Change... and Hope
About a 6 minute read | 25th May, 2022
Sometimes change asks more of us than we have to give, and we break. Sometimes (hopefully more often than not, but it's not a given) we recover.
Whether we recover or not, there is no going back to what we were before the change. In this sense, change is an initiatory process -- it transforms us, forever, into something different than we were before.
This post shares why I feel that this is the degree of change that's upon us collectively, now, and why I feel hopeful even in the midst of all that's happening around the world.
It's been a few weeks and no new post, so I thought I'd share a bit about what I’m working on and some things that are on my mind.
First, a cheerful (not) summary of some of what's in the headlines, as well as some stuff that's conspicuous by its absence from the headlines...
- Extreme control measures and normalization of mass surveillance going largely unchallenged, justified by covid.
- Media censorship and digital manipulation of information.
- Deepening political divisions, on the surface, while behind closed doors the interests that fund the major political parties all want the same things and will use the most convenient major party to get them.
- Periodically empty supermarket shelves and skyrocketing food and fuel prices.
- War. Fires and floods. A never ending river of displaced people seeking a decent life or just seeking to stay alive.
- And the obvious failure of governments to address any of it.
Sobering, to say the least.
What’s going to happen next?
I've recently published a re-write of an essay called "What's Going to Happen Next" has now been published. In it, I ask what I think are two key questions:
- Are we willing to give up our personal autonomy—our most fundamental freedom—for the sake of collective control?
- If so, why?
One reason is because we hope that better collective control will get us back to normal.
It won’t, if by “normal” you mean “pre-covid.” That normal is gone for ever.
Which is a realization that's both unsettling but also hopeful. “Normal” was moving us further along the trajectory that humanity has been on for centuries. Its a trajectory that has led to repeated and accumulating disasters like the ones I listed above.
Seeing the trajectory we're on is one thing; the hard part is how do we get off that trajectory?
I believe there is a way. In the latter part of "What's Going to Happen Next?" I explore how we might get off that trajectory and onto one that leads toward a more socially and ecologically just world, and why I think the two questions I mentioned hold big keys to help us do that.
I'm feeling an increased sense of urgency
Following are some of bits and pieces I've come across recently that give me reason to believe that "normal" is crumbling. One way or another, they basically say that if we haven't started preparing for a very different world yet, now would be a good time.
I know. People have been saying that for 50 years, give or take. And maybe it's because I’m in the throes of my midlife transition that the message suddenly seems to cut through the noise and become urgent for me.
Be that as it may, here’s some of what I’m referring to.
Remember Peak Oil? It seemed to go away, didn't it? Like all the other doomsday predictions, it just seemed to die a quiet death...
Or maybe not. One piece I read recently referred to the reality that the energy alternatives on the table, besides their other short comings1, simply don't produce enough NET energy (after accounting for the energy it takes to build and run them) to replace fossil fuels at the rate we’re using them.
I know that's not news to you, but here’s what I don’t know, without chatting with you personally: are you still holding onto hope that alternative energy sources will enable us to keep living the way we have been, just with less emissions?
Are you campaigning to support political parties who say they will replace dirty energy with clean energy?
I did too. But I don't any more.
It’s now apparent to me that there is simply no way for us modern people to keep consuming energy at the rate we have been, regardless of its source. Anybody who tells you different... well, just check what they stand to gain by us ignoring this issue and continuing to consume as usual. The trail invariably leads back to an inability to decouple from the growth economy.
Another piece I read recently pointed out that the global food system is in much more trouble than we think.
I imagine that many families are in a similar position to our family: we know it’s a good idea to grow some of our own food and we’re dabbling in it, but that's all we’re doing.
Lately I’m feeling increasing urgency to do more than dabble – which, of course, is constantly offset by the convenience that the supermarket shelves are still providing.
Imagine if the shelves were suddenly empty – and weeks went by and they didn't refill. Don’t do this in the middle of the night to scare the crap out of yourself. Do it in the light of day, with a pen and paper in front of you. After you’ve pictured those empty shelves, brainstorm what you can do, NOW, to mitigate the effect on your family.
We’ve been seeing what’s happening with the price on the fuel pump and at the supermarket check-out. But we’re human, we’ve got a lot on our minds, and most of us (me included) are still assuming on some level that this is just a temporary blip.
Most of us (me included) aren’t zoomed out enough to be able to see beyond that assumption. In case you're interested, here's a very zoomed out summation of “… peak oil, ...climate change, … the slow twilight of America’s global empire ... and the vaster twilight of Western civilization as a whole.”
You could read that, or you could close your device, get out a pen and paper, and start brainstorming.
Moving goal posts
Australian readers will know that the Australian Federal Election took place over the weekend. To quote one headline, Australians "didn't simply move the goal posts -- they dragged them off the paddock."
Another headline pointed out that Australia's new Parliament will be "the most diverse yet." I don't know about you, but I feel deeply encouraged to see women of color finally beginning to be heard. There's a long way to go, but this is a start.
Usually I'm about the most uninformed person you could possibly speak to when it comes to politics, but this time I paid a bit more attention. For me the election results were unsurprising and encouraging: it feels to me as if change is in the air on every front.
When change becomes initiatory
Change is always disruptive to some degree. Sometimes it's also tragic, overwhelming, impossible to cope with. Sometimes change asks more of us than we have to give, and we break apart under the pressure. When that happens, the change has become an initiation.
Sometimes (hopefully often, but it's not a given) we recover from breaking. We put our lives and our Selves back together, or perhaps more accurately we are put back together.
But here's the thing: when this level of change occurs there is no going back to what we were before the change. This is what makes it an initiation: it transforms us, forever, into something different than we were before.
Mythologist Micheal Meade teaches that initiation has three stages. My understanding is that the three stages of an initiation go something like this:
- separation from our normal lives and a plunge into the unknown,
- an ordeal or brush with death and chaos,
- renewal and welcome back into the community.
The ordeal, the middle stage, is a transition, a portal or threshold, between one state of being and another.
Initiations are not for the purpose of self-improvement; we have books and audios for that.
The purpose of an initiation is much bigger. Its function is to break us apart and then re-assemble us in a new state of being.
We emerge from a successful initiation in a whole different state of psychic, spiritual, emotional maturity. We become adults who are now built to care for the World, rather than juveniles expecting the World to care for us.
And therein lies my sense of hope. According to Dr Zach Bush, humanity has created for itself an entire species-level initiatory process. If we survive it and cross the threshold to the other side of it, we will emerge as adults who can serve and care for our World .
Let us hope that this turns out to truly be the end of "normal," and a threshold leading to something utterly different.
Please leave a comment...
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Hopeful? Numb? Raw? Worried? Or something else entirely? Please share, below the Endnotes and Related Reading.
- I wanted to link to a straight forward piece on "why large scale renewable energy projects are nearly as damaging as fossil fuels, sometimes more so," but I couldn't find one. I'm possibly the least qualified person to write this, but since no-one else has, I'll stick my neck out: the resources used and the further destruction caused to ecosystems and communities by massive scale "clean energy" projects sometimes make them counter-productive. Even more dangerously, they give us a false sense of security, that we can keep consuming as usual and "the green energy sector" will take care of it. This is another way of keeping the economy growing, keeping up with progress, and speeding us toward a cliff face. The book Climate -- A New Story explains all this and much more. Also available for free online, here.