The subersive act of Grief

It might seem counter intuitive to imagine that grief can be healing, but at our workshop on Saturday, Gathering the Bones, we took our fingers our of the dam that had been holding back some surprising and overwhelming emotions. The word “emotion”, contains the word “motion”, something that must move through us or get stuck, paralysed or calcified. Just because we don’t let it move doesn’t mean it isn’t there, a darkness that suffocates us at 3 a.m.  Someone said that grief is the other side of love, love for something we have lost or something we are losing. 
Joanna Macy, (The Work that Reconnects) declares that grief is deeply subversive. The Industrial Growth Society does not want us to grieve or feel our pain. It wants us to numb it by offering pharmaceutical remedies, retail therapy, a package holiday, all of which require that we keep on earning, suffering and consuming. It is a horribly cruel system that keeps us captive. We “came to terms” with it on Saturday, naming it and putting it firmly in our view, and thought how important it is to keep talking about it because until we become conscious of how poisonous the Industrial Growth society is, it remains a dark blur in our peripheral vision, disappearing the moment we turn our heads to look. 
We got into pairs, one of us being a person in the present, one being a person 200 years in the future. The person from the future asked us questions like this: “Ancestor, how good it is to meet you. We have stories and songs about you. We re-enact your deeds. I really want to ask you, how did you keep on going when there were so many obstacles, so much loss and discouragement. What inspired you to continue standing up for species and future generations you will never meet?” These questions brought motion to our emotions and also tears, relief and a fresh determination to continue walking towards a new humanity and a new vision of the future. We will offer the workshop again, so if this is something that you feel might be helpful to you, please come along.

The Shocked Dog

In my early twenties and late at night, I used to drive home from a neighbouring village where I worked as a barmaid. My chief goal on these journeys was not to kill anything because the countryside was wild with life. These days you are lucky if you see a rabbit or a hare at night, and the only hedgehogs I see are flattened on the road and even this is a rare sight. Buddlea bushes used to be heaving with butterflies and the windscreen splattered with insects. We are experiencing a loss, not just in nature but in culture too. We can call it “fake news”, but it is a loss of truth and actually just lies and deception. We have grown so used to politicians dodging questions that we have stopped noticing they do it. We have normalised the abnormal both in nature and culture.
I heard about a (horrible) experiment where a dog was caged. At first the floor on the right hand side was wired to deliver random shocks. The dog learned to stay on the left. Then the left delivered random shocks and the dog moved to the right. Then the entire floor of the cage randomly shocked the dog. It finally lay down and submitted to the shocks. Finally the cage door was opened but instead of racing out, the dog was so defeated that it remained on the floor of the cage, looking at the open door and continuing to be shocked.
Our psyches have become battered by lies and scandals. Images of peril and frightening science greet us on TV and social media. When we normalise shock and despair we grown silent. I notice this despair in myself and in others who long to breathe in the fresh air of truth and freedom. We lose the will to stand up for the people who need a voice and we lose our instincts to flee or fight. As we fall silent, the earth falls silent, the night is silent and the oceans are silent. The only way to repair this battered psyche is to repair the instinctual life and return to a wilder nature, a less polite nature, even a law-breaking nature if necessary. The wild nature will howl in outrage, and not tolerate assualt after assault, acts of injustice towards themselves, their children, their loved ones, and their land.  It will protect, defend, develop deep courage and resources to stand against injustice that threatens the future of everything that give meaning to the earth.
We repair the instincts, first by noticing the battering they have taken. We repair them by listening to our grief or fear and really feeling it. The instincts we have we inherited from our ancestors who survived allowing us to be here today. We are children of survivors and we are longing for a new adventure. 

The end of Hope

Today I was standing in a field between Abington and Hildersham. The freezing air held me on the frozen grass, and surrounding me, the black silhoutes of the trees reached their iced fingers upwards. Suddenly I realised that for years I had been trying to have a conversation with nature. I am of course, a climate change denier. Most of us are, it is the only way we can continue a normal life. But there in that field, the effort of holding back the evidence of my own senses collapsed and I realised that the conversation I had been trying to have, was “goodbye”. Goodbye to the birds, the flowers, the trees and all the myriad of insects that exist to create a profoundly lovely garden of delight that I had believed would always be there. Can I go back to believing it will be preserved? I wish I could but it is actually a relief…I have reached a personal tipping point where I have to admit that nothing is going to stop us reaching the global tipping point that the climate change scientists have been predicting will end a way of life that we have taken for granted. It is time for something else, and there is no training I can take, no degree, no MA or Phd that will equip me or my children for what is ahead. The grief I had been walking with put its arms around me and I stood on that footpath sobbing. I see that recycling, making environmentally wise shopping decisions, being a Green Party candidate, being vegan or vegetarian, none of this is going to be enough to avoid the onslaught of change that is coming. But there is still love and beauty. There is still compassion for all living beings and hard as it is to change, I will still make all the best decisions I can and I will not retreat in despair. My sons are arrows that are flying into the future and whatever that future holds, I want to walk with them into it, singing and praying and dancing and taking all the best that I can of human charity and goodness to fill a new world with a different hope, where value is measured in compassion and goodness instead of wealth and power and status, a world where a new consciousness will teach us to treat all life as sacred and connected to us in ways that we have only recently forgotten. This is my new hope. If we survive the coming onslaught, we will be remade with love and compassion. “The gods have not fled, they are not sulking, but they do want our full attention.” (Martin Shaw)