Transition People in a Transition Time

Posted December 31st, 2015 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

It’s really ending – and I don’t mean the numbered year. I don’t mean 2015. That’s small stuff. Despite all the fireworks and parties unfolding across the planet today, that’s fairly meaningless. An empire figured out a way to measure time in a way that helped our growing population, and all the commerce that came with it, organize itself.

I was thinking last night about how we put more meaning into those numbers than into the planetary cycles, numbers that shape our commercial, economic life, but not the “real reality” in which we live. After a meaningful solstice ritual and community sharing with the sangha I attend, and after marking the light-come-into-the-darkness time of Christmas (really, most Christians have lost a deep sense of the meaning of placing Christmas in the days just after the winter solstice), this business of New Year’s Eve night feels detached from the real thing we are a part of – the life journey of the planet itself.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

I guess it’s just another sign of humans having in general detached themselves from that life and energy, making time an abstraction, and then organizing our lives according to the abstractions – because it was good for commerce, and helped a lot with things like war, and organizing empire, and building cities, and having meetings, and all the rest.

That separation was good for our economic lives, but it is proving disastrous for life on the planet. If Nature is teaching us anything these days, with the extremes of “eco-crises”  unfolding virtually everywhere now, it’s that we can never be separated from it, never outside it. We are part of it and everything we do has impact within the whole of it. And, boy, what an impact we are having now on that whole!

So my year-end reflection turns to this theme. Looking back on 2015, I am reminded of those climate scientists who, back in late 2014, saw the potential Super El Niño developing, saw the heat trends all around the planet that would feed on it, and saying that 2015 would be the year that climate denialism meets its demise. This was going to be a year that shattered all records, and get ready for the impacts!

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

And did we ever have impacts, even before El Niño enveloped our part of the world and fed on all that heat! The drought in the West, combined with the plague of bark beetles that have been devouring our western pine forests, the infestation a direct result of global warming, combined with record warm temperatures, created the perfect conditions for massive fire storms, a better word than wildfires, though both work – they were wild, they were explosive, they were massive. Fire-fighters said they had never seen fires behave as these did. One of the more dramatic events occurred in Alaska where dry permafrost exploded into flames. The forests of western Canada burned so long and with such ferocity that the smoke from those fires dimmed the sun all the way across the U.S. Midwest and to the northeast states. Once the sky began to clear, Washington State’s forests exploded in flames, and we were again in a haze that caused people with respiratory problems to suffer.

This was not just a North American event. Huge fires broke out in many parts of the world, some of this a combination of factors from drought, heat, insects, and human intervention, especially slash-and-burn practices in places like Indonesia and the Amazon region of South America. These fires sent enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere while destroying some of the Earth’s most important carbon sinks.

Massive flooding events also occurred in many parts of the world. One of the impacts of global warming is that warm air holds more energy. Heat evaporates more water off the Earth’s surface feeding still more moisture into the atmosphere. Traditional rain events become torrents and deluges. It’s not like a shower spray anymore, it’s like turning over a bucket – for hours, even days.

Missouri’s annual rainfall average is 40 inches. The state had 61 inches of rain this year, and 11 inches in December alone. Add to that the engineering of rivers, building levees to channel the water rather than letting it flow naturally into the floodplains – I mean, that’s why they’re called floodplains!!!! – and even worse, building human communities in those floodplains, and you have the perfect conditions for exactly what is happening in that state right now.

Video: NBC Nightly News 12/30/15

When Gov. Jay Nixon yesterday pledged to return the flooded areas to the conditions they were in before the floods, I wanted to hang my head in despair. Despite all the forces of the Earth, all the dynamics that make the planet volatile, awe-inducing, and amazing, we will go on as if we can ever finally rein her in according to our desires.

The Mississippi River is seeing “500 year floods” every 2-3 decades now. 2016 is already being predicted to be hotter globally than 2015. So what about those floodplains?

We are living in a time of extraordinary transition, like nothing humans have seen before. As I write this, in the North Atlantic, a storm is raging that has very little to do with the El Niño. Our weather systems of recent days did head that way, their energy eventually sucked up in the power of the low pressure that caused a weather bomb to go off over the ocean. You can read about it here, but the most impressive aspect of the storm is that it is driving heat into the Arctic and up to the North Pole, bringing record temperatures hard to comprehend – 50 degrees above normal. 50 degrees!!! In this now perpetually dark time of the year, the normal highs are in the -20s. Forecasters said the temperatures would rise above freezing before the storm passes on.

I encourage you to read this article, disturbing as it may be, because these are things we need to know. This information is our motivator. This information tells us that we are already seeing irreversible climate trends across the planet and we have to figure out what we’re going to do now in THAT reality, not the one we wish for.

The Scariest Part of This Season’s Weird Weather Is Coming Soon
Tornadoes, floods, and a heat wave at the North Pole
By Eric Holthaus

We are a transition people living in a transition time. We cannot escape that reality, we can only decide what we want to do about it, how we want to live in it, how to embrace the challenge of our new most essential task:

to learn how to live on this planet!!

Because we are doing a very poor job of it.

As I ponder our work, under the name of a Center for NEW Creation, I ask what a little operation like this has to offer. We have this site (though we intend to create a new more powerful website this year), and we have our Center for New Creation Facebook page (check it out, add it to your “likes,” comment, participate, the audience is growing and it’s a really good one), and that is our internet presence. I continue to offer presentations, workshops, reflection days. I am available for retreats, group facilitation, along with these other types of programs. This is some of my favorite work because of the variety of communities I am privileged to engage. And I engage locally with various grassroots and faith-based groups where we struggle together with a lot of this stuff.logo at 196 x 159

There is more we can do if we can empower this little non-profit a bit more. It doesn’t take a lot to have an impact, just some dedicated energy and a good dose of determination. We see our role as one of education, consciousness-raising, and empowerment through these programs. We are not trying to depress people, quite the opposite. Despite how impossible our human predicament appears to be, a transition moment is also the moment of greatest potential for creativity and real transformation. A crisis like this one can really focus the mind and heart and call out the best in us.

After all, our task is merely to transform the human presence on and within this planet. It is wrenching for all that must be let go, but a lot of that has been in our way, impediments to the work of creation.

I leave you with this great metaphor to ponder as we hang up our new wall calendars and change the numbers from 2015 to 2016 – the floodplains of the Mississippi:

Let them go. Let them be what they are meant to be. Free the river to flow as it will, because our efforts to force it to obey our will has made things so much worse.

Free the river to flow as it will. Don’t make it try to learn to live according to human will – rather, we need to learn how to live with it, according to its own magnificent dynamisms and energies.

Let it go. Let go all the effort to control and direct and force Nature into submission. Let us learn again what it means to be human within the whole of creation.

I leave you with this quote from Buddhist writer Wendy Johnson. It sits on my “altar” table and I often refer to it because it means so much to me. Next week, I will write more about how we see our work ahead in 2016. But let’s start by taking up Johnson’s charge. Let’s stand each morning in full awareness, fully awake, and repeat this to ourselves:

Slow down and set your intention, fresh and raw. Step onto the living earth with courage and conviction. Find your bearings in the cardinal directions, then let go and stand on unmarked terrain.

Blessings to all you transition people in this time of Great Transition.

Margaret Swedish
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One Response

  1. Peg

    Let us learn to live AS the planet…