Earthquakes, landslides, floods

Almost everyone agrees that our planet is showing signs of breakdown. In the spirit of that awareness, I clicked on a friend’s Facebook link:

A scrapbook of photos (earthquakes, landslides, floods) along with statistics about the increasing incidence of such disasters came up. It really brought home that climate change is not a passing phase—like the rebelliousness of a toddler or the sullenness of a teenager. Our planet is suffering from a grown-up condition–progressive and potentially terminal.

The double entendre of this website’s name immediately caught my attention, invoking the thunderous silence now heard on the Western plains, which once hosted thundering herds of buffalo. These days, the thunder we hear is a warning that storms are on their way, storms which for many parts of the world are already chronic.

A thought soon came to mind, and I picked up my journal to write a few sentences so that I wouldn’t forget it. I hoped that this thought could provide a way to explore the intersection between global phenomena such as earthquakes and tornados and the personal experience of individuals who fall on hard times.

When, as individuals, we fall into self-created difficulties, part of us has known better all along, part of us has anticipated and warned against the consequences of our indifference and patterns of addiction, and part of us has sincerely tried to be more aware, to make efforts to change, and to bring our actions into harmony with a greater whole.

On a global scale, earthquakes, floods and drought ravage the planet and the world watches helplessly as a fundamental disharmony gathers force. This imbalance advances ineluctably, even though what is happening has been predicted, feared and anticipated for years. Perhaps this global dynamic feels familiar because it mirrors or own diverse responses to overwhelming personal challenges. Just as within our own inconsistent thoughts about ourselves, so across the social spectrum: some people remain insulated from consequences (and find it easy to ignore what has become all too real for others); some continue to profit from activities that are at the root of global imbalances; and some watch helplessly with deep sadness because they saw it coming and did their best to warn the rest of us. Meanwhile some people, often the poorest, are singled out–their lives devastated by forces which they feel impotent to affect.

Both personally (as individuals) and globally (as community), we watch, aghast, feeling impotent to do anything about what we see unfolding. Consequences flow directly and predictably from the collapse of responsibility, accountability and social caring–as the remnants of a shattered social compact blow at our feet like autumn leaves, fallen out of time.

It’s not clear that seeing parallels between the personal and global faces of dysfunction will help either one heal, but it seems worth exploring. If nothing else, seeing a phenomenon in different ways may help us understand the underlying forces at work.

So what do we do when we see that our world is racing out of control toward a cliff? Some keep to themselves (becoming reclusive and private). Some try to influence the global direction through political movements, protests, and polemics. Some give up on redeeming the world (viewing it as an inherently fallen ‘veil of tears’) and invest their heart energy in a better realm beyond. I myself remain drawn to the idea that my life here and now offers the same dilemmas and opportunities that any future life could offer, and that to be human is to inhabit a realm that is at once uniquely individual and universally connected.

I once attended a church at which I encountered several catchy phrases, among them: “As Above, So Below”; and “Change your mind, change your life, change our world”. Taken together, they encourage the hope that as individuals we can have an impact. However, if we do succeed in manifesting a higher vision in our private life, will this transform anything outside of ourselves? Perhaps the phrase “our world” begs the issue. If ‘our world’ is simply our own experience of embodiment, then changing our perceptions, and even altering our conduct, may not take place in the same kind of space as that in which the chaotic momentum of global forces is barreling along.

Perhaps resonance offers a better path to transformation, than any attempt to pull large, inertial momentums onto a different course. There are courageous and wise people living in our world who are following a personal path that is honest, concerned, compassionate, and generous. If we allow ourselves to admire them, then that can be our own personal step toward cultivating qualities of concern and awareness in ourselves. We might discover our own inner being vibrating in unison with those shining examples of what is possible for a human being. Some of us may wave placards and stand on soapboxes, others may become quiet and contemplative, but the underlying change will have been that we are inspired by the building of a bridge between what is possible and what is present here and now.

If enough of us vibrate in unison, guided by the example of those who see more deeply and act more bravely, then we will have joined a great, rising wave of living beings who are not ready to bulldoze the family home.

One comment to “Earthquakes, landslides, floods”
  1. good post, Michael. From my perception, every change we make in ourselves is mirrored in the earth. They all add up.

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