From Apocalypse to Opportunity
In previous posts, I’ve talked about the art of seeing and ways to nurture the ability to embrace everyday scenes as well as develop a faculty for transformation. At times that visual acuity, whether it’s our physical sight or an inner felt sense, can lead to a trend of paralysis in our artistic vision and expression when our perceived reality gets stuck in the mud of absolutes. Those of us with creative practices know all too well the boon and bane of the muse.
When I find myself frozen with some phobia (usually unwarranted), I flip through The Essential Rumi, by Jelaluddin Balkhi, a 13th century Sufi poet, translated by Coleman Barks, to a dog-earred, sticky-note tabbed selection: Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.
Extrapolating this anxiety of annihilation from the individual to the larger population, we, as humans, currently face a collection of circumstances with increasing evidence to support the idea of cultural, and maybe even our own species, demise. Climate change, polar magnetic shifts, meteor impacts, solar flares, disease, government shutdowns, the rapture - whether secular or religious, each foretells a cataclysmic conclusion.
In their trail-blazing book, The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America, Mel Gilles and Mathew Gross “combine history, current events, and psychological and cultural analysis to reveal the profound influence of apocalyptic thinking on America’s past, present, and future” in an intelligent and entertaining read. My take-away from the book was how catastrophic mindsets can breed an overwhelming fear and suspend imaginative and resourceful thinking, individually and collectively. The authors also bring to light how history, with its linear methodologies, can lead us to think in terms of inevitability rather than possibility.
Here in the desert Southwest, we live amongst the ruins and remains of the Anasazi culture, as well as other primitive peoples, providing everyday evidence of societal collapse. David E. Stuart, Ph.D., in his book Anasazi America, outlines the downfall of the Anasazi, the architects of Chaco Canyon (this link is down for the duration of the government shutdown), who built a hierarchical society around religious and economic ties which broke down due to “misuse of farmland, malnutrition, loss of community, and an inability to deal with climatic catastrophe”. He particularly highlights the gap in economic circumstances between the ruling elites and the farmers who fed them.
I don’t have any answers to the rush towards THE END. Personally, I try to move myself out of demanding WHAT IS! and leap into WHAT IF? I would hope that the conversation can change from a piling up of evidence of the inevitable to one of seeing through the fear and redirecting its energy into building community. I hope to see You, through it.
I’ll leave you with a little Rush: Closer to the Heart. Yes, you can get up and dance!
Your blog as always, made me think - this time about my fears of "I can't do it" or "I don't know how". When changed to "I will try", suddenly the task seems easier and our brain digs deeper into the knowledge we never knew we had, whether artistic or technical. Always such a pleasure to read your articles, they make me slow down and think, which is precious!
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