“Our dominant culture lives out an unstated conspiracy of silence that enlists our complicity in the destruction of our planet and its chemistry, climate and life forms.” Joanna Macy in interview with Terry Patten
I was very struck by this passage where Joanna Macy points to something that I have been trying to articulate myself. This unstated conspiracy of silence isn’t just about climate change, it seems to extend to anything controversial or disturbing. Yesterday another school shooting in the USA. People are shocked and in mourning. We all feel empathy for those involved and our hearts open. But when it comes to joining together to speak out again gun control, that seems to be left to the political lobbyists.
I can feel my own resistance to speak out about important issues. When getting together with friends I am also reluctant to start conversations about global warming. And when I do manage to get something going, we seem to end up in a heated exchange of opinions and quotes from about what we have read. I have yet to have a conversation about what action we could take together. Joanna Macy says this is because we need to face our own natural resistance – “the deepest part of this voyage is to break the taboo that’s internally structured into our own psyche and cross the river of our own denial.
To help us in this journey she identifies 4 Stations in the spiral of her approach called the “Work that Reconnects”
1. Opening to Gratitude
2. Honoring our Pain for the world
3. Seeing with New Eyes
4. Going Forth
Starting with gratitude is an simple and profound way to initiate this process. She goes on to say that within our consumerist culture, gratitude is actually a politically subversive act. Wow! “Because the engine that drives late capitalism is dissatisfaction and craving…it’s a revolutionary act to be thankful for what you are and what you have in this moment.” What a new way to see gratitude! For many years now, we have understood that focusing on what you are grateful for opens up for new possibilities. But her approach brings the idea of gratitude beyond the ego into the arena of connection to the whole.
I love that she uses the word “reconnects”. It intimates that we were once connected to each other and the earth. We know how to be together in this way yet to reconnect take something new. Maybe a new awareness or a bigger love. Perhaps it takes an essential act of courage. And it seems to me that this is what our current evolution is pushing us to get. It is about realizing that we are connected to life, to nature and to each other. In her words: “It demonstrates our interconnectedness in the web of life and our authority to take action on its behalf.”
The waking up to “our authority to take action” on behalf of life is also a courageous journey. And indeed difficult. Recently at the Wisdom Circle that I lead we were looking at the need to become “evolutionary leaders”. One of the participants spoke of the guilty feelings she had about her comfortable life-style, especially that she’s not willing to give up – even as she knows it is partly contributing to global warming. Many of the participants in the circle echoed this feeling. We talked about how painful it is to see suffering and not to know what to do about it. But suddenly the group was coming up with ways they could join together in small initiatives. This happened because one person dared to expose her own shame and speak about the pain of not knowing what to do.
We learned in the Pachama Symposium that if you don’t actually feel your feelings in reaction to the earth changes you may discover yourself feeling depressed, apathetic, hopeless, blaming and end up not motivated to do anything about the situation. I wrote a lot about this in the post Awaken the Dreamer. It seems that we need opportunities to break the silence about our feelings together with others. Again this seems to be an evolutionary leap that will bring us forward.
We are seeing more and more encouragement to act – even in mainstream media, as this recent one from the Guardian: “Climate change: you can’t ignore it” . But somehow we must break the conspiracy of silence to find out how we as individuals can do something. Politicians can’t act without a significant grass-roots movement to force something new to be born. If we keep in mind the three categories that need attention: Sustainability, Social Justice and Meaningful Life – it is easier to find ways to make a difference and change the existing culture of silence. I continue to ask myself – what can I do to encourage myself and each other to start important conversations that will contribute to making important evolutionary changes in our cultural values.
I truly believe that we all are looking for the same thing: Peace on earth and in our hearts, help for the planet and each other, respect for all things. But because we put limitations on who and what shall get our love and respect, because we unconsciously expect others to act first, because we don’t really get the interconnectedness of all things, because we don’t realize we humans are in this mess together – the silence and the lack of action remains the common stance.
May this Holiday Season help us to move a bit closer to the new values that are trying to be born in our midst – a real Christmas Wish. Perhaps this insightful Ted Talk by Brené Brown, can inspire us be “Daring Greatly” in our evolutionary leadership.