The shock of being blindsided by the sudden death of my soul companion Emma occurred exactly one week ago, almost to the hour. I have blogged more than I expected, but always about that, the sudden mortal blow to her body, and how the shock impacted me. While there may be readers who feel that I got sidetracked, derailed from my exopermacultural purpose, to me, what I did was dip, in the tiniest of ways, into the deep well of collective grieving that lies just beneath the surface of everything we so frantically “do” (including the daily work of this blog, to “surf” the internet and somehow (how??!?) pluck from an endless roiling, turbulent river of instantly dissolving, multidimensional ephemera — that which might highlight and lend perspective).
That so many responded so emotionally to the death of a little white dog whom they had never met is, I feel, indicative of just how close our tears are to the surface. And they are tears, not just for one thing or another, but for the whole, for all of us, for the deep disturbance that we have unknowingly introduced into the ever-renewing living and dying cycle of abundance on this beautiful earth. I excerpt here from a piece that I find unusually perceptive:
While the scale of the existential threat to human and wider ecosystem well-being is extremely well documented across the spectrum of the physical sciences, what is perhaps most astonishing is the degree to which human societies and the wider global community have failed – or simply proved unable – to respond. The problems, while vast, are potentially fixable. But as the clock ticks towards midnight, we’ve given up even the meaningful pretence of trying. Why?
Tempting though it is to lay the blame at the door of energy industry propaganda, the cynical and corporatised media and marketers or the malign influence of right wing economists on careerist politicians, the answer also appears to lie deep within human psychology. As a species, we have rarely faced a collective crisis of this magnitude, and our ancient (so-called reptilian) brains have proven ill-equipped to respond to a slow-moving disaster. We are hard-wired only to react to immediate threats via the ‘fight-or-flight’ endocrinal reflex. Evolution also makes us prone to heavily ‘discount’ future costs against even modest present gains. It is extremely difficult for most humans (or our media) to stay focused for long periods on threats that appear abstract, distant, or are complex and multi-dimensional.
“Awakening to the prospect of climate disruption compels us to abandon most of the comfortable beliefs that have sustained our sense of the world as a stable place”, argues public ethicist, Clive Hamilton. The foundation beliefs of modernity are on the line. “When we recognise that our dreams of the future are built on sand, the natural human response is to despair”.
In the current circumstances, Professor Hamilton argues that clinging to hopefulness is just another form of denial. “We must allow ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness; in short, to grieve”. That grief is for the loss of the future. The destruction of what is known as our ontological security – the mental stability derived from our belief that there is order and continuity in our lives – is deeply traumatic. “At present, the early mourners feel lonely and isolated, sometimes keeping their thoughts to themselves for fear of alienating those around them with their anxieties and pessimism”. It is, he suggests, like having just learned from the doctors that there is no hope for recovery of a sick child, while your relatives crowd around reassuring you the child will be just fine.
The three stages he suggests we as individuals must pass through are: i) Despair; ii) Accept; iii) Act. Sugar-coating the scale and sheer intractability of the climate and ecological crisis to anything other than radical measures (a route favoured by many environmentalists) has manifestly failed. The roots of denialism run too deep, the crisis is too pressing, the vested interests too powerful and the time remaining in which our actions can have effect too short.
A.K. : Here’s how I decided to begin again, here’s the action I took in the face of grief: I photographed and then wrote a piece for the Green Acres Neighborhood Garden blog about how the GANG garden is growing.
How beautifully do plants, in reaching for the sun, condense light into endlessly recycling material forms that replenish our bodies, and, if we are attuned to subtle harmonies, our souls as well!
Here’s one of the photos from this cool, grey morning’s shoot and blogpost. It’s fun and the final part shows me at my most ignorant . . .