We are in a crisis beyond imaging. Many have chosen to ignore it. That is one way. Denial and continuing on as if nothing is wrong or even resisting seeing anything wrong in the first place, is one way. This kind of pretense is temporary as it doesn’t stop the collapse from coming, though people will be surprised by it when it becomes impossible to deny. These people will be victims.
Others recognize that collapse is coming, and they are fighting – tooth and nail – to prevent it. These people have picked strategic points, places of leverage where a change could make a difference and they are pushing and fighting to shift that lever. That is the second way. These people are marching, lobbying, writing, and organizing to shift those levers that they see can make a difference. They are warriors.
The truth is that nothing has worked. We are toast. Or at least our way of life is toast, so the next questions is, what are we going to do about the end of the world as we know it?
Real change is not someone else’s job. Real change starts with us – you & me, becoming different. Some of that difference is easy to see, but most of the iceberg is underwater and invisible, and that’s what must change. Change this deep is a non-linear process.
What do I mean by that? Here’s an example: You can stop buying cars, and not buy either gasoline or electric, in an effort to do less damage. That is a linear approach to change. An action is being taken that has a direct impact on the problem and it is clear to see. It is preventing harm, but it is not building a new way. What if instead of wheels we used air, so streets were not needed? Maybe that would begin to bring forth a new world.
Non-linear change is change that opens new doors to places we have never been and that we can’t see or predict. Just as being nice to BIPOC folks is a linear change. Dropping any feelings of superiority is a deeper, non-linear change. That shift from helping them to working with them is exactly the shift we need to make as we deal with collapse. We need to move from living on the Earth to living with the Earth. This is the Third Way. We need to shift from the illusion of power over. Even the illusion of helping is often a power over approach, especially when we are the ones with the answer. To achieve success, we need to leave any intention of creating change, and move to discovering the joy in partnership as we co-create together with the Earth. This is not something we can know before hand; it is something that will come into being through relationship. The move from being for, to one of being with is profound. It is a non-linear change. It shifts our energy from resistance to nurturing. WE change as we make change, this is the Third Way. These people are makers, creating a new world as they live.
None of us act independently, we act together, we need others to be effective. We listen, we take into account the wisdom and needs of others, and we act accordingly. This is slow change at the beginning, as we learn to know one another. It is predicated on a commitment to relationship – to LIFE – not just the human side of the relationship. It is not human centric – even when humans are involved. It is LIFE centric in every act, no matter who is involved. It requires trust in all the participants – not blind faith. We need to trust the Earth as well as each other. We need to learn to trust ourselves, as well. This is the Third Way.
Trust is not easy to come by. It is not only given but created. Trust requires the courage to ask hard questions, hear the answers, and acting accordingly, in ways that nurture the relationship. It is not about winning or losing. Trust is about understanding and knowing, knowledge gain through experience by experiment. Knowledge gained through curiosity and inquiry, learned by asking difficult questions, withholding judgement, and having patience. Nature is the only thing that is truly trustworthy. Every action is designed to support and nurture life. If we want to live, there is no better teacher.
In building a mutually nurturing relationship, all parties must thrive – not all at the same time nor in the same way. Judgement changes to discernment as the question of right or wrong changes to life enhancing – or not. Owning the challenges of being able to see clearly require being willing to ask, and ask again, to gain that clarity. Relationship is all about asking/listening – it is all about dialogue. Right relationship works to ensure that all parties in the relationship thrive.
How do we learn to listen to each other? How do we listen to the Earth? What is being asked of us? What are we being called to do? In any relationship each party has needs, each party has gifts. The Earth has needs, the Earth has gifts. We have needs and we have gifts. What is the Earth asking of us?
Our Earth, what we see all around us, is an expression of LIFE. LIFE loves life! Life is fierce in its commitment to continuing. Earth has been experimenting with how to do that for over 3,900 million years. She’s practiced a lot. Brian Swimm, Thomas Berry, Connie Barlow, Michael Dowd as have so many saints, have been sharing their awe of her wisdom and skill. Fritjof Capra, Andreas Weber, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, among others, have been doing the same. The indigenous voice has only told that story. We are just beginning to listen. We are the youngest species; other life forms have way more experience at it than us. Other life forms keep their agreement with life, the Prime Directive – all actions are to create the conditions that support more life, we do not.
I call this listening, gaining Planetary Consciousness. Planetary Consciousness means that the goal of LIFE to thrive, becomes ours. Planetary Consciousness means that we become partners with LIFE, playing the same game by the same rules, becoming giddy as we see LIFE burst out all around us. We have been seeking the answers to Earth’s problems by asking each other. We have refused to ask her, and we have refused to listen – even when she’s yelled at us – as she’s doing now. She is the expert on LIFE – as are so many other life forms on this planet. Life forms that have been here and practicing at living far longer than we have. We are Johnny come lately’s, yet we only listen to our own voice, and we even do that, poorly.
Earth’s values are designed for resilience (an intent of Earth’s). Ours have been focused on protection (lack of trust), or on winning (success). Ours are focused on human needs and desires, choosing domination because we don’t trust. Choosing success, defined as bigger and better, over right relationship as we take what we want, using future resources now, and denying their use to other life forms on the planet. In Africa the laying down of roads is destroying migratory patterns and killing wildlife. Our needs appear to be greater than theirs, yet with their death – we die.
What is undeniable, is you can’t trust if you are not trustworthy. The indigenous have never understood us – we say one thing and do another, we deny ourselves and blame others, we don’t take responsibility for our own actions. We waste. We know we are fakes, and we cover it up instead of admitting it and changing our ways, so how can we be trusted? We also know this about ourselves, so we don’t trust our own selves. Honesty and self-forgiveness are a big part of the path forward.
Everything on this planet is an expression of LIFE. Everything. We acknowledge that when we say, “We are one,” or when we say “God dwells within us a us.” We mean it when we say, “Each of us is a speck of the Divine.” We know the truth! If everything is sacred, because everything has a spark of the Divine, why don’t we treat everything as scared? How can we pollute? Self-deception is one of our biggest challenges. The collusion we all participate in that we are good people, doing our best, allows us to deceive ourselves and perpetuate that illusion, this is another massive challenge we face, preventing us from making the changes we need to make.
The gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands will not get us out of this. The answers are here, the Earth is waiting with open arms, if we will just come home. Our resistance to Earth has made us long for home. We believe in the illusion that ‘home’ is out there, somewhere. But HOME is here, right under out feet. Be curious, be courageous, and ask stupid questions, mull things over and become skilled in self-reflection. Earth Values offer insights into the patterns of LIFE. Patterns we can begin to discern, patterns we can nurture and replicate. Patterns we can emulate and curate.
What do I mean by Earth Values? They are not wild and crazy, but they are immutable – they cannot be broken. We are where we are because we broke them. Our sense of safety is a thing we call stability. Nature calls stability death. In the real-world everything changes – all of the time. Instead of designing for similarity and stability we need to design for resilience and diversity, two Earth Values. Instead of NO change, we need to embrace dynamic stability where there are ranges to boundaries, instead of barriers, another Earth Value.
Take the Prime Directive (an Earth Value), all actions create the conditions that support life. That provides a path that anyone and everyone can walk. How do YOU create conditions for life? What around you is thriving? Your family? Your garden? Your worms, bees and butterflys? Your soil? All of these are in your control. YOU can make a difference in each one of these. Can you get over being concerned about your image and stop making things ‘look good’ and make them actually thrive instead? Can you shift from feeling powerless and useless to noticing the difference you can make?
As we shift into managing the integrity of the process of right relationship (an Earth Value), new opportunities will open that we have been too blind to see. We will begin to realize our own gifts and honor our needs as we recognize the gifts of others and honor their needs. This is the future. We will live in gratitude by recognizing that abundance is not about having it all, or having more, it is in having enough. The Earth knows, listen.
Kathryn Alexander MA has been absorbed by trying to understand how we should live. Is there some way to actually determine right from wrong and ensure a moral life - and there is. It does not conflict with any religion, creed or ethnic culture. It clarifies and strengthens them all, and at the same time can be independent of them, as it stands on its own. Live in connection with the Earth.