Thursday, December 22, 2016

But, I Have Not Abandoned My Hope for People

A Facebook friend of a Facebook friend, Kathi Irwin, recently wrote “Abandon hope and start living.” These five words really caught my eye and resonated deep down. The words were followed by a quote by Paul Chefurka, a writer and thinker, which said that he has been living for years without hope of the world’s problems being solved, and has found richness by doing things that give him meaning.

Though I read “Abandon hope and start living” a couple of weeks ago, the words have stuck with me. They have helped me to frame a decade or so of my desire to participate in fixing an ecosystem-destroying society. The society I am referring to is the industrial society that I inhabit, which is helplessly reliant on fossil fuels and industrially-produced materials. Years ago, when I realized the terrible damage that most of the human race was doing to all the ecosystems of Earth, I was overwhelmed. I would lose sleep. I wanted to be an activist and tell everyone that what was going on was all wrong. I read all I could on the subject, but still felt powerless.

Over the past few years, I have acted. The experiences of working in government, founding a chapter of a small non-profit, learning primitive skills, and thinking/reading/talking about the changes needed to right the ship of society have led me to realize that the forces of inertia (called 'progress') and complexity that drive and support society are likely impossible to counter. I saw the product of ‘progress’ this past weekend, when driving through Loudoun County, Virginia. After witnessing the nightmare of over-sized, cookie cutter homes among earth bulldozed in the name of widening highways and building more developments, Joseph said, “This is progress.” He and I looked at each other and just shook our heads. People will live in that place; some will actually like it. Neat, trimmed, homogeneous grass will be planted over the bare soil, but it will not make up for the diverse ecosystem that has been ravaged wastefully and thoughtlessly. These bulldozed places have lost all of their uniqueness and diversity, and will be replaced with a homogeneous, destructive, consumer culture. Society continues to create living spaces where people are dependent on strip malls and the grocery store. This is considered normal, good, the best we can do. I disagree. So, over the past couple of years, I have struggled to abandon hope for a society that has no future and is leaving destruction in its wake.
Though I've abandoned my hope for the industrial society in which I was born and raised, I have not abandoned my hope for people. I now know several people that recognize that a different, less destructive way is possible and preferable. They know that humans are not the center of the universe, that we do not need much of what industrial society provides, and that we especially do not need those things in the way they are currently provided. I write to continue to find and connect with like-minded people. They help to keep me going, because the feelings of isolation that sometimes come with this transition are difficult to bear.

While loneliness can often creep in, I am finding that my sense of fulfillment grows by the day. To be sure, life is not a cakewalk now. I have had to experience pain and make tough decisions, and to change my life in significant ways. The process continues. I feel as if I am bushwhacking through the woods, creating paths where no one I am close to has gone, which is both liberating and scary. My heart and soul tell me I am going the right way. I am finding myself able to experience joy without questioning if I should be experiencing it or if I deserve to experience it. Such feelings of guilt and inadequacy plagued me months and years ago, but they are receding.

Small inspirational sign given to me by my Mom

Industrial society will topple. It is using and wasting too much, killing off too many members of too many species, continuing to build in complexity to support unsustainable systems, and relying almost exclusively on non-renewable resources. Perhaps most significantly, it is creating people with no sense of place or meaningful direction. Unfortunately, industrial society is likely to fall violently because many among us two-leggeds believe, or at least pretend, that industrial society can continue indefinitely. We continue to trash the ecosystems that support us, all while saying that we're just on the brink of coming up with sustainable this and sustainable that. So, environmental and social degradation will continue until some event(s) happens and puts a stop to the destruction. There will be some remaining scraps for the life that is left on this earth to survive on. Hopefully, there will be enough left for life to someday thrive. 

For my part, I must go back to the ecosystem and live much in the way my (and our) ancestors did, even though the mechanics of actually doing so are still a bit fuzzy. I have a long way to go. I will continue to strive to put down literal and figurative roots in an ecosystem and seek others who want to do the same. I know you are out there! I hope that you too will feel free to give up hope on things that you know have no future. It is, and will be, OK if you do. “Abandon hope, and start living.” There is no better way to say it, and there is much to be done!

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