Can we dare to name the unraveling of our social and ecological systems and our cultural institutions, an unraveling that is clearly underway in our society and in our world? And, in so doing, can we invoke courage in the face of this collapse?
Here are some of the forms in which this breakdown is occurring: Energy price hikes. Covid trauma. War in Ukraine (and in many other places too that don't appear on the radar of mainstream media). Growing wealth inequality (in our country, and globally). Food poverty. Fuel poverty. Debt crisis. Ecological meltdown. Disappearing species. The end of a monarchical era in the UK. Addiction. Multiple health crises (depression, obesity, heart conditions, auto immune disorders, cancers...) The NHS in crisis: our very model of health failing. Global farmers' protests... You may well be seeing other dimensions of this dissolution.
If we follow the human tendency to bury heads in the sand, we will, de facto, be handing our power over to the techno-corporate global powers who will almost certainly fill the vacuum left by our inaction and avoidance. Is that the world we want to live in? A world of ever-tightening centralised control, of smart-cities and smart-everything, of increasing mechanisation and robotisation of all aspects of work, of more and more of life being transferred into the virtual sphere, of a model of health predicated on living in a pharmaceutical bubble, of a particular mode of 'safety' being our default priority value above all else, cancelling out the adventure of a life fully lived... This is currently the default future that, without conscious decision, we could find ourselves sleepwalking into.
It's a lot to take in, and we may do well to pause along the way and tend to our grief for this broken planet.* In turning to face our pain though, perhaps we can more readily access the hope that's on the other side of despair – the seeds of transformation lying in the very rubble at our feet. That may be a big leap for some of us, and for others it is perhaps already shining through, revealing the opportunities on the other side of these multiple crises.
If we choose a different path at this crossroads of human evolution – and we can choose – then we are faced with some very different questions and possibilities. Indeed, it may be there is another way to frame this impending dystopia, as we move away from polarity and into a bigger picture that is ultimately more real. From that vantage point, could we discover magic and softness and compassion even in the machines themselves when we come into relational reciprocity with them?
At this fork in the road, some are calling for a 'transformative adaptation', as we actively prepare for an era of unraveling. We would do well at this time to consider the tools we have at our disposal, the technologies of hand and heart that we can employ to navigate the coming turbulence creatively. Can we see the places where this is happening even now? How does it feel when we consider we are already across the starting line? What will it take for us to turn this breakdown into a breakthrough, a positive disintegration? What are the sources from which we can we draw inspiration and strength as we hospice the old, and midwife the new?
Of course there are probably as many different answers to these questions as there are people; there's certainly no single map by which we can navigate our way through these waters. As Charles Eisenstein has said, if we are to find our way into a More Beautiful World, it will not come about through the planning of a few clever men in suits, like Marx and Engels, coming up with a manifesto (and let’s not leave them out in the cold either). Perhaps it's more likely to emerge through tuning in to the particular needs of particular people in particular places; and finding our way into a listening and reverent relationship with the land – discovering together how to actually do that. Restoring the lost circles of life.
* See Norfolk Grief Tending for some offerings on this theme.
As part of our Big Lottery (Awards for All) funded project, we're hosting some Creative Conversations on this theme. Come and join us in this wide open field of inquiry, as we lean into the ancient way of the circle, holding the centre, and tuning in to what is holding us. We'd love to hear your thoughts – please comment below.
With thanks to Shona and Jen for help with putting this piece together.