The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. Not only is there an impoverishment of our emotional and sensory life, flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic, but this psychic numbing also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.
. . .
The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That is what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.
~ Joanna Macy
The intense desire to be organically connected to living landscapes is, in part, a desire to overcome solastalgia by finding an earthly home in connection with other living things on this Earth.
~ Glenn Albrecht
Have you heard of the word/term “solastalgia?” It’s a new word for me. I came across it a few weeks ago and realized that this is what I have been feeling. Solastalgia. Wikepedia describes it as “a form of mental or existential distress caused by environmental change.” It’s a kind of homesickness in which you don’t leave home. Solastalgia can occur after a sudden event, such as a hurricane, a tornado, a volcanic eruption, anything that changes the landscape in which you live. Glenn Albrecht, an environmental philosopher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, coined the term. He wrote that solastalgia “is the pain or sickness caused by the loss of, or inability to derive solace from, the present state of one’s home environment. Solastalgia exists when there is recognition that the beloved place in which one resides is under assault.”
Solastalgia is the definitive disease of the 21st century but only a few even know its name. The symptoms include an underlying sense of loss, a vague sensation of being torn from the earth, a general out-of-placeness, homelessness without leaving home. You have probably felt it without knowing what it was. Solastalgia is the unease we inflict on ourselves as we create a world we don’t want to inhabit, a world stripped of nature.
~ Stephen March, How We Cope With the End of Nature
I’ve felt this way for a while, this grieving for something that might be lost, that we may already be losing. I think I’m also grieving for something that needs to be lost. There is fear there, too. My fear is not the loss of the cultural system we currently live in, but the building of something worse. My hope, my active and very strong hope, is that we’re seeing what that something worse could be, and that there are enough people who will not stand for it, that enough people will stand up for something better. I have money in the game, so to speak. Grandchildren. Like most grandparents, my wish is for something better for them. At this point in my life, it’s about passing things on to them rather than seeing what’s in it for me. (That is not to say that those who don’t have children and grandchildren don’t also wish for a better future for the earth and the beings on this earth. I am just explaining why it’s important to me. Also, I like to think I’ve never been a “what’s in it for me?” type of person, but maybe we all are to some degree.)
It’s strange to me that although most of my being is convinced that the world as it is, the system as it is, needs to collapse and be replaced, there is still that part of me that wants the safety of the system. I’m okay in this world. My family is mostly okay in this world. We have food, shelter, water, and a ton of luxury. And yet, there is also a knowing that it isn’t always going to be this way, nor is it this way for many, many others. Something has to give. The world as humanity has created it is not a sustainable one. Growth cannot go on forever, cannot thrive without death of some kind. All you have to do is look at a garden or pay attention to the seasons to see how that works. We’re just putting off the inevitable. An implosion, perhaps, which seems apt since, in my pessimistic moments, I tend to see this culture/system we’ve built as a black hole of grasping neediness. A hungry ghost of our own creation.
People (in general — many, probably most if not all, of my readers are not included in this generalization) appear to keep missing the point about how connected we are to everything. To each other. To every other being and thing on the planet. I think it’s because we’re missing the point — or maybe it’s human arrogance — that we don’t recognize how everything is communicating in some way. Sometimes it’s subtle and easy to miss. Sometimes it’s not.
Friday evening, while M and I floated around in the water in an effort to stay cool in the summer heat, two bluebirds came up, flapping their wings and raising a ruckus. They flew over to the garage, pointing downwards, screeching at something. They went up into a maple tree, came down and repeated the flapping and screeching. M got out of the pool to look. There was a black rat snake by the garage. The bluebirds were out with their fledglings, teaching them to fly. They wanted the snake gone. M retrieved his long snake catching stick, picked up the snake with it, and carried it away to the marsh area, far from the bluebirds. The bluebirds chattered and sang him a little song, then happily went about teaching their babies to fly. We saw them later on, out front on one of the perches we put up for the birds. They were on the far perch, three fledglings with their parents. The father came to the nearby perch and looked in the kitchen window. I don’t know if he saw us or not, sitting there eating dinner and watching as the little ones learned to fly. Maybe he nodded. Maybe he didn’t.
That sort of thing happens all the time around here. You wouldn’t notice it, though, if you weren’t paying attention.
While waiting for M to go out on a bike ride yesterday, a dragonfly landed on my hand. I fussed around for a few minutes, trying to capture a photograph of it. That involved all sorts of one-handed maneuvers (retrieving the phone from my bike bag, swiping the screen, putting in the pin number to unlock it, opening the camera app, etc.). By the time the camera was ready and I’d focused on it, the dragonfly took off. S/he came back a few seconds later and sat on my bike bag for a while. I managed to get a picture of it. But I’d also wasted time trying to capture what I should have been paying attention to. It’s a photographer’s dilemma, the choice between being in the moment and capturing it. I’m trying to spend more time being in the moment, but I also want to capture and share the beauty that we have been given in the hope that more and more people will rise up to save it.
I’m going to end with a longish quote from the book Active Hope:
Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued . . . .
by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.
~ Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone
Thank you for stopping by today. Our sunsets have been interesting lately. Join me at the Point later and we’ll see what there is to see. Sunset is scheduled for 8:25 PM. Moon rise (and it’s almost a full moon) is around 6:45 PM so the moon will be there with us.
Be good, be kind, be love.
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,101) Pink sunset clouds wrapping around an almost full moon. 1,102) Getting lost in the sunset. 1,103) Sitting with a dragonfly. 1,104) New words, new ideas, new ways of thinking. 1,105) An almost constant breeze this afternoon. It makes it feel a little bit cooler and more tolerable.
Some interesting reading and practices:
- Psychoterratica — Glenn A. Albrecht
- How We Cope With the End of Nature
- The mindfulness conspiracy
- Watching a Debate as a Spiritual Practice
- A Forest Walk (a guided practice)