This article was originally published in March 2020 in the journal of the Work That Reconnects Network, DeepTimes. I think the core theme of embracing uncertainty (or we could call that 'the mystery') is timeless and increasingly relevant as a practice for building resilience.
There is something compelling about the image of the Fool card in the classic Tarot decks. She, or he, is travelling light, with her Dick Whittington backpack-on-a-stick, stepping off into the unknown, with a great sense of adventure.
I'm surprised to find myself saying that I love that sense of not-knowing that comes with the great adventure of our times.
As I prepared to facilitate a Work That Reconnects workshop for local Extinction Rebellion groups in west Wales last November, I listened to videos and podcasts of my beloved teacher, Joanna Macy.
I was really struck by this idea:
we don't know whether we're death doulas, attending the hospice beds of a dying world and a dying humanity, or whether we are midwives attending the birth of a more beautiful world.
The truth is that we don't know, and we can't really know, which way things are heading. And they seem to be heading in both directions at the same time!
The signs are not good....
This 'civilisation' that goes by many names: 'industrial growth society', 'patriarchy', 'power-over paradigm', 'late-stage neoliberal capitalism' is devouring itself. Referring to General Systems Theory, Joanna says that any living system that maximises one element only (e.g. profit and monetary growth) is out of whack, unbalanced and bound to collapse.
There are scientists and learned people who believe that ALL life on earth will go extinct- the sixth mass extinction being faster and more all-encompassing than previous ones, more extermination than extinction. I heard the other day from someone referring to Gaian Theorist Stephan Harding at Shumacher College, who said that our living Earth may not have enough left in her for new life to start all over again. Between the previous five mass extinction events, when 75 to 90% of species are believed to have disappeared, were periods of many millions of fallow years. And on this time scale our beloved elderly Grandmother Gaia may well be too elderly to give birth to new life one more time.
As frightening as all of this seems when it means the death of society and the end of all life on Earth, it's also weirdly enlivening for me. Although it means major upheaval and suffering for much life on Earth now, and no doubt all of us later, one way we might view what's happening right now is that these are humanity's labour pains. Particularly the chaotic transitional stage I remember when the baby's head crowned shortly before I gave birth, and I wondered what the bleep was occurring!
Perhaps Gaia's dying days are happening just while humanity is trying to birth something new?
The signs are good...
The Great Turning, the third great societal revolution that many visionary thinkers have written and are still writing about is also undoubtedly underway. When we turn our gaze away from the 'Business as Usual' and 'Great Unravelling' news that dominates the mainstream media channels (and perhaps also creeps into our social media newsfeeds) we can find countless shining examples of the seeds of this great revolution.
From permaculture and regenerative farming, to intentional communities, carbon-free cities, global uprisings of young people, massive reforestation projects, the revival of earth wisdom traditions, ocean clean-ups and local skills-based currencies, these are just a few seeds of 'the more beautiful world' that are springing up globally and in very many local communities.
I wonder how many you're aware of in your own neck of the woods? And those are just the ones you're aware of. I'm always hearing about inspiring initiatives that weren't on my radar, as they're so rarely given the publicity they deserve. Countless folks are quietly getting on with brilliant new and ancient ways of living, being, growing, connecting and regenerating -acting on behalf of thriving Life on Earth.
And then there are astonishing new regenerative innovations popping into manifestation all the time, created by the endless imagnation of the human mind. I'm thinking of social and technological innovations from people like the Bioneers award winners, the young man who invented a device to collect ocean plastic, Treesisters who are seeding a global reforesting revolution and 'moss tree scupltures' in cities, which absorb far more carbon and pollution than trees could if planted in the same small spaces.
And here in Wales I'm also thinking of things like our ground-breaking Wellbeing of Future Generations legislation, which all public bodies have to abide by, and which is now also being considered by the UK government.
If only we could see the bigger picture with all these details, like a fractal zoom or hologram, I bet it would blow our despairing hearts and minds wide open.
If I may borrow a few terms from visionary people who inspire me: in summary I see that we are seeding a regenerative culture, created by a restorer species, and underpinned by the principles of feminine nature-based leadership.
Of course, all of this may well be too little, too late, especially if our Earth herself is dying.
I'm learning to see and hold in my heart both the destruction and regeneration happening at the same time. I'm learning to remember that it's both/and, not either/or. I'm learning to embrace uncertainty.
Whether we're here to witness the death of all we love, or to co-create the new, or whether we are midwiving both ends of life at the same time, it seems that we need these same qualities:
-presence -connection -tenderness -compassion -calm fortitude -courage
-acceptance -and above all, LOVE.
This is what I love: I am learning to become More fully human.