I just got back from a 3-day workshop with Joanna Macy at the Rowe Center in Massachusetts. It was very intense with lots of exercises (one-on-one and group exercises) for experiencing the grief associated with what she calls “the great unraveling” (the end of the industrial / consumer age) and the dawning of the “great turning” when people one-by-one, begin to embrace the new values that will result in the continuation of some form of civilization and life on Earth, minus a growing number of life forms that won’t make it. So we are all experiencing this shift on some level. And our experiences range from ecstatic realizations to a sense of going down with the ship depending on where we are at, our core values, what forces and belief-systems we identify with. The work is transformative and now I wish I had stayed for the rest of the week like my wife, Shirley did. It is clear that, to the extent that people cling to the unraveling, trying to slow or reverse the great disintegration of unsustainable structures and systems, they will experience the reality of no future and no solution and no viable context for their dreams and goals. There is plenty of cause for despair if one identifies with the unraveling.
Soul loss is a common malady these days but since we don’t typically equate soulfulness and mental health or well-being except in the most general way or metaphorically, it might help to think of soul as our quotient for how alive we feel, so soul-loss might be experienced as loss of meaning, lethargy, long-term apathy or depression, profound withdrawal from things that used to be enjoyable. Is depression even avoidable, and should we avoid it? As we live our lives we are moving through our own stages of life, but the Earth is moving through stages of change on a planetary scale and that definitely ups the ante. There is very little wiggle room, and unfortunately, less freedom of choice to shift or not to shift, evolve or not evolve. The strait for clear passage is narrowing. That is a hard thing to admit or to swallow, but I have come around to accepting that as our reality. It is the reality our way of life has created over the last few centuries, the bed we either die in or wake up in, the bed we made for ourselves.
The industrial age of exploitation of people and resources can’t be reversed. The best scenario is, it has to unravel and fall apart and we must prepare ourselves to step clear into a different way of living. The change is inside out. It was such a relief being with 60 people that I didn’t have to explain myself to!! We all wanted to “turn” or were “turning” or had turned to a different way of living or seeing things or of being in community. Of course the challenge is finding support back home . . . for staying focused on the turning; the workshop helped us manage to do that and to learn how to do that. A lot of the exercises were geared to encouraging us to acknowledge and experience our grief and rage but not as emotions that take over and shut us down, but as emotions that we honor in ourselves in passing, the way a deep diver passes through levels of the sea to gain the surface.