Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Will Humans Disappear in 100 Years?

A few years ago, there was a provocative interview with Thich Nhat Hanh in the environmentalist magazine The Ecologist. He raised a lot of issues related to the state of the planet, from the importance of intentional communities to the potential value of having a vegetarian diet.

Today, though, I would like to consider the following:

According to the Buddhist tradition there is no birth and no death. After extinction things will appear in other forms, so you have to breathe very deeply in order to acknowledge the fact that we humans may disappear in just 100 years on earth. You have to learn how to accept that hard fact. You should not be overwhelmed by despair. The solution is to learn how to touch eternity in the present moment. We have been talking about the environment as if it is something different from us, but we are the environment. The non-human elements are our environment, but we are the environment of non-human elements, so we are one with the environment. We are the environment. We are the earth and the earth has the capacity to restore balance and sometimes many species have to disappear for the balance restored.

When I consider the state of things these days, I watch my mind swing back and forth between optimism and pessimism. That's what human minds tend to do, so it's no surprise.

I have dedicated myself to doing what I can to serve the planet. To be part of the life giving, life supporting, life defending element here. Not just human life, but all of it. The whole works. Sometimes, there is direct activism, sometimes I live in contemplation and meditation.

The weaving together of all this in a body/mind. That's what's going on.

At the same time, maybe we as a species won't make it. Maybe we aren't meant to make it. Species have come and gone on this rock for millions of years, so really, we aren't that special.

This little, blue rock is one of millions and millions of rocks, stars, specks of dust.

We haven't a bloody clue how big it all is, nor how tiny we really are.

A major evolution in collective consciousness is needed for survival. That's about all I know these days. Some predict it's on the way or already happening, while others think we're stuck, doomed creatures.

I don't know. I try to love and breathe it all in and let it all flow out as best as I can.

Our little, human battles sometimes need caring for, but in 100 years, how many of them will matter at all? How much of any of it will be remembered? Or remembered in an even remotely accurate way?

What seems to last are currents of energy in certain directions. Some contracting and destructive. Some life building and expansive.

I think our job is to care for each other, and not get stuck.

More of that, whether we make it as a species or not.

Bows to you all.


Katie Loncke said...

You captured so much of what I've been feeling lately. Thanks, Nathan.

I think what's also hard for me is not only accepting the fact that humans may "disappear" in 100 years, but that the final hundred years will be full of desperate, gruesome brutality. That's what's hard for me to take.

I've often asked my comrades, "can we just all go on global hospice now? be kind to each other for however long we have left?"

Thanks also for the reminder about balancing the active side and the contemplative side. We don't want to be shut down by complacency, but we also want the lively energy to come with wisdom, not indiscriminate flailing and searching for some validation outside of ourselves.

What do you do when you get scared about the intensified oppression that could come with shrinking resources? Do you have any practices you would recommend?

Thanks again,

with much love,


Nathan said...

Hi Katie,

I've been living with a lot of questions about activism these days. I see my fellow local activists doing protests, pestering legislative folks, and generally repeating the things we've been doing for decades. And much of it feel futile.

It's left me wondering what to do. I fully believe there are opportunities to bring about radical change. The "game" isn't over, even if humanity is doomed in the long run. But I just can't get excited anymore about the average march, or standing with signs in front of meeting X or legislative office Y. Even the planned civil disobedience actions seem flat to me. The noise of pop culture talk, fake or unimportant conflicts between the two major political parties, and the everyday fears of people can't be penetrated by such stuff anymore. (Not for long anyway.) So, I find myself going along with such activities sometimes to show support and be there, but other times I don't because it seems like flailing about as you said. Reacting to every last twist coming from the powers that be. Which feels like part of their plan to burn us all out.

Global hospice - that's a good image. Not pleasant, but still. We just don't know what's coming down the pike, but it definitely feels like the misery and awfulness quotient will be much higher. Almost as if that's the only way to bring actual radical change (inner and outer together.)

"What do you do when you get scared about the intensified oppression that could come with shrinking resources? Do you have any practices you would recommend?"

I've found myself doing warrior pose often this winter. Only in reflecting on your question now do I think that maybe this is part of the reason I'm gravitating towards it. Hmmm...

I have a tree meditation that also might be useful. Visualizing yourself as a strong, solid tree with roots going so deep in the ground that you can't be moved. Or removed. Not completely anyway.

The other thing is to bring some love and joy in whatever little ways you can - particularly in the activist work, which can get so heavy and rather miserable. I instantly think of one of our activist elders, Polly, who runs around giving hugs to everyone she knows. And who laughs easily, and always seems to have some cookies or other treats on her to give out. She can be tough as nails - I've witnessed her staring down abusive police officers, and offering a few choice words in such situations. Just enough you know. But it's that other side that I often think is so useful.

Speaking of the other side, I made up some chants during Occupy's heyday to keep things light. One of them was "What do we want? More cats! When do we want 'em? Meow!" Gotta clown sometimes, no matter how serious things are.

On the flip side, I've been doing my best this winter to be ok with the despair, not knowing what's needed next, and general sense that humanity might not make it anyway.

So, that might be another practice. Just being with it all. Even the fact that it's hard to take and that part of you wants to just keep flailing about with others because it feels better than doing nothing.

I'm curious how folks react when you ask questions like "can we just all go on global hospice now? be kind to each other for however long we have left?"

n. yeti said...

Each of us will die. This is certain. If we are born, we are already dying.

But Buddha referred a number of times to losing what is most dear: one's own child. In this loss, far beyond our bodily death, die all hopes and expectations. It is perhaps the greatest loss anyone can know.

So when we speak of ecological disaster -- even an extinction event -- we are literally talking about our children, and if not our own children, then the kids down the street, the ones everywhere, the children of our species. And really of all species.

I think this is something we should reflect upon continually in our present age: we may be resigned to die individually, and can do nothing about it, or be willing to do nothing about it, but what of our children, what of their children?

Will we bequeath them catastrophe or hope? Will we give them life and hope or will we give them ruin and death? I think we have this choice right now. It is really that simple.

Was Once said...

I figure that 5 years after my death, no one will care or remember me. That's fine, as I don't really have a need to be known. It doesn't stop me from feeling, worrying, and trying to make others happy. I think people like us who have emotional feelings are not on the top of list for survival and pro-creation anyway. So if it is true we burnt out as the human species in 100 years, then we will go down as having a premonition. It doesn't earn us any merit. My sangha has signed The Dharma Teachers Statement on Climate Change, as an effort to make people more aware.

Sweeping Zen Watch - SZW said...

You are inspiring. Thank you..