Since 2011 dawned we have been treated to weekly headlines of disasters around the world. We’ve had unexplained deaths of millions of birds, fish and animals across the globe since the New Year began. We’ve had devastating uncharacteristic flooding and mud slides in Brazil. Destructive cyclones, ravaging bushfires and relentless floods in Australia and then the earth began to move and shift first in Christchurch, Chile, Indonesia, China and now in the unprecedented disaster in Japan coupled with a catastrophic tsunami and an unthinkable nuclear emergency.
The most common status in Facebook in 2011 would have to be “What is next? What is happening? Is our world coming to an end? Why is mother earth so pissed off with us? Is this the fabled 2012?”
Each day, the global media sells the daily drama – the great cycle of create and destroy – in the ebb and flow of the stock markets around the world. Governments struggle with debt and uncertainty. Millions of people across the Middle East find their voice and take to the streets to fight for change. Politicians, local and global, scrap like stray dogs fighting over the last scrawny bone, each feigning and fawning like B grade black and white silent movie actors. The predicted Fall of the American Empire long prophesied by conspiracy theorists the world over continues to balance precariously, teetering over the edge of a very steep cliff while the world is addicted to watching the daily telecast silently waiting for the next disaster and collectively holds its breath.
So in this time of uncertainty, in this time of endless questioning, when the world around us seems to be falling apart, we collectively look for answers and seek assurance. So many people around the world have lost their homes, jobs, businesses and tragically so many loved ones. So many people around the world are experiencing a new kind of stress, fear and anxiety. The domino effect of one disaster impacts on every aspect of life somehow. Several disasters in a short period of time puts question marks over so much of what people considered their ordinary way of life.
With costs of living, fuel and food increasing and consumption for goods and services diminishing, businesses may not be producing the same level of income and therefore jobs may not be maintained. Yoda warned us in the Star Wars trilogy “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” But it’s just a movie right? The stress of trying to hold onto the way that the world used to look is making people ill – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. With relationships strained, families stretched, businesses squeezed and resources depleted, so many people around the world have felt like they simply cannot go on in the same fashion as before.
How do they continue to get up in the morning, switch the television on and see images of devastation day after day? How do they continue to head into the office and the community and witness firsthand the empty shops, the rows of “For Sale” signs, the brown dead and destroyed patches of earth, the flattened buildings and the black putrid water? How do they continue to read the newspaper, watch as their bank balances silently creep closer to zero while stocks dive and real estate values plummet? How do they continue to feel the futility in their hearts, their shoulders stooped, their backs aching and their dreams fading?
This is 2016. We lived through the prophesied End of Times – the so called Times of Transition and yet we are still here.
The media – corporate or social, sold and continues to sell us the darkest of times.
So stop. Let’s take a breath. Take a step back from the pre packaged drama series unfolding in a new form of reality TV. Joseph Campbell insisted that “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Does he mean now or is this an option for everyone at any time?
Can we ask the question – when has human history NOT been transitional? Where has it always been uncertain? Where has it always formed part of a Create/Destroy cycle? Where has it always been shaking and shifting and expressing itself in devastating events?
We as humans live in a cycle. Our seasons cycle. Our earth cycles. Our planets cycle. Our bodies cycle. Each are made up of biology, chemistry and physics cycling in actions and reactions – sequences and consequences. So how do our current experiences form part of a natural cycle? Where is the certainty in this current cycle? Where are the guarantees? How can we make our own prophesy? Where is the light in all this darkness? Where are the values rising against falling stocks? Where are dreams growing when hope contracts? Where are bodies healing in amongst so much dis ease? Where is the new birth emerging through death? Where are the fresh new buds poking their heads up through the soil? Where is our new beginning?
We have so many questions. Why is this happening? My life is changing as a result. How can I be me in all this turmoil? What is the purpose for these current events? Who am I when I have no control over my own experience? What can I do in this time of great change when I lose so much? What’s my first step after ravaging loss? What is my next step after that? How do I find a thread for me to follow that leads me to each new step? What forms the foundation for each step? Where is the foundation for my actions?
I spent a number of days isolated and without power and access out of the flood zone during the January 2011 Brisbane floods. I was lucky. My house is on a hill. No water inundated the property. I lost power and some of the contents of the fridge and freezer but I had plenty of food to eat. I had a generator that part powered the freezer, my laptop and my I Phone for an hour each day. I had a water tank filled to the brim thanks to the rain, BBQ and gas for cooking, fuel for the generator, wood to burn and a shovel to dig a hole for the fire if needed. My mother had an ancient wireless radio and I had plenty of batteries. Our basic survival needs were covered without access to power and the outside world. I lost nothing but time, communication with loved ones, power and some business.
Yet I struggled to just BE during those days. I couldn’t DO what I normally did each day. Without power, phone and internet, I could not work or communicate in the same fashion. I was quite literally “lost” without the ritual of 12 hours in front of a screen – Laptop, IPhone or TV. My time was occupied with basic survival needs. So who was I without power? Who was I without internet?
Up until this flood experience, my greatest faith was in the resulting reaction in the flick of a switch. Turn the light on, switch on the air conditioning, open my laptop, send an email or text, answer the phone, start the car, push the button max! My certainty in life was that in that single mouse click, the email would be delivered. I had no doubt that when I picked up the pump and placed the nozzle in my car and pulled the handle that fuel would be sent into my tank enabling me the freedom to drive anywhere I wanted to go. (Pending rising floodwaters of course). Swiping my little plastic card provided an assurance of either cash or purchase with a naïve confidence that grocery shelves would always groan with endless supplies of produce and food.
Who was I when none of those things worked like they should? How was I when none of those things operated as per my expectation? How could I be if I couldn’t do as normal? The power of the switch was my religion. My belief in the endless supply of consumable resources was my umbilical cord. How many people worldwide have been birthed into a similar new survival mode and under far worse conditions? My tiny insignificant story of survival makes me ashamed in comparison to those who have lost so much. Yet we all ask the same questions regardless of the measurements?
Who am I in a flood when my home is inundated with water and I lose all my possessions?
Who am I in a cyclone when the wind blows the structure of my house away and I lose my home?
Who am I in an earthquake when the earth opens up and swallows the building where I work?
Who am I in a tsunami when the waves consume the town in which I live?
Who am I when I lose my job and business in the ensuing aftermath?
Who am I when I lose a limb, develop radiation sickness, or suffer an injury as a result?
Who am I when I lose friends, family or loved ones?
Who am I without a flushing toilet, power, fuel, water or food?
Who am I without Tweets, Facebook status, You Tube videos to upload and a Google map to locate me?
Who am I when every shred of my previous identity is ripped away from me in one day, one event, one experience?
While I search for an energy source to fuel my survival – petrol for the generator, gas for the BBQ, wood for the fire, food for my body – who am I?
While I now invest my time in resources for myself and my family – food, water, shelter – who am I?
When complete strangers offer help or when I open my home to people I do not know who need shelter – who am I?
When I am no longer the passive consumer of technology, and now the active hunter and gatherer of resource – who am I?
When I am no longer the passive consumer of convenience resource, and now the active producer of sustainable supply – who am I?
Are my sources of joy the same? Are my sources of pain the same? Do those same personality labels still apply to me? Does my Facebook profile match who I am in this new survival mode? Which adjectives, traits and characteristics no longer seem to fit in this altered existential state? My previous existence dependent on power and technology created a solid construction known, safe and predictable. Without those same guarantees, can I still be me? Who is that? Which one is me? The previously free girl living in a well cushioned rhythmic ritualized structured comfort zone or the lean warrior survivor tuned into another frequency? Is my identity forged with what I do and what I have? My state of being is impacted when what I do and what I have no longer exists. So how can I be? Is my being who I really am?
No conclusions, solutions, opinions, options or answers for the myriad of questions I have raised here will be offered. I want to know how it feels to sit in the murky stinky mud of this tension not knowing and not making any assumption. However, if as Terence McKenna says “The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas. It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets, and you let these nets down – sometimes, something tears through them that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore, and put your head under your bed and pray. At other times what slips through are the minutiae, the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing. But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food, food for the human community that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.”
Then this current human experience is therefore a source of extreme nourishment for a greater potential use as a sustainable foundation for whatever unknown future lies just around the corner.
As the sun sinks over the horizon of my questions I wonder what new archetypes may grow out of these brave new world experiences then?