How it all comes together now: the meaning of ‘New Creation’ after Orlando
Do we need any more signs that this work is urgent – the work of re-creating how humans live within this planet? Because right now things are not going well.
The name of this non-profit, and the work that falls under its umbrella, is not just some attention-getting catch-phrase. It is a mission. And we need your help to make it possible for us to ratchet this up a whole bunch of notches so that we can have a greater impact.
It’s all coming together now. While we have for some time been making the connections between an ecological spirituality and the work of environmental justice – insisting that these two things must become integrally linked if we are to have either – this other reality has come exploding into our consciousness with such accelerating trauma that we are having a hard time coping, and a hard, if not impossible time, responding to it – the rise in civil violence within this heavily armed country. And that violence accompanies a rising tide of intolerance such as what we have just seen manifested in Orlando, and in many responses to it from those trying to make a claim on political leadership.
This, too, is manifestation of the crisis we face as human beings – change so fast-paced and wrenching that for those who are losing their moorings along the way, who are terrified of the changes that are knocking them off their old foundations of identity and meaning, violence has become one way of venting the fear. And the gun industry has been happy to oblige them with military assault rifles and bullets that can tear human tissue into pieces.
Yes, it is all part of the changes spreading fear and uncertainty across the planet, fear partly rooted in ignorance of its causes. This ignorance is often quite intentionally planned by those powerful interests who have everything to lose if we humans would choose to make the changes in our lives commensurate with, at the scale of, and consistent with what is actually happening.
What is actually happening?
Let’s add up a few factoids here:
- human population has increased from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7.4 billion now;
- these masses of humans are spilling into each other as never before on a planet that is reaching multiple versions of biocapacity limits;
- old cultural and religious foundations are collapsing because they no longer describe our world, especially those based in hierarchy and patriarchy in service to an over-and-above judgmental male god, while an old moral order built on those foundations is also collapsing under the weight of reality;
- realization and emergence of multiple expressions of human diversity mark our time, including ethnic, racial, cultural, spiritual diversity, along with new understandings of what we mean by “family,” intimacy, gender and sexual orientation (the list is long);
- the imminent transition in the U.S. to a minority/majority population is upon us and the resurgence of white supremacist and states’ rights groups in reaction to that;
- global heating and climate change, water scarcity and the sixth great extinction, are now seen for what they are – undeniable results of industrial society, planetary changes beyond our imagination not that long ago;
- the global economy is failing, and will continue to fail most people in the world because it does not have room for them.
And of course I could go on. If you wonder what so much of the chaos and craziness and fear-mongering of our times is really all about, think trauma, think how many of us feel knocked off center, how many of us, comfortable in old understandings and identities, in social place and status, are feeling the ground trembling, crumbling, beneath our feet.
Any wonder that our times have become so unsettled?
There is no one thing at the root of this. What there is is enormous transition going on in every part of our lives, and our human response to it ranges from terror and fear to welcome and embrace and everything in between.
When you cannot fix something this big, what happens? How do we walk in times like these in ways that can help calm the fears, allow what is ending to be let go, to stay with the transition and find ways to live through it with what is best in us, rather than what is worst?
We don’t have answers here, but, echoing the old Rainer Maria Rilke letter to the young poet, we can learn how to live into the questions, the uncertainties, because they are defining dynamisms of our time. Avoiding them or wishing them away will not help us now. Here they are. What will we do?
One thing is that we have to learn, and quickly, how to live with one another. Conditions on our planet – ecological and economic – are not going to get easier any time soon. There is no grand solution that will return us in anyone’s lifetime to a calm version of normal. What we have to decide is if we are so wedded to the old foundations and worldviews that we would rather cling to them as they fall apart, or let them go and start intentionally living into the big challenge of our time – how, as Thomas Berry once wrote, to reinvent the human presence on this planet.
And right at the heart of the reinvention, or new creation, are the questions:
what kind of human beings will we be as we go through this crisis time, this transition, and what core values would we like to see shape our future?
There are some pretty ugly versions of that future going around these days, but there are also some magnificent ones, even if they don’t get the same attention as the ugly ones.
As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, we have been rethinking our orientation here under the umbrella of this little non-profit. We think more groups, writers, culture workers, educators, spiritual leaders, and others need to be far more forthright about describing the true nature of our human predicament, because right now many of the narratives are woeful, destructive, distracting, and at the very least extremely unhelpful.
Take Orlando as an example: while the culture went immediately to the meme centered on “radical Islamic terrorism,” it turns out that this is much more likely the case of a closeted gay man filled with self-loathing and resentment, son of a strict father from Afghanistan who supports the Taliban, who had been visiting the Pulse nightclub for some time, drinking heavily, and with a history of abuse that caused his first wife to leave him out of fear that he would cause her grave harm.
Yes, a very different story – not a jihadist attack on America but a hate crime against the LGBT community. Different narratives which require radically different responses.
And climate change? How many competing narratives have arisen in the past 20 years ? Because how we respond to it depends a lot on which narrative wins us over.
Temperatures in Phoenix are predicted to hit records of up to 120 degrees next week. Wildfires in Alberta still rage. 3,000 or so people died in the record heat wave in India the other week. Coral reefs are bleaching and dying all over the world, and rising sea levels are already flooding streets of Miami Beach every high tide.
What narrative we choose to describe these things will determine what action we take. And some narratives are destructively false and immoral if they knowingly keep us from taking actions that could save lives and future life on this planet.
So, that’s one thing we want to do here – tell true stories of our predicament.
The other things is that we want to tell true stories of human fearlessness to wrestle with the truth of that predicament, to face it unfiltered by our fears, including our fears of what must be let go in order to respond in ways appropriate to the challenges we face. We want to share stories of those places where human communities are rising up in defense of their places, their land, waters, air, neighborhoods against the onslaught of destructive industries in this last wave of the fossil fuel era. We want to share stories of emergent spiritualities arising out of this work, and the inspiration that comes with viewing both our evolutionary and cosmological history and seeing our humble place within it.
We want to share not so much the stories of the big groups and the famous people, but of the grassroots, the fiercely local, where new ways of life are being invented without even intending it – sharing communities growing out of a deep love for the eco-communities within which we dwell and a longing to keep them whole and alive for future generations.
This work will have two concrete aspects to it: 1) the new website which will be an anchor for the truth-telling about the planet and for the narratives of “new creation” emerging from grassroots communities; 2) getting out into communities with my camcorder, digital camera, voice recorder, and my journal to gather up these stories and invite people to share them in an online “new creation community.”
We hope to have the website up by the end of July. You can help empower this work with a donation as we face serious funding challenges over the summer. Because we have so little infrastructure for the CNC at this point, donations go directly to our work, not for overhead. With a budget like ours, even the smallest contribution can make a difference. A large one, on the other hand, can be a game-changer.
Meanwhile, some of the work that most inspires me personally are the many workshops, speaking engagements, Powerpoint presentations, and facilitated community conversations that have been my privilege to lead. Keep me in mind as you plan programs in your community. I’ve been at this now a long time and never get tired of it.
So, in these painful days when we once again absorb so much grief, let’s keep our hearts open no matter how much it hurts. For those of us for whom this attack on the LGBT community feels quite personal, let’s use that closeness as a resource from which to bear witness to what hate can do. We feed a lot of it here in this country by way of religious intolerance, racist bigotry, and irrational anti-immigrant fear. Let our voices be a counter-witness to that, and an urgent one.
We won’t go well through the Great Transition if we allow hate and violence to escalate, to run through our communities sowing passionate, angry division. But we can go through it well if we have the grace, the compassion, the generosity of spirit to counter radical hate with radical love.