“Most of us don’t want to change
I mean why should we
What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model
We keep on being ourselves
But hopefully better versions of ourselves
But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic
That you just change
Change from the known person to the unknown person
So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were
But the person inside the skin is a different person”
In the video above, Chris Hedges and Tim DeChristopher discuss the deadly failure of the industrial world to confront the effects of climate change. The following is a brief excerpt from that conversation.
HEDGES: Let’s talk about grief. I feel it. I read the climate change reports, I have children. It fills me with despair. How do we cope with it?
DECHRISTOPHER: I think part of the way that we cope with it is admitting that we were always headed towards that path. That we were always going to die.
HEDGES: As a species?
DECHRISTOPHER: Well and as individuals as well. You know we like to have this progressive notion that we do these good things to make a better world at some point in the future and even if consciously it sort of falls short of a utopia or a sort of promised land in the future. It’s still sort of this outcome based value system, that’s based on things being okay in the end.
HEDGES: It’s the myth of progress.
DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah, but I think that’s also tied to a myth of immortality. That when we talk about some of the most honorable things that we can do. We use language like we saved someone’s life. But that person’s still going to die. Every person that we do something nice for is still going to die. So if it’s really outcome oriented then we’ve always been kind of deceiving ourselves with that value system.
Stephen Jenkinson confronts the language that we use in a death-phobic culture. DeChristopher touches on it in the above comment regarding our myth of immortality. In the following short audio clip, Jenkinson explores the meaning of the word ‘hope’ and how it distracts and detours us from being present in this world, in our unique time in history.
On Grief and Climate Change
(h/t Carolyn Baker)
“The crucible of making human beings is death. Every culture that is worth a damn knows that.
It is not success. It’s not growth. It’s not happiness. It’s death. That’s the cradle of your love of life, the fact that it ends.”
“Grief is not a feeling. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief as a skill of life is the skill of being able to praise or love life which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand – grief and the praise of life, side by side.”
(from the website) Griefwalker is a lyrical, poetic portrait of Stephen Jenkinson’s work with dying people. Filmed over a twelve year period, Griefwalker shows Jenkinson in teaching sessions with doctors and nurses, in counseling sessions with dying people and their families, and in meditative and often frank exchanges with the film’s director while paddling a birch bark canoe about the origins and consequences of his ideas for how we live and die.
A few of the themes appearing in the film: Where does our culture’s death phobia come from? Is there such a thing as good dying? How is it that grief could be a skill instead of an affliction? Who are the dead to us? How can seeing your life’s end be the beginning of your deep love of being alive?
Stephen Jenkinson has appeared at scores of screenings of Griefwalker across Canada and the U.S. The discussion periods which follow routinely go on for hours. It seems the film detonates a strong desire among people to talk about their experiences of death and grief, and especially to be heard by others.
Griefwalker is available for viewing on Netflix.
THE WELL OF GRIEF
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through the black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink
the secret water, cold and clear
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.
– David Whyte
” At the end of a retreat in California, a friend wrote this poem:
I have lost my smile,
but don’t worry.
The dandelion has it.
If you have lost your smile and yet are still capable of seeing that a dandelion is keeping it for you, the situation is not too bad. You still have enough mindfulness to see that the smile is there.
You only need to breathe consciously one or two times and you will recover your smile. The dandelion is one member of your community of friends. It is there, quite faithful, keeping your smile for you.
In fact, everything around you is keeping your smile for you.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
While suffering a severe depression after the death of my father, these words from Thich Nhat Hanh became a lifeline of sorts. As I took my regular walks with Buffy (now departed too) I would encounter these little dots of sunshine. Thay’s words would echo forth as the darkness of my grief slowly began to lift with time. I painted this as a reminder to myself of the darkness and the light; the grief, the depression, and the non-depression that eventually emerged.