Living in two worlds is quite the challenge, as I’ve indicated before (here, here, here, and here, for starters), and as everybody who’s given it a whirl can attest. The events of the last 24 hours have given me a trenchant reminder. Well, two, to be precise.
The first reminder came when I presented, by invitation, at a fire conference in San Diego, California. I spoke at length about the impacts of fire-suppression activities on natural communities. Anybody who’s spent a little time on the fire line and paid attention knows that the adverse consequences of quelling a fire often exceed the adverse consequences of the fire itself. I started with a little Greek philosophy and a quote from the Tao Te Ching before stretching the single-sentence description to nearly 20 minutes, along the way pointing out the obvious: When the world economy collapses, as it surely will, we’ll no longer need to worry about the impacts of fire-suppression activities on wild nature. Peak oil made an appearance on 4 of the 48 slides, and I spent about 5 minutes on the topic.
The first question came from the back of the room: “Are you for real?”
My first thought was to enter the realm of postmodern philosophy, thus allowing me to return to the philosophical beginnings of my presentation while probing the nature of our existence, individual and collective. But I don’t think that’s what he meant, so I played along. I then spent considerable time explaining the ongoing collapse in clear language that almost nobody was willing to understand.
Denial runs deep in the empire. It was as if they’d never heard of a recession before, much less a depression. Or a Depression.
Back in Tucson a few hours after engaging a room of denial, the second reminder appeared in the cover story of this week’s issue of the local counter-culture rag. It’s a compelling story, told sufficiently well to evoke tears as I read it. It’s a reminder that we can do many things to help others and ourselves as the world comes down around us.
I know, I know. Some of my readers think the world is not coming down around us. But, for the girls in the detention facility, the roof has already caved in. Fortunately, several of us chose our date and place of birth with considerable care, so we’ve been immune from lives filled with hate and hatred, impoverishment and poverty, disinterest and disharmony. And the inordinate amount of wisdom that results from a life on the “wrong” side of wealth, hence justice. Trust me: Our time is coming.
So get active. Witness some hard times, and help people who are experiencing them. You might be surprised what you’ll learn from people you hear described as “stupid” and “poor.” You might learn about real riches, instead of the illusory ones. And I guarantee you’ll learn about wisdom, if you’re wise enough to pay attention.
I’d love to hear your ideas about how to engage the collapse, while also nurturing and learning from people who beat us there.