“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but the last great human freedom — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances …” — Viktor Frankl, from Man’s Search for Meaning
“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.” — Fragment of a poem by Pablo Neruda
We have been given a paradise, if we could but see it. We have forgotten not only how to see it but how to live in it. Maybe the slowdown we are having now will allow us to learn how to stop destroying the only world we have. Yes, there are plenty of folks who can’t imagine life without constant growth in the market, without the fast moving treadmill we think is normal life on Earth. In our rush to keep up and get ahead, we can hardly hear our poets reminding us that there is a deeper, more real life.
To see that life with any clarity, we will have to stop, take it slow and easy. To register the beauty of things will require a relaxation of the mind and body, a receptiveness, a letting go of our long list of worries, obligations and projects. The heart of the World is waiting for us to finally see it and love it. The poets and artists are waiting to be seen and heard.
We are at a turning point. The life we have been living is suddenly falling through our fingers like sand. That outcome has been baked into our fate for a long time, because of how captured we are by shallow and unkind ideas. It’s unfortunate that so many of us will suffer and die because we have had so little foresight and vision.
I’m hopeful that we can now discover a better way forward than the one we have been drafted into. The system we have taken for granted suddenly reveals itself to be a suicide pact. Those who opt out of that contract have a chance to find a better path.
The world seems to have lost patience with our persistent negligent destructiveness. All the energy we have been putting into using the bounties of nature, disregarding the pain and suffering we cause to the denizens of our ecosystems, has evidently reached its limit. We now face a daunting time of payback.
But we have a chance to rebuild something more beautiful, more intelligent, more creative, more soulful. This planet is the perfect place to do it. We just have to grow up a bit. I’d like to see more poets emerge now. We could use more visionaries, more artists and “sensitives.” The time for unrestrained cunning and pretense, calculation and predation may be coming to much needed pause.
Maybe we Americans will need more proof that cruelty doesn’t make a better world, but the rest of the world may not need such irrefutable evidence. We’re a little slower to see the obvious, we North Americans. I don’t know why, but we seem to be exceptionally dense about certain facts of life. Other parts of the world will find more humane solutions, no doubt.
We are, after all, one human race, one species inhabiting this planet with all the others. Not all of our cultures will be brilliant. Some will be stupid. I hate to say it, but we don’t look especially bright at the moment. Other cultures will take the lead, though. Humans have a good chance of growing into this new world.
It’s going to be a fascinating journey. We’re ready for it.
- Anima Fire is my publication