Zen

learning what to make of it

I have noticed lately how each of my days have become inextricably opened and closed by the passage of the sun.

Always a morning person I guess, apart from a couple of years spent vigorously exploring a more nocturnal emphasis to my day that (strange as it may seem) coincided pretty much exactly with moving out of home and into a nurses quarters.

This newfound freedom combined with an admixture of likewise freed female nursing students led to wild circadian shifts to the party long and late side. All fuelled in no small amount by equal parts of alcohol, adrenaline, and situational architecture.

That, however, was an anomaly. Wild, unruly and unforgettable to be sure. But an anomaly nevertheless.

These days, an ocean of days from those days, my propensity is to naturally wake up just before the false dawn.
Just on that first tentative magpie call.

I pad down to the kitchen and fix myself a cup of tea that I then steal back to bed (trying very carefully not to wake up Kelly who didn’t even get home from work until I was well into my 6th or 7th dream).
Sipping on tea and listening to the world get going.

Then, as the last of the warmth seeps from my cup and dawn lifts its lid proper, I arise, dress, splash some water on my face, and then go to sit my morning meditation practice for the next hour.

This is my time to withdraw.
Not from the world, but into the world.

I am reading a book by the author Paul Kingsnorth at the moment. Paul was a committed environmental activist who has now come to the conclusion that a profound and world changing environmental crisis, an ecocide, is now absolutely inevitable.
The future, he warns, is grim.
The all-consuming global industrial system and ‘growth at all costs’ mindset of humanity is now unstoppable, unfixable and unsustainable. All the wind farms, clean coal, solar arrays and nuclear powerplants you throw at it will not change this underlying problem. We have fucked up and “It will run on until it runs out”

Depressing stuff to be sure. But a very interesting and engaging read.

The question for him now is how to respond to this truth.

He has no answers (and I am well into the book) other than to share his process as he wrestles with the profound implications for us all both as individuals and a collective of species.

One of his first responses and something he urges as most important is the act of withdrawing. For Paul this entailed moving his family into a small rural bungalow in England, unhooking from unnecessary technology, hooking into family, community, nature and learning to listen to what that all meant. Taking the pace of days from the swing of the sun.

To see if there was an answer in the process…

So I’m trying to tune myself into where I am. I’m trying to force myself to slow down and listen. It doesn’t come naturally, but when I do it, I feel my perspective subtly shift. I notice the different sounds made by red-tailed and white-tailed bumblebees, or the cackling of the rook on the chimney pot in the morning, or the different times the hawthorn and the blackthorn flower. Most of what lives on this land never notices me. I am learning what to make of it, slowly and clumsily and often impatiently, and it is work that I will never get enough of, and I will never master. Nothing can be done, I think now, except what can be done.— Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist Paul Kingsnorth

I think that is one way of describing my own state right now. I feel a growing certainty that our collective prognosis is clearly and disarmingly critical, and a creeping need to respond with a withdrawal into the world.

This includes, in small and simple steps, an examination of my own use of technology both in finding a more skilful use of stuff I have, and in dropping the ballast of stuff that separates me from what is becoming more important.

And it includes reflecting that even though we may have fucked up the planet, there are ways we can still un-fuck the process, the way we live our life as we figure out what to do next.

For me, making space each morning just to sit and to listen, and to try to learn what to make of it, is one such way.


Deeper…

Read more about Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist.

Watch a short video on how Paul Kingsnorth is living his life in response to the environmental crisis.

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