Leonard Cohen told us over 25 years ago that the future would be “murder”. While this is, of course, poetic metaphor, it seems chillingly apt. Billions have already died because of habitat destruction and collapse, and even though only a small percentage of those have been human, it is more than have died of Covid. Yet this collapse is not going anywhere. While some dream of colonising other planets, others dream of ‘greening’ growth, as if the problem were one that we stumbled into, rather than one we have created through our relentless pursuit of development and growth.
Deniable though it may be in thought and word, we are already in the midst of very real environmental, biological, political, social and economic collapse. Covid is a part of this collapse, and a bit-part at that. This is a collapse that is not going to yield to technology or hope. It is one that we are going to have to live, and die within. However it may turn out.
We can not yet know how much sea levels will rise in the next fifty years. We can only know that they are already rising, and will continue to. We cannot know how much more average global temperatures will rise in the next twenty years. We can only know that they will continue to rise. We cannot know how many more mutating viruses will emerge in the next ten years. We can only know that many more people will die in and before their prime in the years to come.
We do not know, we can not know, if this collapse is the death-knell of the human race. Even as it is the death of so many members of so many species. We do not know how to do what we need to do to prevent that. We can not even know if the very things we do to prevent collapse will accelerate it.
Yet there is more to life than death. There is more to living than survival. There is more to preparing for the future than technology and politics.
Are you ready for the future?
Can anybody be ready for a future that in its details is so unpredictable, while its broader sweep so clearly and chillingly inevitable?
The answer can only be no.
If you are looking to your mind for knowledge, understanding, inventions: hope and wishful thinking.
The answer can surely be yes.
If you are willing to feel unreservedly the intimidating enormity of your predicament.
It is not enough acknowledge the overwhelming magnitude of what we are living in. You need to feel it. You need to feel it all. Your grief, your anger, your despair, your confusion, your guilt, your doubt, your helplessness, your regret, your resentment. For they are all stirring inside of you. Even if you can not acknowledge the overwhelming enormity of what we are living in. They all inhabit you.
To feel all this pain is the only way that you can prepare for every possible future. To feel it deeply, fully.
This is not so easy to do. Yet it is not only doable but necessary. The first thing you need is a willingness to feel fully. To feel anything. To feel everything. This willingness is inhibited by your personal history of pain, and your biological need to avoid it. Yet you have learned how to contextualise your immediate needs for your long term needs. You get up and go to work when you are exhausted. You can learn to voluntarily feel your pain, when you know that it will make you more resilient.
The second thing you need is the safety to be able to feel. You can not feel deeply if you do not feel safe. The world is an increasingly dangerous place. Yet you can still feel safe within it. Safe enough at least in the moment to allow your pain to rise fully. Knowing that as long as it remains locked inside you it is driving you without your consent.
When the pain of your sadness, anger and despair bubble up to the surface they always come with a story. The power of emotion invests the story with a false authority. Let it speak freely, but knowing that it is only a story. Knowing that it is not telling you the truth. Instead of contradicting, repressing or listening to the story feel the sensations. Within, around and underneath the story you feel bad. You feel unpleasant sensations. Feel those sensations. Allow the story to distract you when it does without concern, but again, feel the sensations. There is no need to hold tight to them. Allow your attention to waver, to wander when it does without concern, but, again, feel the sensations. Feel them as deeply as you can. Let go as much as possible of your desire to be rid of the unpleasantness. Invite your body and mind to relax, to let go into your ability to feel. Become as intimate as possible with your pain. Become as intimate as possible with your ability to feel.
Feel, the sensations. Find, your resilience.
You mind can not do this for you. Give it a break. Feel the sensations. Find the resilience to face the future with courage, compassion and solidarity.