February 12th is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. While reflecting on the life and legacy of this great scientist and devoted husband and father, I’ve been struck by how an evolutionary understanding of the universe has, in fact, REALized my religious faith. I now enjoy all the benefits and blessings of religion from a place of knowledge rather than belief. When I look to the past, I am filled with awe and gratitude. When I look around me in the present, I feel love, compassion, and a desire to do everything I can to ensure a healthy world. And when I look to the future, including a future without me, I feel a deep and all-embracing trust…. – from a post by Michael Dowd on Darwin.
I am enjoying reading Evolutionary Times, and can highly recommend it for anyone interested in science and spirituality. Each post is a gem.
Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow are back in Oregon, giving a string of presentations in early April.
They will be in Roseburg April 9, Eugene April 10, Portland April 12 and 13, and Salem on the 16th.
If you happen to live around here, it is well worth attending. They are both amazing speakers in the area of evolution and spirituality, and Michael often uses the aqal framework to organize his presentations.
It shows a transition that many of us would like to see in our own communities, peak oil or not. And it shows how a potentially scary situation can be revealed, and made into, a gift, if nudged in the right direction. (Of course, in Cuba they have a – somewhat enlightened – dictatorship, which may make those transitions easier in times of crisis.)
Will it happen? Well, we don’t know. But it sure is more fun to be a part of nudging us towards it, whether it happens or not.
Carrots and whips
We all know some of the whips…
Climate change, or climate chaos as some folks more accurately call it.
Peak oil, which is happening as we speak. It means the end of cheap oil and big changes to our petroleum dependent civilization. It may well also mean the end of globalization as we see it today, and may be one of the factors that (probably sooner than most think) brings down the US empire. And it is likely to mean a new emphasis on local communities, on more complete and compact communities, more efficient use of energy, and renewable energy in its many forms.
Human-made toxins everywhere: in the air we breathe, the food we eat, in the tissue and blood stream of every living creature.
And some of the carrots…
The joy of living in a more life-centered way. We all know that many aspects of our current lives in industrialized countries are not life-supporting and life-enhancing, and that takes its toll on us, whether we are aware of it or not. Living in a more life-enhancing way is inherently joyful.
The joy of stronger and more vibrant local communities, where tools, time and resources are shared, whether by necessity or otherwise. Where we know our neighbors. Where we know the people who grow our food. Where we know the people who make some or many of the things we use daily.
The health benefits of walking and biking more. Of eating locally grown, fresh, organic produce. Of being more outdoors, maybe even growing some of our own food at our own plot, a community garden, or from a few hours work-exchange at a local CSA farm.
Diversity of outcomes
Most likely, the changes brought about by peak oil and other whips and carrots will be quite different in different regions.
In areas that are already poor, and where most of the population may be at ego- and ethno-centric levels of development, it may easily mean even more devastation.
In places like Iceland the situation is quite different. They are already doing a lot. They are shifting away from petroleum dependency and towards being mostly or completely self-reliant with essentials such as energy and food – and they can do this due to easily accessible thermal energy. Most of the population is at world-centric levels of development (orange or green in the integral model).
Among all the countries and regions of the world, Iceland is maybe the one that has the best chance to look more like the sustainable, life-centered paradise that some envision.
Although not even Iceland is immune to what is happening in the rest of the world socially, and ecologically – rising sea levels will stronlgy impact Iceland too.
The situation in the US may be more shaky. Larger segments are here at ethno-centric levels of development which in a crisis can get ugly. Just look at Iraq. At the same time, many are at world-centric levels of development which may offset some of the havoc. And many of the leading-edge developments in sustainability and local self-reliance is happening right here. The knowledge is available, if it is made use of. Still, as we are heading further into the ecological bottle-neck, the US is not the place where I would choose to be.
What could happen in Europe? It is difficult to say. Larger segments are at world-centric areas of development, at least in western Europe, so that may make for an easier transition. Their mindset is already more aligned with sustainability and an emphasis on local communities. And they have the resources to allow for a softer transition.
At the same time, Europe shares land-mass with areas less fortunate, and this can lead to mass migrations, the prevention of these mass migrations, and quite a lot of ugliness. We are seeing some of this already. And we’ll probably see more of it, not only in Europe.
What can I do on a personal level?
What can we do on a personal level?
For me, the answer is in several areas, and it is found in that which is enjoyable and rewarding right now, in itself, and is also likely to be useful in more difficult times.
What can I do to be part of the Great Turning? What is my role there? For me right now, it is mainly nurturing culture change through my involvement with NWEI, starting up local groups at businesses, churches, other organizations, neighborhoods, and open groups in the community.
What types of skills can I learn now that may be of particular use in the future, and is enjoyable and useful even now? Growing food is one. Learning to repair and make things is another. And exploring whole systems design skills, for instance through permaculture, yet another.
How can I strengthen my connections with my local community? I can do this through getting to know people, share resources, barter, and so on. The more ties, the more likely that we’ll stay together during more difficult times as well.
These are all at the outer and interpersonal levels, quadrants two, three and four in the aqal model.
What about quadrant one? What can I do there that is rewarding and enjoyable right now, while also useful in more testing times?
By far the most useful and practical tool I have found is The Work. It allows the charge in thoughts and ideas – including those inducing fear, panic and the like – to fall away. And this frees up clarity and energy so I can respond a little more sanely to whatever situation I find myself in, from a place of more compassion and wisdom.
Other forms of self-inquiry, and forms of mediation and yoga, are also very useful here.
None of us know what the Great Turning will look like. We only know that our civilization will change, and that it will change dramatically. There is an obvious/inherent expiration date in operating from a view of unlimited resources while being part of a finite planet. And the transition may be in the form of an ecological/social crash or a softer landing. In any case, the change will be deep and dramatic.
As Joanna Macy says, it is the third major revolution in human civilization – after the agricultural and industrial ones.
And it may involve a collective “dark night of the soul”. Our current collective identity – especially in the industrialized countries – will have to be stripped off and replaced with a more ecological identity.
From seeing ourselves as separate and entitled to unbound consumption, we may see ourselves as interconnected and living with limited resources. The “hole” in ourselves that we tried to fill through consumption, is now filled (more reliably) through a sense of intimacy and richness through our interconnections.
This is a process that many have gone through on an individual level, and as more of us do so – the collective changes are likely to be easier and less painful.
Joanna Macy talks about the Great Turning from an industrial-growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.
And an aspect of this turning is the change of worldview.
Currently, we operate collectively from a fragmented and dualistic worldview. We see the world as separate objects bumping into each other, with no inherent mutual connection apart from being in approximately in the same space at the same time. This is a worldview that leads to power-over mentality, and to isolation, lack of meaning, fear, accumulation, insatiability, etc.
A collective more transdual worldview helps us see everything as aspects of a seamless fluid whole. The Universe is a holarchy of nested systems, one within another. We can make distinctions, but within the context of this fluid and seamless whole. There are no absolute boundaries. This is a worldview of flow and connections, and one that sees power as power-with. My own health and well-being is intimately connected with that of all my subsystems and all the larger systems I am part of. From this sense of connection comes a sense of deep belonging to the Earth and the Universe, a sense of meaning, a sense of trust (although not naive or blind), and a sense of fullness and richness. With this worldview, we operate in a very different way.
And we can experience this worldview through experiencing our inner wholeness – of body/psyche – awakened through for instance an integral practice. When we experience the whole that embraces this body/psyche, we also experience being an integral part of the larger whole. There are no absolute boundaries. Everything is part of a seamless fluid whole.
Footnote: An integral practice can include all our relationships – to the body, energy system, emotions, thoughts, intimate relationships, social and ecological relationships, and our relationship to Existence. Typical components may be meditation, yoga (any form), exercise, nutrition, studies of/within an integral framework, and – for instance – inquiry.
For me right now, it consists of Zen practice, Breema (bodywork and self-Breemas), Byron Katie‘s inquiry, being with/being what I am experiencing right now (Raphael Kushnir), deekshas, studies of/within the AQAL model, walking/biking/hiking, solution focused culture change engagement (initiating NWEI courses, permaculture etc.), and the Big Mind process (facilitating myself and others).
I participated in the Northwest Earth Institute National Gathering over the last five days. Joanna Macy was the guest of honor, and we did a number Deep Ecology group activities – going through the cycle of gratitude, grief, shift in view, and engagement.
I thoroughly enjoy these activities, especially as they – as the Big Mind process and other practices – help us shift views and make our identity more inclusive, porous and fluid. We have a direct and visceral experience of being not separate from the Earth and Universe, or from past and future generations. Everything is here/now. It is all a seamless fluid whole.
For the Double Circle (aka Seventh Generation) activity, I was a human being from 2205 – living in a life-centered civilization some time after the Great Turning. I listened to a succession of human beings from today, 2005, speaking about how it was for them to be alive in these times – with the destruction and denial all around, and how they find strength to go on.
Then I spoke, expressing my profound gratitude for them and what they are doing as part of the Great Turning. I asked them to remember that their intentions and work as part of the Great Turning are supported by all of life – by the Earth as a whole and all past and future generations.
It became clear that all the problem which face humans in 2005 (and several years before and after), are all very insubstantial. The toxins and weapons are of course very substantial and real, but the problems all arise from confusion in the human mind. They are all made by the human mind, and can be unmade by the human mind. They could go > poof <>poof<>poof< at any moment.