I’ve been circling around this topic for months?…years?….decades?…and finally I think it’s time to square my shoulders and confront it, crazy and apocalyptic as it may sound.
The topic is…well, The Big One. The big earthquake, financial crash, climate-change climax, the perfect catastrophic convergence of all the razors’ edges we’ve been walking as a planetary society. The Big One, or cascade of Big Ones, that nobody wants to talk about, that we are excising from our consciousness like Florida Governor Rick Scott excising the words and concept of “climate change” from state policy.
Rather like a Stage IV cancer patient refusing not only treatment but diagnostic testing, because visible, objective data will make the mortal truth too real.
Thing is, I’m not so much concerned about what happens after the convergence of inevitable Big Ones, all those doomsday conjectures, each more terrifying than the last. It’s all conjecture; who can reasonably plan beyond the sensible steps – keep canned goods, water, blankets and batteries on hand, cat carriers at the ready, and gas in the tank?
What concerns me more is, well, how to live the unknown length of time we have before IT, whatever IT is, happens.
The reality – that we’re, well, toast in the long run, been inescapable for me since 2007, when my mother was dying and I was in a Master’s program reading about Joanna Macy and despair work. Talk about convergences: I could no more ignore the processes happening to our planetary Mother than I could ignore those taking place in the body of my biological mother. I had already seen far more horrific processes happening in my husband’s body as I walked with him through nine months of successive hospitalizations, before the plug was pulled in the wee hours of a dark January night, 22 years and a week after our first meeting, five months before our twentieth wedding anniversary.
And I raged against both. I was burned out, in full-out revolt against loss and midwifing the dying, and I was now acknowledging, feeling, and grieving the likely passing of all life on earth, here and now, as the sixth great extinction tolled its heavy way forward…
Even worse was the thought of moving forward chirpily with blinkers on, denying the obvious, claiming as I had with my husband that each new slip down the deathly scree slope was “just another bump in the road” toward recovery, as the doctors claimed until even they had to admit that their mega-antibiotic cocktail were achieving no more than minor chemical reactions in his worn-out body. When they reached that final admission, action was swift; I had barely 12 hours to gather his far-flung friends to say goodbye before the doctors put him to sleep in much the same way my vet euthanized our terminal cats, before pulling the plugs governing his heart and respiration.
A pod of pop singers around that time were dealing with issues of death and dying: every day on the radio Lee Ann Rimes hoped I’d dance; Tim McGraw urged me to “live like you were dyin’.” Live fully in every moment that’s left, in other words. Sure – I had a bucket list as long as my arm, but what was the point, ultimately, if these activities didn’t – somehow – stack the larger deck toward Life in the longer run?
I needed more. Needed to do more, needed to make a difference…somehow. I drove my Master’s studies toward Creation Spirituality and permaculture, worked on gathering conversation circles and hosting forums and writing, ultimately pursued an independent study seeking the mystic experience at the core of all spiritual traditions, and completed my M.A. in Applied Healing Arts with a focus in Ecological Spirituality and a passel of bright if somewhat vague dreams and desires. I set to honing my freelance copy writing business, transforming my property into a permaculture demonstration site…
…only to find the same question after it all: to what end? To borrow a 1930’s gangster phrase, “What’s the big idea?” Short of the mad desire to do …something… with all I’d learned, I still had no clue as to exactly what. How to shape the mosaic of my varied skills, knowledge, experience and passions into a single, coherent and effective image.
And the grief was still raging…and I was still trying to soldier on (as my mother would say), throwing one plan after another like spaghetti against the wall to see if it would stick.
Last night – a cool grey starless night after a day of rain, with crickets chirping their angel song – I was driving home after work, and two quotes from beloved teachers began circling in my mind:
Matthew Fox: First comes the allowing of pain to be pain; next comes the journey with the pain; then comes the letting go of it….following the via negativa there cometh the via creativa.
By stopping my resistance to the fact of mortality and allowing myself to fall into the abyss of grief, by sitting with the tsunami of grief that loomed nightly rather than numbing it out, I could – perhaps – at last move through it to the other side.
Andrew Harvey: You can continue building hypotheses and plans out of your ego forever…all of them will be flawed and partial. Or you can stop – and pray, meditate, and open to the Divine Love, and allow yourself to receive the awareness of your true work.
How many times have I written that here, that it’s about listening, about receiving the guidance that does come?
So here I am, on my porch swing in the heart of suburbia in the sunrise light: hearing the crickets and the first chirps of the Dawn Chorus and a neighborhood church tolling the Angelus. Watching the first hungry birds arriving at the feeders, feeling the beauty of the sacred ground I steward surrounding me.
Watching the breath: breathing in the vastness of our planetary Mother’s pain and potency, breathing out my frenzied desire to respond. Accepting the certainty of grief rising in the darkness and embracing the prospect… letting go of the short-sighted, catastrophizing, controlling ego…affirming and opening to the wisdom of the Whole and its unfathomable time line.