The Ache of Cultural and Global Transformation

Each of us alive on the planet today is experiencing change brought on by events over which we have little or no control.  One ongoing event we all share, we call climate change.  At a recent gathering called to strengthen and nourish a diverse community of elders in these parts, participants spoke of the perilous state of bees everywhere and of the diminishing populations of bats in the northeastern states.  Fewer butterflies, bees, and bats, interrupted growing seasons, and extreme weather in the form of drought or deluge here and elsewhere signal that our world is changing and that we must respond intelligently to these changes rather than react out of fear.

In The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins explores three major approaches to climate change:  the belief that technology can and will save us; the conviction that society will disintegrate and people will fight over diminishing resources; and, finally, the vision that embedded within the catastrophes are opportunities to learn, in whatever country we find ourselves, to work together to create strong, resilient, conserving ways of life that will allow us to navigate together whatever may come.  Our collective navigation routes include many intelligent activities, among them skills exchanges and nourishing celebrations to acknowledge what we’re getting right along with problem solving sessions for those issues that continuously threaten our sense of unity, interdependence, strength, and resourcefulness.

Our impulses to understand how we might fashion a world that we can pass on to our children’s children’s children are inspiring intelligent community activities everywhere.  Groups formed to save threatened old growth forests or water supplies stand in metaphoric solidarity with neighbourhoods working to pass by-laws prohibiting pesticide use and promoting the lawns-into-gardens movement that is taking hold in big cities like Toronto and New York.  Some countries – Germany comes to mind – stand out as models for a legislated approach to renewable energies.  Municipalities, regions, and entire states are buzzing with similar intentions.  Many are already making vital changes to slow the growth of our collective unsustainable carbon footprint by driving less, supporting our local and regional food economies, and doing all that we can to foster a sense of kinship with our planet and fellow creatures.

Individual opposition to needed changes along with massive corporate denial fuel the anguish we feel as we move through this stage of transformation.  Change always opens us to suffering, for every change brings loss and creates emptiness in order to make room for the new life that is being born.  Globally and locally, in one way or another, we are giving up our illusions regarding limitless wealth and messianic technological innovations.  As we muster the courage to look deeply at the truth of our situation, we are faced with frightening climate facts.  The deep fear we experience as we learn more and more about Earth changes and species devastation is accompanied, at least here in the west, by the burden of responsibility and guilt over every aspect of our consumption-driven lives.

It is impossible to avoid feeling anguish because Planet Earth is our home.  Without our Earth Garden, we perish.  We cannot help but ache as we become more aware of those here and elsewhere who are suffering disastrous assaults on their physical, mental, and spiritual health, these the human expression of our planet’s suffering.  Indeed, our hearts insist we grow in empathy for all countries, all species, all peoples.  This is our human imperative.

Those of us willing to feel the truth of our collective fragility have brilliant guides through the pain of loss and uncertainty.  Bruce Lipton, Elisabet Sahtouris, and other optimistic writers liken our present state of chaos to the disintegration of a caterpillar inside its cocoon.  To the caterpillar, the reality of loss is inarguable.  The life it knew before its cocoon spinning magic act is gone; in its place is a sticky soup containing the cells of the next stage of its life, but these Imaginal Cells, not yet formed into butterfly or moth, must take the time necessary to come together in new and entirely different ways.

We value the caterpillar’s next stage as butterfly or moth and doubt why any would grieve the sacrifice of larva for the winged beauty of its insect phase of life.  A caterpillar after all is a compulsive eater, a pest in gardens, and little valued except perhaps in science classes where its transformational powers offer exciting lessons for the young.  Surely, we think, the freedom and glory of wings are preferable to the limitations of larval existence.  This perspective prompts us to imagine the butterfly as happier than the caterpillar; the lack of a broader perspective makes it impossible to imagine our own larval condition.

And yet our current global situation is that of an immature species in the death/rebirth cocoons of the various cultures we have created.  We commit stupid and destructive acts collectively and individually even as we dream of being better, of beating our swords into ploughshares, of becoming the loving and forgiving beings our greatest Avatars inspire us to be.  We ache with loss and we ache with the desire to birth something new, something worthy of and harmonious within this Garden we call Earth.

Imaginal Cells, the up side of the loss transformation requires, are cultivated and nourished by our best impulses and acts.  Our Loving Kindness practices of meditation and service help us to move through the Ache of Transformation as midwives to the process of rebirth into interconnection and wholeness.  We are not alone, and when we fear we are, we reach out, call to our Imaginal Cell brothers and sisters, and learn from each other how best to nourish our part of the whole.  At the same time, we learn to express the ache we feel regarding our losses as well as the hope we feel regarding what we might yet become.   We dance, tell stories, paint images, create sculptures, and make music with every sort of instrument.  In these creative acts we lessen the ache of loss and uncertainty and strengthen our ability to manifest the resilient communities we need to see us through whatever may come.

Until next week