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Grieving our environment

This last month has seen some pretty alarming results being published. The possibility of a sixth mass extinction looms. CO2 is up, temperatures are up, extreme weather events are up.

What I’ve been feeling through this month, on and off, lurking underneath every time I tune in to see what’s there, is grief.

Grief for the earth. Grief for humans. Grief that we haven’t figured out our ethics and values enough to change our course of action, progress, destination.

When we feel the grief, when we allow it to pass through us, teach us its lessons, and move on, we grow.

Kahlil Gibran wrote of this in The Prophet. The greater the sorrow we experience, the greater the joy that can pass through us too.

And Joanna Macy draws on grief in the work of Coming Back to Life, exercises to reconnect us with our world, with one another. Grief is the second stage of the journey, after Gratitude, and before Seeing with new eyes and Going forth.

My PhD supervisor often quoted Confucius: If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

And end up there we may well do. Our lifetime, our children’s lifetimes, or later. Or perhaps not later.

Right now, there is grief for What Could Have Been. Grief for the Missed Opportunities. Grief for the loss of ‘certainty’ that our environment would be much as it is for our whole lives.

And there’s fear of what may be. Fear of what we may become. Fear of what the earth may become and what may happen.

So I grieve. I steer into the shallows of grief, taste it, swallow its bitterness, and let it do its work. When I’m ready, when I have the courage – or when it’s demanded of me by circumstance – I’ll steer into the depths.

Grief is a freedom. A freedom from expectation, from dead dreams. It’s a release of the old, and sets the stage for the new.

Painful, transformative, it cracks us open so that new life can shine forth.

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