Time to Repent?

I have been feeling pretty apocalyptic recently.

I no longer think there is much we can do to avert climate catastrophe. Even the kind of repentance (metanoia) that I have been advocating for twenty years or more won’t change the harsh fact that we have utterly failed to address our most pressing problem. We are going over the cliff even if we slam on the brakes now (and we have done no such thing, we are stomping on the accelerator).

The most recent evidence of this is a summary report on the state of the ocean that predicts mass extinction in the oceans if we do not radically and rapidly change our values and our ways of living.

Now what? I really don’t know. We will have to adapt as best we can within the very real limits this much warmer, less hospitable world will impose on us. We must keep trying to wean ourselves off fossil and nuclear fuels, and reduce our environmental impact in every way, for the sake of future generations, but I no longer think we can stop climate disaster. We might be able to lessen its impact.

My biggest concern now is that increased environmental distress will lead to more conflict. I am afraid that a warmer world is also going to be a more stressful world, a meaner world, a more competitive, conflicted, militarized world. There will certainly be no end of work for those of us who wish to bring compassion and understanding and a vision of unity, interdependence and shared resources to a troubled world.

In my view, limited as it is, we have utterly failed to awaken to the Earth’s beauty and, more important right now, its fragility, and our absolute dependence on its health and well-being. We still manage to think that we are somehow separate from the Earth. That failure will ring down through the ages that remain to the human family. But it is never too late for us to awaken to our innate compassion, and to move forward into this unpredictable future in mutual support rather than enmity and competition. We can still repent (experience a complete change of mind), but I no longer hold out much hope that doing so will avert environmental catastrophe. It might help us survive it.

4 thoughts on “Time to Repent?”

  1. You write: "Emptiness is the capacity to allow things to be as they are, without adherence to any mindset" – which by definition would also include the mindset that we need to *fix* the environment/planet, etc. You go on to say: It's a "whole dynamic movement of Life." Yes! Life unfolding ItSelf… These are the messages I hear in your other writings as well – the planet being just part of that wondrous movement of Life.

    Does 'Emptiness/Stillness'(That which everything IS) really care that the environment is going to hell in a hand basket? Apparently not, because IT doesn't see it that way. IT allows it all to be as it is. It is only out of fear of our self-preservation that we step in and try to take control.

    Maybe this requires a change of perspective on our part, a "reorientation" of mindset, as you call it; a *seeing* that we as a species are not entitled to "survive" – we are just part of the unfolding of Life, just a blip on the radar screen. I don't see that as fatalistic.

    Trying to "save" the planet is just another way we try to posses it, to control it. We delude ourselves into thinking we have the power to control what cannot be controlled. But when we come from the place of deep stillness (that you wrote about in your August 2009 post) there is only compassion for what IS. And what is, is the dynamic totality of the unfolding of all Life that you so eloquently write about on this blog… Which I appreciate, btw.

    And maybe I'm just a self-deluded mystic… 🙂

    Namaste – Christine

  2. Christine, I can only speak from my own experience. And that experience is that "emptiness" does care, very deeply. In fact, I am someone who did not really pay much attention to what was happening in the natural world until I discovered the "emptiness" of which I attempt to speak here in this blog. With the discovery of inner emptiness, also came a deep love for actual living beings.

    We as a species may not be "entitled" to survive, but are we really entitled to be the source of the next mass extinction in the ocean?

    There is a brand of detached non-dualism the I have never been able to relate to. It seems to suggest that naming and changing our most destructive behavior is going against the grain of "what is." I don't accept that. That would suggest that those who participate in the Earth's destruction are more in tune with reality than those who feel motivated to help the Earth out of a deep, unquenchable well of love for life.

    That love for life comes pouring out of the emptiness that I have experienced, and it is not content to sit on the sidelines and watch it all go over the cliff without caring. The destruction IS (or perhaps until very recently WAS) preventable. And we are the only ones who can prevent it.

    It is not at all my experience that "trying to 'save' the planet is just another way we try to possess it." In this case, it is our attempt to possess and control that is killing the planet. It is our belief that we can possess and control. There is indeed a profound letting go of control that is involved in changing course, but in my experience that leads to an increase in caring, and feeling moved to speak and help.

    Sometimes the thing we are trying most to control and even suppress is our own deepest caring for the whole of life beyond ourselves. Because if we really cared, if we really opened ourselves to the reality of what is going on, of what we are doing, it would shatter our complacency, it would upset our routine, it would set us apart from our friends and neighbors and maybe even our family.

    It would shake us and change us in every aspect of our lives.

  3. Beautifully said. You make very good points that certainly will have me contemplating this subject. And yes, I have experienced the deep "caring" of the Emptiness that you speak of, as compassion for "what is." Although I don't consider myself a "detached non-dualist." I don't care much for "non-dualistic" philosophies that end up being word and mind games, which seems to be prevalent in most non-dualistic circles.

    I also appreciate that your caring and action comes from a deep love for life. May I also feel that same love…

    Obviously I have a long way to go…

    Humbly, Christine

  4. Thank you, Christine for your most thoughtful comments.

    One can never wrap one's mind around "allowing everything to be as it is" since that "everything" includes EVERYTHING, including the mind that wants things to be other than they are. So, rather than getting twisted in mental knots, as you point out so many of us do – and I am no exception – clearly we must find something deeper than mind alone to orient our lives. The mind just doesn't seem to grasp reality very well.

    Love is all that is left. Without it we are noisy gongs and clashing cymbals. It remains a mystery to me why falling into deep silence leads back out into a deep love for this extraordinary life, but it does, for me at least.

    I'm intimately familiar with the impulse to "fix" the world. I am a top-notch fixer, although my native fix-it abilities tend more toward mechanical objects rather than people. I can't see a broken object without wanting to fix it, and usually I can't resist at least trying to carry through on that impulse.

    I'm familiar too with the "gotta fix the world" impulse. It is similar, and equally obsessive. That is not what I am talking about here, although it might still be tinged with a bit of it.

    Here I wish rather to invoke that great love that pours out of stillness or emptiness. And for me at this time there is a great sadness at all we are losing unnecessarily, because we humans have so much power and so little wisdom to temper the power. It can't be helped. I mean, it is as it is, and no one is to blame. I really do feel that we are all, every one of us, doing the best we can. If we knew better, we'd do better. And, it also seems to me that we can do better. The source of that deep love is right at hand. We don't even have to go looking for it. It is right here all the time. Everything could change overnight. It might. It might not.

    That we are close to the end of life as humans have always known it is clear. Change is on the horizon, for good or ill. For some of us – the poorest, islanders, those living in the far North – it is already catastrophically here. The planet can't take much more of what we are throwing at it without giving back a whole lot of turbulence.

    The basis of our economies – infinite growth – is inherently unsustainable. That will end. Something else will take its place. I would like that to be something that yields abundant life – animal, plant, fungus, bacterium; aerial, aquatic, terrestrial and marine – and allows us humans to hang out here a while longer, to be part of the continual unfolding of abundant, vibrant, creative life on Earth. And what I want doesn't probably figure much into the equation!

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