Distracted?

Or Terrified Beyond Words?

I feel good about what I wrote in the first six posts of this year.

And then I stopped.

I feel good about that, too.
My emotional life, my intellectual understanding, are part of a larger flow of many, many things, including Quaker memorial services and weddings, and earning a living.

I do not feel I am called to a linear predictability and progress.
am called to a larger pattern.

Here’s a poem I wrote almost 30 years ago that I “just happened” to find today.

~

Why do I speak of Gaia?

Who can say?
One reason:

Intent.
Hers,
And mine,
If I will give myself to it.
But I am frightened.

George Lock Land
Called it “information fit.”
That’s easier to bear
For an agnostic-born.

Teilhard
Had his church, his Christ.
He grew up
Knowing
He was floating on the bosom of Love
So it was easier for him.

I am terrified.
It’s like being eaten
To know
The strands of my life
Those woven, and those still loose,
Are oriented
In ways beyond my ken.

And yet
In 1976
When I fell
Despairing
From the web
Of my life’s weaving
I fell
With a sense of rightness
A sense of orientation.

In the darkness
Of my personal confusion
I felt clearly,
eerily,
The coördinates of a larger grid.
I knew
This darkness
Is held
Within
Something larger
Than I knew.

Yikes.

Spooked
For years
And yet,

Even as I wove
Anew,
Afraid,
I felt
Embraced
By Knowing
Ever more deeply
of a larger grid.

Of intent?

I choose
Within a context
Too dynamic to be called a grid.

I choose,
And feel
A response,
Subtly woven
Into the consequences.
I am led
I am brought up short
I learn
What I already knew
I know

Within the Tao

R.O.F. 10/14/1983

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Synchronicity, Serendipity, Epiphany & Apophenia

I started my March 30 post with the familiar ironic trope, “just a coincidence…”

There, the reader could believe that I think it is more than a coincidence, while not needing to take a position herself. Now I want to address some of the embedded issues more directly. And have some word-play.

In my early March posts I maintained that going into my fear was important for me to do. I suggested it might be important for some (but not all) of you to do that as well. I claimed a good bath in one’s fear would likely lead to more freedom and flexibility afterwards. I said

Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

But my ironic use of the word “coincidence” suggests that I believe if we are willing to enter the darkness of our un-admitted fears, something bigger than just personal empowerment might be accessed.

Others might say my discovery of Stephen Jenkinson’s OrphanWisdom website was “serendipitous.” “Serendipity” means “a fortunate set of circumstances. An unplanned-for lucky event.” We’re talking “chance” here, “coincidence.” Good luck, without any greater significance than that.

Where others might say “Serendipitous,” I’ll say “an example of synchronicity.”
Speaking of the inventor of the word, Wikipedia says

Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order…

I, too, am transfixed by this idea. It is the foundation of this website, and I press this idea upon you, my readers, as we face The Great Disruption that Paul Gilding sees ahead.

A deeper order…

Yes! Traditional cultures the world over have recognized this. Unfortunately, Industrial Civilization has lost track of this aspect of reality. My message is that, as we enter fully into the Great Disruption, we can look to the deeper order for guidance. Meditation, Experiment with Light, the I Ching, Quaker meetings for worship, these are ways I have found to be in touch with, and receive guidance from, a deeper order of things. I know many people who have found other ways, as well. Flammarion captionThe experience of “epiphany” is well documented. Suddenly an ongoing mystery or confusion is illuminated and one’s understanding is enlarged. “Was blind but now I see…” I believe we can expect and rely on this guidance.*

We need to talk about this.
If there is a deeper order
–call it “God’s will,” whatever– then surely we need to attend to it as we remake our culture.

But is this idea of a deeper order a wishful fantasy? Can we only hope for serendipity but not trust in synchronicity? Skeptics, those who see randomness in evolution and in all aspects of human life, say the experience of meaningful connection is a trick of the human imagination. Where I say “epiphany,” they say “apophenia,” the experience of meaningful connection where none exists.

I want to take this argument seriously, rather than dismissing it. I think they have a point. I personally have put myself in a frame of mind where I could see faces and figures in the shapes of clouds. And I have pointed them out to friends who could see what I was referring to. I personally have had encounters with paranoia, especially in others, where Fred (say) felt a haunting sense danger, saw evil intent in every whispered remark. Fred has a clear experience of meaning. It is obvious to me that much of Fred’s experience is not related to any reality he and I share. OK, in my life, I have a clear experience of meaning. How can I trust my sense any more than I trust Fred’s? And to make it murkier, there are many examples of a gray area of artistic genius and mental instability.

* The suicide cult phenomenon
* groups with such a strong sense of shared meaning that they gather at a specified time to await the rapture
* beliefs that cataclysmic events would occur around 21 December 2012

How can I dismiss these examples of our apophenia and still take seriously “guidance” that comes to me or others?
If I believe in an invisible world underlying the material world, and
I believe it is possible to receive guidance from invisible influences,
how do I think we can distinguish between these numinous meanings, these leadings, and paranoid fantasies?
“Humility,” for starters.
And testing one’s leadings in the context of the group.

Friends, we do need to guard against creating “castles in the air.”
We need to guard against the powerful human tendency to create meanings disconnected from the larger realities of our biosphere. But isn’t that what we’ve got right now, in this endgame of industrial civilization? A shared construction of “reality” which is profoundly disconnected from the larger truths on which our lives are built?

This will not be easy, friends, but I offer to you, as an article of faith: we are individual expressions of a divine reality. If, in community and humility, we resolve to create a human world more in harmony with our overall Gaian reality than our current one is, it can be done.

——————

* Patrick Curry has written a written a book on divination, his word for seeking and receiving guidance. It’s beyond my reach for a couple of reasons, but some pages of it lie behind the “preview”  button at: Divination: Perspectives for a New Millennium

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Stephen Jenkinson on Our Dying Culture, pt. 2 & 3

Paul GildingSo this is my journey, at this point.

Paul Gilding has inspired me not to feel marginalized. Not to slink around as if I was carrying a bunch of crazy ideas, rather than having a partial grasp of what will soon be obvious to most of us. Paul is concerned about the planetary ecosystem, but is focused on the global economy as being the most vulnerable part of that system. The part that, when it breaks, will move us out of our torpor and onto a “wartime footing.”

Stephen Jenkinson also cares about the global environment, but he is focused on the daily culture of our lives, and inspires me to refocus on that myself. Stephen-Jenkinson-450x249
We agree Industrial Civilization has gotten us into crazy situation. I believe that is partially because
when Science talked mainstream culture out of believing in heaven and hell,

it offered us no emotionally-satisfying mythic story,
leaving us, as a culture, terrified of death.

The overall mission of my website, my overall message, is to offer our emerging culture an emotionally-reassuring vision of our place in the larger scheme of things. I need this, and am gratified to have it. It helps me to accept my approaching death, and the death of Industrial Civilization. Like Stephen, I believe that community is the basic unit of human life, not the individual. Alone or separated we are undernourished and inadequate. Working with those we know well –whether we actually like them or not– our lives have meaning and we can love life, even in challenging circumstances.

In my previous post I presented some of Stephen Jenkinson’s thinking in his own voice. That may have been enough for you, dear reader, in which case you can skip over listening to the final two segments. They add richness, but you already have the flavor.

Part 2 of my edit of Stephen Jenkinson’s interview, focusing on our response to our dying culture. Nine minutes.

  • Parenting from beyond the grave [as a model for living during cultural breakdown] a challenge to live into and accept the pain of our situation. To really understand what we had and what we are losing.
    • Asking that your kids pay close attention to what is happening
  • Practicing the skill of being human
  • The Irish potato famine as an example of a dying culture
  • “Learning” the dying of a failed culture
  • Accepting your too-short life and making the most of it, not trying to “preserve”
  • What could bring our full humanity to the surface for more than just a few of us?
    • Stephen’s answer: a rite of passage into adulthood at puberty
  • The sad consequences of not getting a clear end to childhood

Jenkinson Pt 2 

Part 3 of my edit. Eleven minutes

  • Here’s a frame of mind to hold for the times ahead:
    • I am here because I am needed to help the culture die well. That’s the redemptive vision.
  • Not having children in these times.
  • Human beings should be in the business of making culture
  • Everything that dies is life-giving
  • A new culture can only grow out of the decomposed elements of the old
  • Being an elder, learning to be an elder
    • Not retiring to “safe” communities
  • What does it take to fall in love with being alive
    • Once you realize your life isn’t going to last…then you have the chance…
    • Italian weddings and Irish funerals
    • The twins of sadness and loving-being-alive
  • Grief is a learned thing [we need to learn it well]
  • We just might be fine.

 Jenkinson Pt 3

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Feeling Fear Frees Me, Opens Me Up

Just a coincidence, right, that as I opened myself to the flow of my fear a new friend happened to mention the website OrphanWisdom.com?

Stephen Jenkinson has a profound critique of our culture and a vision for some of the elements a “sane” culture needs to have. This Canadian “white guy” worked for years in “the death trade” in hospitals with repeated experiences of how crazy our culture is about dying. He has also gained much from Native American traditions. He brings these learnings into a way of teaching based on his “redemptive vision.”

I am moved, thrilled. Stephen is talking about culture, the big picture stuff. Stephen-Jenkinson-Photo-by-Ian-Mackenzie-450x299He thinks he can see where we need to go! He has focused his life on restoring “village culture,” which holds living and dying in a wholesome way, in the bosoms of all concerned.

His style is not my style. I may never learn to tan hides. Still, he refreshes my faith that we CAN find a way through our current mess, learning some crucial lessons about humanity in the process. And he inspires me with his grasp of the fundamentals of human existence. Him being right or wrong is not the point. His work is a wonderful example of looking fear in the eye, feeling the rush of adrenalin, and working toward the good of the whole as it may manifest in new times. And I know in my very soul that he is on to some really important stuff.

Naturally, I am particularly interested to hear what he has to say about The Great Disruption of Industrial Civilization. On the website I found an interview with a couple of younger guys from The “ExtraEnvironmentalist.com.” The interview is over two hours long and covers much of what Stephen is thinking about. I have excerpted his statements  about our planetary situation, which he summarizes as “our culture is dying.” This first segment is 11 minutes long. The first three minutes are context, his work with the dying, his manner and his relation to the interviewers. Then,

  • “If the culture is dying, then what is asked of you?
  • “…your responsibility is to learn things you never wanted to know anything about.
  • “…it’s not a great achievement to be fearful in fearful times.
  • “…you’ve got to ask more of yourself than the circumstances would ask of you…
  • “[not]…start thinking about #1…I’m not gonna do it…
  • ” The sanest response is to make as much humanity as you can, while you are still able…
  • “The death of the culture doesn’t coincide with your personal death…

Stephen Jenkinson Interview, excerpt 1

I recommend this segment as an adequate introduction to what I find important in Stephen’s message at this point. If you have time and interest for more, the next post has it.

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The Scream

Paul Gilding breaks our Great Disruption into three stages. The first he names The Scream, partly because of the shrill tone sounded by environmentalists and whole-planet-systems theorists, and partly in honor of Edvard Munch’s portrait,  Der Schrei der Natur (The ScreamThe_Scream of Nature).

Paul places the beginning of THE SCREAM period in the late 1950s, solidified by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, in 1962. It runs through today, and will end with THE CRASH, which Paul expects to arrive shortly.

I found myself surprised that Paul named our current period The Scream, and then surprised that I was surprised. An interesting ambiguity. Revealing, I think.

I ask myself, “Richard, don’t you think ‘The Scream’ is an apt name for this period? Haven’t you been in a state of terror?”

Yes,
No…
Dissociation!

It’s a regular part of the human experience that in dreadful moments, like being abused as a child –but at many other times as well– we separate off a part of ourselves. We dis-associate our regular lives, where we are happy to see old acquaintances and other ordinary events, from the traumatic experience.

Yes, I was alarmed when first really got the significance of

And that alarm deepened to a state of panic on each occasion, when I

  • went to hearings
  • teach-ins
  • wrote letters to the authorities
  • went to demonstrations
  • published my newsletter
  • watched huge mobilizations I was not a part of

and nothing happened. Not really. Nothing happened that seemed anywhere commensurate with the seriousness of the situation.

  • Was it me? Was I being “hysterical?”
  • Was it “them?” Were my most paranoid acquaintances right: the world is run by rich and violent men who control all aspects of our lives, and hide that truth from us?
  • Were the demonstrations I participated in “allowed” because they were ineffective?
  • How could I really be effective?
  • Would I become a target if I was?

Does “The Scream” apply to me, and those I worked with? Yes.
Does it apply to my sister, who never did any of these things, but followed my life from the relatively safe vantage point of small-town mom?
Well, we’d have to say her’s was a Silent Scream.
And looking back from now, my Scream seems silent too.

Panic. Dread. Shouting into a vast silence of profoundly inadequate response.

Fear.

I’m in trouble.
“Maybe it’s me, with a dangerously warped sense of urgency. Maybe it’s ‘them,’ controlling my life by whatever means necessary. Maybe it’s us, dumbed by an oil addiction, or simply biologically incapable of connecting the knowledge in our frontal cortex with the action centers of our brain.”

Bad trouble, for whatever reason, or combination of them.

And a trouble so quiet that when I saw Paul Gilding label the last 50 years as “THE SCREAM,” I asked myself

“really?”

//
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Going into my fear

Sixteen of us met with Betsy and her co-trainer, Mysnikol, for a six-week class: Faith and Hope In a Time of Uncertainty. We spent much of our time in pairs and small groups, addressing questions about what we feared and where we found hope. Two foundational assumptions of the workshop were:

  1. The best, truest, answers to such questions are the ones we find within ourselves, that rise out of our own lived experience.
  2. Just as you may deal with a stone in your shoe by walking on another part of your foot, so people tend to avoid things they fear. This is a natural short-term strategy but if it becomes habitual it also restricts the full range of the soul’s movement and growth.
    Over her lifetime, Joanna Macy has written many books and led many workshops on different subjects that take us through the same emotional arc. If you are in a problematic situation where you are afraid, you must go toward, go into, your fear. If you want to be as balanced and effective as possible in difficult circumstances, you must stop and reach for the stone that breaks your stride. Once you have given that painful thing the attention it deserves, then you are freed to express your full self in new ways, or in ways you had forgotten you have access to.

I believe everyone in the Hope & Faith class was able to do this, to some degree. The first two or three classes were tough for some. A fear which you have not yet befriended looms large with uncertainty. As we went into our fears, the ones particular to us, and the ones we shared, they lost some of their power. It was frightening. And the fears did not go away altogether. But as Joanna Macy and others have found, working with perhaps a million people,

  • Approaching the fear, the topic or subject we fear
  • Meeting it, getting to know it better, becoming familiar with it,
  • Frees valuable energy, lengthens our stride, helps us to carry our burdens.

Going toward the fear requires a certain readiness, enough available personal resources to start the work. It requires resolve, courage. And, almost universally, the result of a concentrated effort to do this work provides a sense of release, of relief and greater energy going forward.

This is my faith, as I turn to my work, which is also our work.

What I hear Paul Gilding say, which comes also from my thinking over the years, is that the “status quo” ended a while back, but Industrial Civilization has been semi-willfully ignoring it. I had been kind of expecting the turning point would be a spectacular environmental disaster that threatened health and lives where the wealthy nations are, like a sea level rise, or a nuclear spill.

Gilding says the world economy is the most delicate, sensitive part that Industrial Civilization has. The underlying conditions of resource depletion and the resulting increase in costs of farming, mining, etc. have been around and evident for years. These underlying conditions show up in our markets as prices, and in the availability and flexibility of money to meet the routine situations we have gotten ourselves into. Many of us know from direct experience how high credit card debt affects our flexibility and resilience. Industrial Civ. had maxed out or over-leveraged credit card after credit card, natural resource after natural resource, borrowing on each new one to make the payments on the old debt.

Don’t just say the words, Richard, feel the fear.

gallery6-v

Wait.

Let it sink in.

That fellow, Paul Gilding, has gotten to the point where he can say, “What’s next?”
He assumes the crash of over-leveraged resources in the 2008 housing market was just an early tremor, not “the big one.”
But let me pause.

Let us pause.

Let us pause and accept the weight of our fear.bhaktibaxter

The U.S. economy is “growing” again, squeezing more out of the earth’s finite resources, like fracking oil and gas.

This cannot, will not, go on. Global climate change is more powerful than markets.
“Growing” is not a long-term correction.

And speaking of corrections, the European Market zone is not growing. The Italian market is “too big to fail,” and it is moving down the same road as Iceland, Ireland, Greece and Spain, which were not nearly as big.

Fear.

Is this how it will come? Sort of like the 2008 housing bubble bursting, only much worse?

Fear.

arnoldsteiner1

 Art: Moksha Family Arts Collective

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Fear, Anticipating THE GREAT DISRUPTION

As I opened the floodgates at 4:30AM
and let the fear flow in,
a lot of things about my life make more sense.

  • Like what I’m doing with this website, for instance.

In later posts I’m going to be sharing some of my fears, here,
and my responses to them,
and this website is the perfect setting in which to do that. This setting testifies:

  1. I’ve been working on this for years.
  2. My fears may be life-changing, but they occur within a structure of faith which sustains me.
  • Another thing that is clearer now is why I have so repeatedly adopted the persona of trickster within my Quaker meeting community. The message I bring is so odd, so outside the bounds of consensus reality that it helps that my community is accustomed to hearing odd things from me.

So…
My message…?

For years I’ve been saying Industrial Civilization will soon fall as a result of it own success/excess. (Joanna Macy calls it the end of “The Industrial Growth Society.”)
`Til now, as I have shared my message, I have been unsure if this transition would reach a crisis point in my lifetime (I’m 69). Now I feel clear it will happen before the end of Obama’s term as president, despite the best efforts of heads of state around the world.

What changed my sense of timing was discovering Paul Gilding.

So,
given that, last night, I crossed the threshold of viscerally acknowledging my fears, I want to share what happens next with my community. I offer you a view of my life, in its closing years, as a gift to my community.
(This gift may have more value to those who know me. Readers without the background of knowing my lived life may find this even crazier than my friends do.)

To my friends, my community, I say “watch me,” from a safe distance, if you like. I’m going out ahead into the fear. It may be that really bad things will happen to me. Like the first person in a company of people going down a jungle path, I offer the risks I am taking as a gift to you, testing the way ahead. If I am felled, you will properly consider another way.

Or it may be, if I am right, that going into our fears is where we all need to go for greater sanity in the near term, and greater resilience later on. It may be, as Paul Gilding says, that the adrenaline rush I am now experiencing is what our culture will need in order to move into the Great Disruption and to move still further, into a mature and intelligent biosphere: Gaia.

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