When I diet, or even spend an extended period of time in the forest without dieting, I realize the frightening extent to which I have been conditioned by my media-saturated, data-hungry, progress-obsessed culture — and how very difficult it is for me to do nothing. My need to fidget and distract myself from stillness feels nothing short of pathological.
From years of working with communities of the forest, I’ve come to see boredom as a uniquely Western affliction — a kind of luxury of affluence — striking those who are simply incapable of being still. For this reason, I find the shamanic practice of dieta to be deeply challenging and nourishing, even without the plants. — Sophia Rochlin
We have to pay attention now. It’s a matter of life and death. Living as we do in a superficial culture of distractions, we have mental habits of focusing on effects, on controlling pain and discomfort but ignoring relationships that create the pain. Cultures that know how to establish communication with the intelligences of life forms sound like a fairy tale to us.
We “know” that matter is dead. Our model of existence is a giant machine. We’re still debating whether animals feel pain, as stupid as that sounds.
We’re not very deep, not very bright, we modern humans. We have far too much power and far too little sense. We don’t deserve our position at the helm of planetary governance.
There is a volcano on the horizon that is starting to spew smoke and ashes. The fallout is no longer remote. It’s local, it’s in our neighborhood, coming in our windows. We’re afraid. We hope our technology can save us. The scientists are working overtime. The envisioned solution is to fend off this one virus, not to change our way of life, certainly not to change our way of thinking.
We’re not going to convert to Animism. We’re not going to start believing that plants think. We don’t even believe that animals think.
Do humans think? Sometimes I doubt it.
The volcano on the horizon is a chance to reevaluate our modus operandi, but the issue in question is more than technical. It’s more than picking apart the DNA of this bug and finding its weak point. If we’re honest, if we’re smart, it involves looking in the mirror. We are the culprit. The way we live on the planet is the danger. If we can’t see that, we’ll go right back to our soulless ways and create another emergency in the near future.
A powerful, bored culture is a danger to itself and others, because it’s both stupid and insane. Chasing distractions and sensations is not a basis for a helpful or meaningful life. If we learn to fit into such a sick culture, we have deformed our souls and become agents for destruction of life on the planet.
We can do better. There are signs arising now that can be recognized as portents. This current crisis can be interpreted as a warning that we are heading in the wrong direction. Not only are we heading in the wrong direction, we are determined to go in that direction in spite of all signals to the contrary. We can only think to double down on our society’s worst instincts.
Some countries will do better than others, but the US seems more retrograde than most. Even if the majority of the populace doesn’t agree, the ones in power seem married to their suicide mission, a suicide mission for the anonymous masses, of course, not for them personally.
Our democracy does seem to be on its deathbed at the moment, just at a time when apathy and ignorance reign. Unless there comes an awakening, an enlightenment, we’re in big trouble.
The truth of our situation is going to take some time to settle in. The life we took for normal will fade, piece by piece, until we hardly remember it. Now is the time for creators and visionaries to come forward. There will be plenty of mechanics and data gatherers with unimaginative prognostications, but what we need are artists of a new culture, people who can show a better path.
Those people exist. I believe we are going to hear from them now. Maybe now we can listen to them.
- Anima Fire is my publication