This week, as I write, our national focus is on a storm named Dorian.
Yet another major hurricane has left unimaginale devastation in its wake. At category 5, it was the biggest hurricane to take aim the Bahamas. Ever. Last week, it was fires in the Amazon. Before that, there were the record-breaking heat waves. The scariest thing of all is not knowing what's coming next, as climate change careens towards the point of no return.
My first response to all of this is primal. “THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING! Climate change is driven by greed and our addictions to fossil fuels, greenhouse gasses, and - and - PALM OIL!” But it’s my second response that I want to talk about today.
True, the climate change we are experiencing is the result of our culture’s values and behavior, but it is not the first climate change our earth has undergone. Global mean temperatures have risen and fallen, ice sheets have expanded and contracted, and species of plants and animals have come and gone for eons in the life of our planet.
Even we humans are relative newcomers here - infants in the grand scheme of things.
But because we can see that what’s happening now is the result of our own collective behavior, we conclude that it is wrong, and should not be happening. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important for us to understand that this way of thinking is only possible because we see ourselves as separate from nature, from the earth and her climate. We see our natural environment as an object, upon which we are having and effect, and because we value our environment - not to mention our own survival - we conclude that it is the wrong effect.
It is time for us to remember what, in indigenous cultures, has never been forgotten.
We are not separate from the natural world. It does not exist apart from us, nor we from it. We are one with the earth, as living cells are part of one body. As living cells, we are not even separate from the ones it is easiest to blame for the catastrophes of climate change.
That is not to say that what is happening around us is ok, or that we should blithely continue in our destructive ways. Not at all. My point is that to render any judgement about the Shoulds and Oughts of the overwhelming forces of climate change is to set ourselves apart from nature. To see ourselves as separate. And that illusion of separateness is arguably the greatest ill of our time.
This alternate perception of who we are represents a different world view from the one we grew up with.
And, believe it or not, a different world view is a very big deal! Our world view surrounds us and permeates our thinking the way water surrounds a fish. It holds the fish up, contains and sustains its life, and flows through its body, bringing it the air it breathes. That would make it pretty tricky for the fish to imagine another way of being. But this is the trick that it is now our time to learn. So bear with me, fellow fish, and let’s take a leap out of the water.
And now we come to that second response I alluded to above.
We do not actually know what is supposed to be happening.
Careful now! As I said, this does not make everything ok. The last thing this worldview is is fatalistic. My invitation to myself and to all of us is to see ourselves as one being, miraculously interconnected, inseparable, one. This shift will allow us to free up all of the energy that we spend resisting what is happening to the earth, as if we knew what should and should not be, and to relax into the expansive space of creative possibility. Freed from bonds of knowing, we are left with a greater capacity to love our world and our fellow living cells, and to do what we have the power to do to treat them well.
Robbie is the facilitator of the Shamanc Studies Program at the Boulder Center for Conscious Community. Click here to see the schedule of workshops.