I have been reading the essays of Charles Eisenstein, author of several books, including, Sacred Economy. He is a wonderfully wholistic thinker and puts hot-button issues such as climate crisis into a deeper perspective – Separation of humanity, as individuals and as a whole, from the environment and from the Earth.
Demands for change don’t work because the people we are demanding make some change (we’re not sure what) are powerless to make true change. The new world for which we are longing will not come from any political or economic tweaking or reformation. Every proposal, every demand, seems to remain based on current paradigms of money, materialism, and the nature of humanity as still somehow separate and able to effectively act on the ecosystems outside of ourselves without creating even more disaster.
At the risk of setting off my “new-age bullshit detector,” I continue to conclude that the most important work facing us during these times is the work of personal transformation. The Earth is alive, not just the host of life. We are organs of that living being, as are all species, minerals, waters, and other forms. Only by learning to live from a perspective of being a literal “part of” this greater organism, will we take our role of helping to heal and renew this life.
While listening to a meditative drumbeat last night, I imagined myself walking barefoot into the back field under the stars. Since I was imagining, I could allow myself to walk in comfort. At the far corner of the property I saw a coyote standing looking back at me. I wondered, “does this coyote have something to say to me?”
I took a few steps closer until I was about 100 yards from the animal. At this point I saw several other coyotes, including two tiny cubs, standing motionless on the other side of the fence. “Do you want me to do something?” I asked inside my head, “or know something?”
“Hunt with us,” came the thought. The pack took off running across the adjacent field after a hare. I took off running, leapt the fence with ease, and ran with them until they chased down the hare. I didn’t want to kill the hare, but I was part of this pack in my mind so I just watched. The alpha female took the large hare in her mouth and we all went back over the fence and sat down among the Sister Pines on our property.
One of the group brought a piece of hare meat over to me. I held it, then offered it to the two little cubs, who delightedly took off on a vigorous tug-of-war. One of the males lay down next to where I was sitting. The alpha female stood off a ways and looked at me. Another male paced slowly around the area where the group was sitting with me. I understood that he was on, “guard duty.” At that moment a communication from the alpha female came into my mind, “We are the guardians of this land, and have been for generation after generation. You hunted with us and now are part of us and are charged with the same responsibility. Do you understand?”
Her eyes glowed red in the starlight and I shivered under her gaze. “Yes,” I said, “I understand.”
She came slowly over to me and it was all I could do not to shrink back or jump and run. She put her muzzle up against my neck and ran her rough tongue against my skin. Then she sat down and said, “Good.”
The imaginary vision faded as the drumming stopped.
We must redefine the catchword, “sustainability.” It has come to mean, “sustaining our lifestyle as close as possible to being as we know it without too much disruption, by kinder gentler methods of extracting the Earth’s resources.” The cause of the crisis we face is… everything. The solution must be everything. Everything we thought we knew must change. We must relate to everything in a wholly transformed manner – grass, insects, forests, streams, mountains, and each other. Nothing short of this will do.
Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, says in an essay on his website:
Any act of healing, however small, is a prayer, a declaration of how the world shall be. Can we connect with our love for this hurting, living planet, and channel that love through our hands and minds, our technology and our arts, as we ask, How shall we best participate in the healing and the dreaming of Earth?
To be separate, not to be held by community, is to feel a tremendous insecurity. If we are, at heart, insecure, we will naturally seek control, wealth, power, and dominance to assuage this terrible feeling. We will deliberately ignore whatever damage this seeking may do, because we so desperately need some feeling, some illusion of control and safety. Our dominate culture encourages this feeling of separateness because it is a fertile ground for the endless consumption of goods and services that keep the debt economy rolling along.
The danger of the current environmental movement, even the understandable anguish and anger over the climate crisis, is that the focus tends to remain outward – blaming and shaming “them” for their awful policies and actions. We fail to see that our own beliefs in insecurity and separateness fuel the crisis even as we protest. Our imagined solutions almost all try to keep our industrial machine running along but with substitute, perhaps less damaging energy sources. No one seems to understand that it is not just a “climate crisis.” It is a crisis of understanding, an global ecological crisis that emerges from the millennia of telling ourselves the story that we are separate, that we stand apart for the life of Earth and must dominate and control it or we will not be safe. Without a new story, a new understanding of who we are and what the Earth really is, no real change will ever occur.
Human development proceeds from the pre-ego state of “undifferentiated unity,” to the ego state of separation, and then to the reunification and the “differentiated unity,” state. So the development of the human species has reached the very limits, even gone past the limits, of differentiation. Perhaps this has been as necessary as is the development of the “separate” ego-illusion of the individual. Perhaps it is only through this over-extension of separateness and control needs that we could come to the next stage of our development. Maybe we need to see the chasm looming a few yards ahead before we will have the courage and the willingness to see what we have been overlooking in our nature. – that we remain a part of the greater Whole and that is this reality wherein the security and belonging we have been seeking actually resides.
Guided by the existential fear that accompanies our feeling of being a skin-enclosed stranger in a strange land, we have sought to conquer that strange land. By all of our efforts toward subduing the wild and unpredictable world of nature, we have tried to bring this impassive and impersonal external world under our control. But every victory in one area has been accompanied by and unseen and unexpected loss in another. Life is becoming imperiled on every front. We are like the man who wanted to walk to the horizon, but was unable to make enough progress, then decided to run. We are exhausted because we have been living according to an illusion. Our only hope is to give up that illusion and see if we might discover a human identity that has been forgotten in our fear.
At the risk of being insensitive I am flabbergasted at the coronavirus panic. This virus, which sickens many and kills some, is causing a major shutdown of “normal” life. Government agencies are making pronouncements, shutting down events, declaring emergencies, creating special task forces…
In the meantime we continue to kill tens of thousands of people in wars and on the highways. Our rapacious fear is literally destroying the Earth, making it uninhabitable for millions. Deforestation, global warming, and species extinction has passed the turning point of a shutdown of a living environment. And we. do. nothing. except. deny.
What am I missing?