It is now Thanksgiving time, and I usually have written something about the importance of maintaining a feeling of gratitude for all the good things in our life and all the bad things that aren’t. Or course, none of us scores 100% on the all good/no bad spectrum, but we can value all that we do have, or at least imagine that “it could be worse.” The idea is that we want to concentrate on the fullness of the glass rather than the emptiness.
I don’t want to throw a wet towel on your Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy it completely and leave your struggles for another day. For most of us, frequent days of thanksgiving and celebration are vital to recharge our batteries so we can address the empty part of our glass. Some of that emptiness we have to accept with as much equanimity as we can, and some of it we have to resolve to change.
In a time of multiple crises, or maybe one mega-crisis, an attitude of optimism can keep us centered and in the game. However, unbounded optimism, pollyannaism, can lead us into complacency and that is a dangerous place to be in a crisis. Shock seems to be a state that nature has provided us to calm our fears when we are about to die, but is of little value if we plan to make a go of it. I remember being in this state myself after a car accident. I came within inches of getting my head knocked off, but amazingly came out of it unscathed. I got out of my car and was absent-mindedly picking glass shards out of my hair as I noticed that I was feeling very calm and at peace. If I give thanks for anything, it would be the many cheap lessons I have gotten past without having to pay the ultimate price.
Recently, Michael Meade pointed out that a crisis is a situation that precipitates change. Part of Michael’s hopeful message is that there is no bad result in the long run. As everything dies, it will be reborn. The particular ability of humanity is to see into the future and slant it in our favor. The success of that response depends on who we are planning for. If we are planning just for humans as we usually do, we will arrive at the degraded and unstable world we have now. If we plan for the big “we,” the Earth as a whole, we can create abundance. The important thing to remember, I think, is that our crisis is telling us that it is time for us to reinvent ourselves—not a time to continue doing things the way we have been.
These are the things that the crisis is telling a lot of us:
• Our practice of trying to control and change nature for our own purposes is doomed to failure. We are part of and subordinate to nature, not the other way around. Nature is billions of years old and our attempts to redirect it are like the sorcerer’s apprentice creating disastrous unforeseen consequences by utilizing power that he doesn’t fully understand.
• All the elements of our Earth ecosystem, from the smallest to the largest, evolved together and are equally important. We are all utterly interdependent.
• Although there are elements of competitiveness, the overall characteristic of nature is cooperation. Everything we need is offered for free: oxygen, water, warmth, food, and shelter if we only acknowledge, respect, and cooperate with natural processes.
• Nature is amazingly resilient. As bad as we have degraded it, we are finding that it will bounce back much more rapidly than we imagined when we understand and nurture it. Our most recent discovery that we can regenerate soil that will feed us, provide habitat for all, cool the planet, and sequester the atmospheric carbon that is threatening all life is almost miraculous and tremendously promising for our future! (Not to say that we can neglect the importance of ending fossil fuel use.)
Those are things to be thankful for.
There are a couple things you can do right now to get yourself started in the new paradigm. Nov 29, Black Friday, is the day when you are expected to join the feverish crowds in big stores fighting over a limited supply of products that you are supposed to want. Instead, celebrate that day as Buy Nothing Friday. Commune with your fellow beings in the woods or on the beach, play with friends and kids, make love, make music, make something beautiful and/or useful and/or scrumptious, putter in the garden, read a good book, take a nap. I know it is a big sacrifice to pass up vying for goods in the unruly mob, but consider it a first step towards healing the planet. As a consolation, the next day, Nov. 30 is Buy Local Day, and it just so happens that the farmer’s market will be happening at the VCA. How convenient! Remember. The future can be wonderful; we only need to see ourselves as part of nature’s story to make it so.