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
“This breezy little tome I’ve written, Die Wise, was graced with a noble introduction by a denizen of England and of times gone by, name of Martin Shaw, with whom I was briefly reunited a week ago for a riotous night of elegy and lament worthy of the ages. (Keep a weather eye for a film record of that boisterous event, crafted by Ian McKenzie, that might see light later this winter.) In the spangled generosity of his Forward Mr. Shaw took me for a citizen of the Other World. And this was to my knowledge the first time I was recognized, the first time this drizzle of sorrow and love for life that is my claim for Orphan Wisdom was seen and called by name. This stirred my gratitude. I have gratitude for him personally and specifically, surely, but I’ve another gratitude that arrived in this slurry of anticipation and pause, one that rises in the departure lounge as I make my way back across the Atlantic, tracing the furrows ploughed centuries before when We Who Left, who could not afford to stay, parted ways so deeply with You Who Stayed, to become the great European fantasy of America. And Mr. Shaw wrote of we who left: “To us, when you left you became spirits. How does dying wise function when to we who stayed you are already dead?” This is surely the arche of sorrow and longing and the uprooting of the world in search of home that America has become. It is to this wonder that I am returning.”
“I have not a clue whether we humans will live for another 100 or 10,000 years. We can’t be sure. What matters to me is the fact we have fallen out of a very ancient love affair – a kind of dream tangle, with the earth itself. If, through our own mess, that relationship is about to end, then we need to scatter as much beauty around us as we possibly can, to send a voice, to attempt some kind of repair. I think of it as a kind of courting – a very old idea.”
“When we claim myth as nothing but a map of our inner-life we reduce it, make a prison of it in our rib-cage. We stay in a rather sad isolation, rather than the sophisticated awakening that we are frisky boars rolling in myths deep and nourishing mud. The delicate flecks of soil that lace the sides of our pen (that is the world) is the art we display from such a calorific experience.”
“I am saying that in a functioning culture, myth is the dwelling hut for the people, the goats, the gleaming little babies, the old ones crooked and crazy-wise, the heart-broken, the grand stretch of birch trees at the bottom of a Norfolk field. It contains it all. It’s not just a reductionist blue-print for a therapists handle on why you feel so blue.”
“This is not to deny the interior – much great art has been developed in its amplification. But at what cost? For many of us now, our inner-world has become more real than the real. So i praise the genius of psychology but i believe there is much gain in myth cutting loose from the corral of human allegory – these are wild horses we are encountering. They have much to disclose.”
“A society continually emphasizing victory and progress is out of touch with myth. Myths emphasis on descent is erotic – it is the longing of the apple to fall from the quivering branch and be cradled in the dark arms of the soil. Gravity is a secondary issue. It is really the business of desire. I think our access to so many facts is causing us to be in a permanent state of hallucination. We are societally tripping. We have the facts but where on earth has the story gone?”
“Myths demand full occupancy of the lived experience. Which includes the myriad difficulties and slow-drip struggles that eventually carve out those rare and ordinary creatures we call elders. It requires a full, creative declaration of attachment to the world. That declaration, hewn into language, growing, loving, learning, music – is part of awareness of the impossible debt of gratitude we have for being here at all. The very sensation of the debt is a wonderful grounding in being a full human being.”
(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.