This is an essay I posted on a climate change blog I follow. This year for Thanksgiving, instead of sharing what it is you have to be thankful for, ask one another…. what is your calligraphy? It could be quite a conversation starter.
This is likely to be my only post to the group. I am more of an observer and I have kind of made my peace with so much of what we talk about here. I will always be reading and watching in the background because the articles and information are most often fact based and not available through too many other venues. That being said, I’d like to offer an alternative to the anger and futility that we collectively seem to be throwing around so often (and perhaps some reasons why). It is just my two cent as an observer. Nothing I say matters. As you will see… I don’t think much of what we collectively say matters either. I hope that some will understand that I see this as a positive.
Human beings love to be voyeurs. We love to see an “other” that has done something bad or horrible. We rubber neck at traffic accidents, we gasp at the corrupt behavior of politicians and religious leaders. We, in almost self-righteous indignance, thump our chests and exclaim, “oh my how awful” or “oh my what horrible people, group, or event, that is.” We love to be offended. We seem to need an objectified “other” to make us feel as though we are superior. In short, our egos need to be fueled constantly and we spend an immense amount of time and energy trying to portray ourselves in certain ways to the outside world. We need an object for our fear. We need it… to make us feel as though we are somehow, special.
The movie, HERO, with Jett Li, contains one of the most awesome archery attacks of all time. The conquering army stands at the ready. Archers by the hundreds are drawn and await the order to loose their arrows. Standing in between the armies is a Buddhist Temple who’s Zen practice is the art of Calligraphy. They do calligraphy in the spirit that Buddhist monks create sand Mandalas. The art, itself, is a meditation. When the art is complete, it is then disposed of as a mindfulness practice reminding the practitioner that nothing is permanent.
The master and the students know that they are about to be wiped out in the impending arrow attack and there is no way to escape. Many of the students begin to panic, showing that many are still on the path and have not yet become completely detached. Physical suffering and pain and death still terrifies them as it does us, especially in the west (We think that we are somehow MORE special). After all, we think there is so much to live for – that we must somehow accomplish things (Like any of it really matters). Many of the students want to try to run away (There being nowhere to run that could actually save them). There is no escape from the reach of the arrows. Death is certain. The master calms his students and says something to the effect: We will stay here and do our Calligraphy. We may die, but in the end they will see how well we did our Calligraphy (completely my words but the intent of the speech is there).
The arrows are loosed. The CGI creates this cloud of arrows in the sky which is a truly amazing sight (I’m an archery coach so please forgive my bias). The next scene shows the arrows crashing through the paper walls of the temple – students are struck and are dying while they continue to do their calligraphy. In the end, all die, including the master.
I am going to argue here that we doomers and collapsitarians are dealing with as much egoic self as the traffic rubber-neckers. If we take as a premise of what we know about this world, that there is not much time left on this planet, then all we are talking about is irrelevant. We have the Fukushima event that could make our demise a very near term event. Or, the triggered feedback loops in the environment could make it a very near term but maybe a bit longer term – near term – event. In any “event” our fate is sealed. Why then do we continue on in this group the way we do? I think, to some extent , we are as voyeuristic as those reading the tabloids (and please, all of you looking for reasons to get pissed – I am including myself here! Looking in a mirror is an uncomfortable proposition that’s why we always want to look out a window instead).
One group contends that everything is doomed and there is nothing we can do. Another says, “Well, we may be doomed but if we smoke this hopium pipe that has never worked in the past, then all of these great things will happen.” Hyper-spiritualists say, “There is a great awakening happening and it is going to save us” (not sounding all that dissimilar to the 2nd coming, but they’d never admit it).
The People’s Front of Judea (Monty Python) thinks they are the morally superior purists in their doomer prophecies but the Judean People’s Front yells HERECTIC, HERETIC! “Alternatives are the answer!” “NAY”, say the permaculturists, “growing stuff in a holier than thou way is the answer.” “NO NO NO! We must mob graze.” “No, NO!” says the other. “We will STONE you if you spread dung on fields using beasts.” Meanwhile, the millions of cars are still on the road. The factories are spewing poison into the air and other developing countries want to emulate the insanity that the United States has morphed into since its birth, thus sealing our fate. This, is Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Again, we love to grab our hair in shock and say, “Oh how awful”. We rend our garments in rage and say, “Someone MUST PAY!” “It’s men’s fault, its industrial civilization’s fault, its sin, its pestilence, its the Fall, its….” pick your blame game. Yes it’s awful. Yes it’s tragic. But life has always been so. The soldiers gassed in WWI may have not dealt with the end of the world but for everyone who died then, their world indeed ended on that field of slaughter. Pick your horror dujour. Anyone who dies from horrors, the end of the world was then and there. In fact, I imagine that if it ended their suffering, the mantra was, “good riddance.” Ever seen someone suffer and die from lingering cancer…. their world sucked completely and then they died. Many of them had to suffer and die alone.
Now its our turn. Our population is in overshoot and we have suddenly had to confront our egoic selves and admit that we weren’t the smartest folks on the planet after all. Death is coming like it comes for everyone. So here is where I ask the main question in this essay:
What is your Calligraphy?
We all die. It is simply a matter of when and how. Knowing that, how will you live out the rest of your time?
Will you live the remainder of your time in freak out mode? Does watching in horror fulfill your life’s dreams? Knowing that the fate is sealed, will you now look into the mirror, look at yourself, realize that happiness has always come from within?
What do you have in your life that will allow you to let go of the horrors? What do you have in your life and in your singular self that can give you inner peace knowing that no matter what happens in this world, you can go out in peace and still feeling tranquil? If there is not that in your life, then I assert that nothing we are doing is anymore productive and helpful for humanity than the mass riots we see time and time again on the news forever being put down by militarized police.
Have you developed an inner centering that could allow you to simply let the world fall apart around you? Could you sit at your calligraphy knowing that your death is imminent and be at peace with it? In light of our world and all that may befall us, developing that sounds like the only noble goal. The only way to live. Never has it been different than thus. Only our delusion has made it so.
So what is your Calligraphy? I’d love to know.
Here is mine:
I love star-gazing with my telescope. I love gazing up millions of lightyears away knowing that the galaxies I am seeing probably harbor life. I love contemplating the true meaning of infinity.
I love target archery. It clears my mind and makes me achieve singular focus (and yes I have read and re-read, Zen in the Art of Archery)
I love working in my gardens and on my homestead. Being amongst my animals and plants connects me with the energy that is reality. Nature is the only conscious being on earth. We are nature… we are consciousness.
I love to cook.
I love all to do all of the above alone. I love to do all of the above with my family. Both are beautiful.
If the earth is going to reclaim it’s health by getting rid of us because we were stupid, then I think I can do one or all of those things listed above while the brimstone of our ignorance comes crashing down like a cloud of arrows. If the earth folds up, if the universe reclaims this space in the cosmos for better purposes, then I for one will do what I think the small voice inside of me is calling me to do: Practice my calligraphy, conquer my fear, and be at peace.
Thanks for letting me indulge with this. I hope it creates a useful avenue for dialogue. I will be here reading, but I am going to go create my Mandala. Peace.