Born of uncertainty, a new day dawns
No wonder we’re beside ourselves, faced with a whole menagerie of 800-pound gorillas: the never-ending COVID pandemic, the looming war with Russia, the climate change catastrophe, and fundamental challenges to our democracy, to say the least. to name a few. When subjected to this endless horror spectacle, our first instinct is to stick our heads in the sand.
No one likes doomsday tales, especially me, and I try not to write any. Nevertheless, it is imperative to recognize the enormity of what we are facing so that we can make the necessary adjustments. While it is society’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases, provide vaccines for COVID-19 and other such dangers, it is our role as individuals to recognize that we are entering into uncharted territory that will require course corrections.
Professor and author Timothy Morton calls these impending perils, greater than human beings can comprehend, “hyperobjects.” He says the first step to overcoming our fear is to admit that these threats are real. In doing so, rather than paralysis, we will find catharsis.
“Our sense of ‘world’ may be dying out, but humans are not doomed. In fact, the end of this limited notion of the world may also be the only thing that can save us from ourselves.
He writes that learning to deal with these deadly perils will force us to move beyond our individualistic society, which “dives us apart and leaves us ill-prepared to deal with hyperobjects.” Instead, we will discover that our fates and our sufferings are defined in large part “by unseen, systemic forces that bear upon us.”
From this crucible, Morton concludes, “We are being born now” – standing on the precipice not of becoming post-human, but of becoming truly human for the first time. »
As a former psychotherapist, the last thing I want is to cause pain. That’s why I’ve shifted my columns from a Paul Revere, crying the alarm, to a more philosophical and therapeutic stance. My writing is now more geared towards how we can get the most out of our lives in these trying times.
I often quote the Tao Te Ching written by Lao-Tzu in the 4th or 5th century BC and the essays of Michel de Montaigne, published in 1580. Although they lived through times of chaos and terror far worse than ours, both men offer timeless wisdom on how to live satisfying and meaningful lives.
I was also transformed by reading Buddhist authors, like Jon Aaron, on ways to go with the flow. Now, when I’m stressed, I recite “embrace uncertainty” as a mantra. it helps to lift the dead weight of all those things I can’t control off my shoulders – flooding me with a sense of serenity, similar, I think, to what longtime AA members get from reciting” Let go, let God”.
Kaira Jewel Lingo, who worked closely with the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, practices a similar approach in her personal life.
“By slowing down, choosing to rest in the uncertainty rather than fight it, I was able to enter a sense of space, precisely in those moments when it felt like there was no way to go on. and that I would be totally overwhelmed.”
I will end by quoting Lingo who, without watering down the magnitude of what is madly rushing towards us, explains, once again, why we must surrender to the process to come out the other side.
“In a sense, our culture, our society is dissolving. We collectively enter the chrysalis: the structures we lean on and identify with crumble, and we don’t know what the next phase will look like. We are in the cocoon. Learning to surrender in our own lives is essential to our collective learning to navigate this time of increasingly rapid change.
(Jean Stimmell lives in Northwood. His blog can be accessed online at jeanstimmell.blogspot.com.)