. It would mean taking ownership for everything in our lives and making choices aligned with our souls rather than our patterns, history, wounds, fears, and conditioning. But this is not a new message. Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, and so many others had first dibs on it centuries ago, and we still haven’t caught on.
Sometimes I feel like a dunce for believing that homo sapien inertia could possibly evolve into homo sapien awakening. I’ve wondered why the collective repeatedly chooses the cultural coma over all else. I’ve wondered if our inertia is impenetrable because we refuse to talk about it. I’ve wondered if we refuse to talk about it because we’re too busy pretending that everything will be ok—pretending that we have hope.
But what is hope? A desperate wish for a future that looks better than the past or the present?
As Derrick Jensen writes in Endgame, “We’ve all been taught that hope in some better future condition—like hope in some better future heaven—is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. Hope serves the needs of those in power as surely as a belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular version of the same old heaven/nirvana mindfuck.”
For those who cling to the hope of some epic awakening, spontaneous consciousness shift or utopian new world (been there, done that, drank the Kool-Aid), or for those still living in denial that it can’t possibly be that bad, my question is this: What is it that you’re really hanging on to?
Let’s get real here, how many people do you know (yourself included) who endure unbearable relationships, jobs, or situations because of the hope that things will change? How many people know deep down how screwed we are but refuse to talk about it because they hope things will miraculously improve? Hope binds us to intolerable situations and blinds us from truth. Hope has us believe that things are getting better, but they’re not. They’re getting much, much worse.
Hope comes from a place of fear. It blurs our vision and binds us to delusion and magical thinking.
Hope gives us permission to drag our feet with baby steps that feed the illusion of “better”, (i.e. free-range, grass-fed, cage-free, organic, all-natural, green, humane, sustainable, blah, blah blah), but feel good labels warp the mind and fertilize hopium, yet they do nothing to heal the Earth. Hope blinds us with a fantasy of change, but in reality, it‘s no more than a distorted perception of the same old, same old.
Hope traps us in our deeply conditioned sense of entitlement. We may take action to save the Earth and hope all will be well, but damn, don’t take away our bacon, burgers, fish, chickens, turkey, cheese, eggs, etc. or we get mean and ugly.
Let’s be honest: any species that enslaves (domesticates), commoditizes, tortures, and slaughters sentient beings by the billions (and trillions including aquatic life) every single year—from the micro backyard farm to the macro factory farm—is delusional to believe that it has the ability to save itself from its own demise; is delusional to believe that it can infinitely operate outside of the web of life; is delusional to believe that it has the capacity to pull off a miracle well past the 11th hour.
As long as we hope our way to a better world and still feel entitled to take life—directly or indirectly—we will always be trapped in the purgatory of separation.
What we need right now is a quantum leap in consciousness. Hope will never get us there.
From Endgame by Derrick Jensen, “Hope is partly what keeps us chained to the system. Firstly there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or the second coming of Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes—all of this rendering of our power—leads to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness.”
When I look back on hope in my own life, I see how it held me captive to denial. Yes folks, hope is denial in drag.
Hope trapped me in a low grade state of inertia that I wasn’t aware of until I let it go. It pushed me just out of reach of the present moment so that I didn’t feel the severity of it all. Yes, it motivated my personal actions and impassioned activism (or so I thought), but would my actions and activism have been more effective if I were present rather than looking toward an illusory future?
An amazing thing happens when you let go of hope, which is you realize that you never needed it in the first place. You realize the burden it has always been.
When we stop hoping for external assistance, or that the catastrophic situation we’re in will somehow rectify itself, or that things will not get worse, that’s when we liberate ourselves to really start doing something about it—even if it’s too late. When hope dies, presence springs to life and real, meaningful action finally begins.
By liberating myself from hope, I stopped lying to myself and reclaimed so much more of my soul. As a result, I’ve connected to the deepest authenticity of my unadulterated presence.
You may be asking, “What if everything she writes about is wrong?” To which I respond, “What if everything I write about is right? What if humanity does have a finite number of days on planet Earth? What does that mean for you as an individual? How does that influence how you live your life? Are you happy as a corporate or government drone in an office surrounded by computers, fluorescent lights and recycled air while pushing empty words and digits around? Is that your version of a meaningful way to live?”
What if we stopped living in hope and instead lived from the acceptance of what is, despite how gloomy it may seem to be?
I admit that I remain open to quantum leaps, spontaneous awakenings, consciousness shifts, the 100th monkey effect, the more beautiful world my heart once believed was possible, the second coming of Jesus, and miracles. But I no longer hope, wish, dream or otherwise attach myself to these long-shot outcomes.
The reality is that the present moment is all we have. The more present we can be with what is transpiring right now, the more authentic, engaged and loving we are. If we believe in a false future, we’re living a fantasy, and fantasyland doesn’t inspire action. Hope is a fantasy that prevents us from feeling the pain of our reality.
Hope feeds inertia. Presence inspires action.
You may be asking, “Why bother with action in a world that’s going to hell in a hand basket anyways?” As Guy McPherson says, “If you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, then do. Do something. Action is always the antidote to despair, even if it’s too late, especially if it’s too late. Let’s act as if moments matter, not in a hedonistic fashion, but in a meaningful way that connects us deeply to the planet.”
I can hear it now, “But Deb, if there is no hope, what is there to live for?” And I reply, “Presence. Live fully for the present moment.” This is when we come fully alive!
It’s ok to not be brimming with hope. It’s ok to not be optimistic. Many ancient teachings tell us that the ongoing maintenance of hope will burn us out. When we hope, it’s not enough. But when we’re present, it’s more than enough. In our presence, we’re activated. We show up in ways that allow us to discover ever more capacity to love this world. The biggest gift we can offer the world is our full on, activated presence.
Read Part 3: Activated Presence in Times of Planetary Hospice.