A New Beginning

The world has changed.

I see it in the water.

I feel it in the Earth.

I smell it in the air.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s words could well describe our current situation. A darkness grows, the divide between light and dark is more apparent than ever, and there is a call to action for us (like Frodo Baggins) to forgo our normal routine and set out on an adventure to change the world. We are at the point where we can no longer afford to put off our personal transformations.

Two major issues are on most peoples’ minds:

  1. Our critical environmental problems.
  2. The rise of self-centered, xenophobic thinking.

I could have written them as #1, Climate Change and #2, Trump, but they are broader in scope than these two.

The two problems are closely tied to a third issue that is more insidious:

  1. Corporate exploitation of the planet and people.

Climate Change and Trump receive a lot of the spotlight these days, and there’s an implied hope that the world will be fixed when they go away. But if Trump were to die tomorrow and if all the excess carbon in the atmosphere was sequestered next year, thanks to some new technology, the underlying causes of these problems would remain.

However, they have both served a crucial purpose: of helping the rational, compassionate people in the world unite in two common causes. And as the Dalai Lama turned Mao into a learning experience, a way of cultivating his compassion, we have to aspire to do the same.

In the practice of compassion and tolerance, the one you consider your enemy is your best spiritual teacher. the Dalai Lama, 2016.

Our problems don’t exist in the future. This is not a film involving an asteroid hurtling towards earth that we hope to divert at the last moment with no collateral damage. We are in the middle of this, and there is already a lot of damage. It’s still hard to even know how bad it is, how different our weather will get, how many future floods and fires, how many species are extinct, how recoverable are our soil systems and oceans. But make no mistake: it is already time to act.

The Marin headlands and coast, seen from the side of Mount Tamalpais

My feeling is that we are at a potential turning point right now. It doesn’t take an empath to know that most people have had a difficult couple of years, and I think that it has just now reached a zenith. I could be wrong, but I feel that my little microcosm is a decent reflection of the macrocosm at the moment. My instinct tells me that this break that most of us are on right now is a crucial moment in history. Not in terms of external news or events, but internally, as a liminal space that gives us an opportunity to adopt new mindsets and habits.

I’m choosing to pause for this break and attempt a system reset.

If you’d like some reading material to along with yours, I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

15 thoughts on “A New Beginning

  1. This is such a timely and crucial message. It’s difficult to remain hopeful in such times with the beauty and wonder of nature threatened by rapacious corporate mindsets. Yet I think about the ingenuity of my Ojibwe ancestors who survived difficult times. I have often contemplated how to honor their courage and tenacity and continued to do so after I retired from a university. I moved closer to my daughter and grandchildren and began to explore how I might use my skills to help work toward building a healthier community in my new home. Sadly, I discovered that wasn’t as easy as it should be and began transforming my little yard into a garden. It was only then that other opportunities opened up. I returned to teaching social work at a private college where I had the freedom to experiment with new courses focusing on environmental issues. Last year, a colleague and I used the courses we were teaching, research and community practice, as an opportunity to inspire students to explore the important connections between safe water and community health. Although our class was small, the results were exciting. Most of the students from the rural communities our college site serves will remain where they are and have already begun to think about how they can address the community issues they explored. It’s such a modest step, but it’s what we can do. My colleague and I plan to keep innovating with the courses we teach as long as we can.

    1. Thank you, Carol! This all makes perfect sense and sounds right. Connecting with nature helped to start things off, as it often does. And doing something local (although sometimes not as satisfying to the ego, which wants to do things on a grand scale) is often the most effective way to start anything good. Please let me know if you’d ever like materials for teaching on issues related to ethical consumerism.

      1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, J, and for your kind offer. I will keep this in mind as the semester progresses. There’s still so much work to do on this steep learning curve as I put together yet another new syllabus…

  2. I do hope we are at a turning point. In my heart I don’t believe that enough people care enough to make enough change to save us but maybe that’s because I live in the heart of mass consumption and self-interest that appears to characterise South Dublin in Ireland. Hope i’m wrong.

    1. I think things can change fast once they reach a tipping point. And we often feel most hopeless and frustrated just before things turn around. I know what you mean, but a few things recently (growth of the zero-waste campaigns in Ireland; response to the Iceland palm oil ad in the UK, etc.) give me optimism. Your site is a wonderful resource, so please keep going!

  3. OMG, I’m reading A New Earth now!!
    And you’re saying the pres is my greatest spiritual teacher?! Oy!
    And I totally agree about corporations being at the heart of this all.
    Happy (let’s hope) New Year!

    1. Wow – we’re in sync!
      Yes, the corporations, of course, are happy to let other people take the heat – villains who’s election they help finance and who do their dirty work for them. We sometimes forget that; we think it’s the actions of one person with their personal agendas whereas it’s actually the tit-for-tat workings of a corporate-political machine. End of rant! Happy New Year, Pam!

  4. Haha! I found this amusing, informative (informative as always), and relatable. You’ve just written my feelings. Hope there comes a day where we forego greed and ego and actually think about the only home (Earth) we have.
    P.S. Love the LOTR touch at the start of the post!

    1. Thanks so much! I hope so too. Maybe, right now, the world is dividing between those who are headed that way and those who are only getting deeper into their rut.
      Thanks for reading!

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