Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. This Christmas carol is a Christian interpretation of the far older import of the darkest time of the year, the winter solstice. I don’t intend to dishonor this Christian holiday, but to put it into the natural context in which it was placed. It is a time of endings and beginnings. For Christians, the end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new with the birth of the Messiah. I’m sure that most Christians appreciate, as well, the broader context of the Earthly rhythm of the seasons and the promise of light and new growth. For many of us, it is a mysterious and deeply spiritual time.
This is especially poignant for us this year as we appear to be at not merely a yearly turning point but an epochal one with implications of cycles lasting hundreds of years, thousands of years, and even millions of years. In keeping with the extraordinary confluence of epochal transitions, it is also an exceptionally dark time.
Political and economic cycles with frequencies of hundreds of years are ending and possibly giving birth to a new era of real political and economic democracy, respect for all life, the end of patriarchal capitalism and the rise of equality, opportunity, and cooperation.
Cultural paradigms going back tens of thousands of years, i.e., agriculture, cities, hierarchical structures based on force whether it be monarchies, priesthoods or patriarchy leading to the modern nation-state might be overturned for more enlightened, sustainable, and egalitarian structures.
On the scale of millions of years, there is a recognition that we are seriously out of tune with the symphony of life that we so lately joined as a species. We have the choice of destroying our life system, slowly evolved over those millions of years, or instituting a new era where human awareness and consciousness could orchestrate the creation of the most abundant synthesis of life energy ever seen in that time span. It is much bigger than humanity yet something that only we, the species that can plan and implement plans, can create or deny. In our immaturity, we used this trait to create the deathtrap we have today, but we have the opportunity to turn that around due to the miraculous healing power of nature. It is not to say that nature can’t heal itself without our aid. I believe nature will eventually rebound from even the worst we can do to it, but we humans might be another failed experiment to be discovered as fossils in the future should another species like ours evolve.
Believe it or not, all of this is focused here and now, and we who are blessed with being alive at this time can be a part of it! I still feel that the pandemic is a cosmic slap upside the head to focus our attention on this moment. If we were in business as usual, we would be distracted by the shiny ornaments of our consumer culture. Such is the power of our distraction that, if we manage to defeat this virus in a year or two, we may just return to the way we were, anyway—messing our nest, driving gas guzzlers, flying everywhere on a whim, making war for profit, competing instead of cooperating, not minding the quality and provenance of our food, and on and on.
Let’s face it. We have polluted and overrun practically every square inch of this planet. We have used and depleted its resources as if they were infinite and they were all ours for the taking. We have relentlessly been battling each other to be the sole owners of what’s left and could easily extinguish ourselves fighting over it.
Instead of fighting over what’s left, we can decide to turn over a new leaf, imagine and create a new world. This pandemic has shown us that we really can do with a lot less moving about, a lot less stuff. When we rebound after this pandemic is over, let’s think about how little we can be happy with rather than simply going for more. Just being able to congregate with friends in public spaces is going to be such a boon, maybe we can do with a few less trips to exotic places. It means many of us will have to transition to new work, and it is the responsibility of all of us to see that all are taken care of while we reorient our economy and our way of life. There is plenty of work for all to do to heal the planet and take care of each other. To pass up this opportunity would be a real tragedy.
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