The Kernel: the crisis of awakening that has led us to collapse will follow us into survival adaptation. We cannot make an effective leap from problem to solution if we don’t see the common liability to both stages of climate change.
As I am researching and building pieces for a workshop, I sometimes feel inundated by the plethora of how the mind is such an escape artist. It is almost like an octopus with infinite arms with infinite tools for self-preservation. And when one of the arms gets stuck, the octopus can lose it only to see a replacement grow from within.
What my research for this workshop is letting me see is that we are in this climate collapse principally because we are in a crisis of awakening. And this awakening is awakening to ourselves, specifically to our inability (largely avoidance) to see reality for what it is. One way we avert the annoyance of this inability is by flipping the script of us from simply being an organ in an organism called life into believing we are the organism. This flipping is unfortunately abetted heavily by the narratives of capitalism and its scarcity mongering. This results in a culturally and socially accepted reinforcement of an Ego-system vs. an Eco-system. And because of that, our perceptions–already subconsciously knowing it is top-able and fragile–compensates by seeking out a hyper-curated space where energy, calories, and self-esteem enhancements are extracted into. And as a way to maintain innocence to this one-sided arrangement, while we extract, we externalize harm outside of these curated spaces as a way to invisibilize harm. This way, we can tell ourselves our hands are clean in such a dirty process.
In effect, we are using Nature to perform a form of cognitive welfare for the human species. We avoid being in a relationship with Nature on her terms because it requires living in ambiguity rather than predictability, making it a more cognitively expensive way of being.
So, I often wonder how this cognitive welfare applies to adaptation needed in a collapsing planet. How in the milieu of Nature on the brink of collapse we are blindly continuing to play horsey (here as cognitive welfare) with a parent (here as Nature) who on her knees is now coughing up blood (here as collapse).
One way we continue this horsey ride is we use collapse as an external reference point, something to have a relationship with, something solid to feel our fear and hopes that can now take purchase. It is the new fashion for self-solidification, the self-strengthening, self-definition in an increasingly chaotic world that is threatening our status quo means for the above self-reification. This is our new landing-place, where our non-descript fears and our desire for an enchanted reality can be worked with, easing us cognitively now they appear defined and solidified. Worried about the future- no problem, let’s plow ourselves into permaculture as if it is the silver bullet for curing the discontent within (sorry permaculture folks, not making an example of your group).
But all this does is the continuation of a self with the inner drive to lower our cognitive load. It is the very same drive that has gotten us into climate change. It doesn’t get us off the beaten path now that we are facing a reality that will exponentially outstrip our ability to sense-make or map. It doesn’t get us off the beaten path of human dominion especially when Nature won’t care what we feel or think. It won’t get us off the beaten path of our need to feel in control, in this case using deep adaptation as a place to weave in this need for control. None of our paths matter especially when they were primarily constituted without Nature in mind. It is like COP 26 when little to no deference was given to the Youth generation who will inherit a more broken world. Nature will simply smite those well-held but self-serving agendas since they are often in the way of doing what Nature needs to do.
The great void arises when Nature wrestles us into the ground. This is where we peer into the bowels of ourselves, our neurosis*, our manufactured worlds of perceptions that had required Nature to prop up. And just like the Octopus, we can then see we were simply shifting laterally from collapse to adaptation without any structural changes in our sensing of ourselves as holons** in nature. We escaped each situation as the signs for change were mounting. But escape no more for the advantage of making those changes–when times such as now that are in comparatively luxurious circumstances in contrast to what I am forecasting–will afford our nervous system a more optimal baseline for change than later.
In the book of warfare by Sun Tzu, he warns to never attack an enemy when they are returning to their family. For this person’s determination and ruthlessness is mightiest, making them the most formidable. We may not like the hard work for truly deep adaptation, but we won’t like it even more when we are cornered by a collapsed world.
* Per Tibetan Buddhist Psychology, neurosis is simply the inability to see reality. It is an avoidance strategy (active ignorance, vs. passive ignorance [not knowing what you don’t know]).
**A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole in and of itself, as well as a part of a larger whole. In other words, holons can be understood as the constituent part–wholes of a hierarchy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holon_(philosophy))
This article also appears in Medium publishing platform: https://medium.com/@sushiyummy17/why-climate-change-is-hiding-a-crisis-of-awakening-878d6a7f1cf3