Podcast

Stephen Jenkinson: Living With Meaning

The powerful lessons that grief can teach us about life
Sunday, December 11, 2016, 12:59 PM

On this site we discuss the large predicaments the world faces. A question that often arises, especially at our annual seminars is: Given these challenges, how should I be? What outlook and behaviors will better help me meet what's coming?

This week's podcast gets quite existential. Chris sits down with Stephen Jenkinson, an author and thinker who a number of Peak Prosperity readers have requested come on the show. Jenkinson's specialization is grief and dying -- through his decades of work in these fields, he has developed a series of observations on what it means to live, and thereby die, with meaning.

A heads up: the path of this conversation is somewhat metaphysical and may not be everyone's cup of tea. But the topics addressed are important; ones our society needs to start having some honest discussion about. Things like how to face our mistakes, errors and shortcomings openly -- as with addiction, only with acknowledgement and acceptance of our condition can we then move on to self-betterment.

Jenkinson observes how, culturally, we are so averse to unpleasantness that we suppress the very conditions that are necessary for positive transformation:

The hearing in the popular culture goes something like this: Get good at grief so you can get on the other side of it, so you don't have to do it anymore. That’s what getting good at grief is, even like having a good relationship with this grief, so it won’t bite you in the ass too badly, kind of thing.

I am saying that grief is, in and of itself, a skillfulness of being a human being. It is not something you have a relationship with. It is that which in a deeply disciplined way, you practice. You're partly being pursued by it at times, both of which has hopefully the purpose of a deep kind of introduction that you cannot turn away from again. Because it has made a claim upon you and it has the order of necessity about it, not the order of affliction. So it’s not a matter of declawing and defanging grief until it sits quietly in your lap like a poodle. Not at all, no. Grief is a human-scaled mystery. That is what it is. 

In medieval times, in northern Europe in particular, in the monastic life, there are stations that you awaken through the course of the evening, deep into the night, and into the early dawn, where you are at different layers of prayer and contemplation and so on. I am told that one of the contemplative exercises for those people in that time was to say in a kind of chanting fashion, a Latin term, lacrimae rerum, which translates fairly readily for us as "the tears that are in all things". They would not say it in order to dry the tears that are in all things, they would say it so that it could be known, that the deep facts of life require endings in order for things to proceed. This insight visits human beings as an awareness of your end before your end actually comes: the possibility of you deepening your life as a direct consequence of realizing how fundamentally limited it is in time, and in consequence, and in import.

What life is, is oftentimes tormenting, broken, a place where as my countryman who has recently died said, a crack where the light gets in. and that’s it. So, to be deeply intolerant of limits, essentially dooms you to a project of unrestrained, unfettered, and untethered growth.

If your project is to live a mutually nourishing life, then to be restrained in that regard is to be disciplined so that your capacities serve something. And in so doing, you recognize how much on the receiving end of being served you have been. Which is of course what our childhood is for. And the ending of our childhood is often accomplished by recognizing how deeply on the take we have been without ever recognizing it. And sometimes you get to live long enough where you can go...where you can turn to your parent and you can say, I’m sorry, I had no idea for the longest time. And of course your parent would probably say, yeah, I know. And there it is, at the level of family.

Well, what kind of planetary being can we turn to now and say, I'm sorry; I had no idea?

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Stephen Jenkinson (73m:46s).

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this peak prosperity podcast, I am your host, Chris Martenson and it is November 29, 3016.

These are troubled times and people know this deep down. At Peak Prosperity, we say that these times and how you fair through them will be defined by three things: what you do, what you know, and how you are. Those are your actions, your wisdom, and the way in which you inhabit your life. And it’s that last part that’s slipperiest for most people, the being of it all. It raises the age-old question, how should I be?

Now, this is no small question, it’s almost part of the human condition, but perhaps never more so than in a time like the present, where one's main cultural narratives seem to be falling apart. Our main narrative of endless, exponential, economic growth on a finite planet is not simply senseless, but quite possibly insane. At the very least, it is crazy making, because we all know deep down on some level that we are a part of, not apart from, nature. Yet we are all participants on this spaceship Earth, and for the most part, neither the crew nor the majority of the passengers seem to be even slightly aware of the major predicaments we face.

Why is that? How has it come to be that we find ourselves in this particular condition? More personally, how many of you listening know that you are stuck between two lives, the one you are actually living, and the one you feel like you should be living instead. You know, the one that would align your authentic inner gifts with the present realities in a more meaningful and fulfilling way. Now these are profoundly philosophical questions and I am really pleased to be able to introduce today Stephen Jenkinson, who I had the deep honor of sitting with at Rowe for a weekend workshop just a few weeks ago.

Stephen teaches internationally and is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, founded in 2010. With master’s degrees from Harvard University in theology and the University of Toronto in Social Work, he is revolutionizing grief and dying in North America. Stephen is redefining what it means to live, and therefore die, well.

Apprentice to a master storyteller, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families. He was former program director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, and consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations. He is also a sculptor, a traditional canoe builder, and whose self-built house won a Governor General’s award for architecture. He is also a prolific author of books such as Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. And the subject of the weekend workshop at Rowe, Money and the Soul’s Desires: A Meditation.

He has many other fine books and I will encourage everyone to obtain them and read them. Stephen Jenkinson is also the subject of the feature-length documentary film, Griefwalker, a lyrical and poetic portrait of his work with dying people, which had a very large impact on me as well as the dozens of people I have recommended or given it to. With that Stephen, welcome to the program.

Stephen Jenkinson: Thank you, Chris, a generous introduction; we will see if I resemble it in any way at all.

Chris Martenson: Let’s dive right in. You know, you have many beautiful interviews out there on your immense and thoughtful work in what you have called the death trade. And it is not my intent here to recreate those interviews, but perhaps to call upon those learnings when and how they seem appropriate. Instead, I seek your wisdom as a careful student of history to see what insights we might draw from the past to help us make sense of our times. Is that something you would be willing to do?

Stephen Jenkinson: Let’s give it a whirl.

Chris Martenson: Okay, well thank you for that. So, let’s start here, I’d like to get your reflections on a quote of yours followed by this question, as I think this will get us started in what I hope is the right direction. Here is the quote:

“Having a conscience now is a grief soaked proposition.” That is the quote, and my question is this, you use the word now in there. Historically speaking, is having a conscience always been a grief soaked proposition, or is there something about being alive now that is perhaps more troubling to the conscientious than in times past?

Stephen Jenkinson: Yeah, that is a well wrought question. Well, first of all, I’m not that old, so I don’t have centuries to draw from. I have not been in the trench, and the truth is that most people’s ordinary lives are the first casualties of any history that is written and conjectured, and traded back and forth. And of course, taught in school, so it’s a bit of a guess as to how people might have experienced the grind, if it was a grind. I will never forget, you have heard of the playwright Bertolt Brecht, he wrote a play called the Life of Galileo and in there, our Galileo is by this time under house arrest, church arrest, too for that matter, for having taught the way it was... what he could see through his tube.

And one of the visitors comes to him and in a collegial fashion he talks to him about why he’s being banished from promulgating what he’s seen through his telescope. And he gestures to the window, and you can see there are peasants in the fields out there working away. And he says to Galileo, you know, if you tell these people that they’re not the crown of creation, they’re not at the center of the universe, they’re not that around which the plan unfurls and uncoils, and they’re not the reason, but they’re on a bit of rock flying about and so on, and so on. How do you expect them to attend to the labor you see them doing right now?

It is a powerful thing to wonder about. It is a bit self-serving, obviously from the inquisitor’s point of view, but the reason I mention the story is to say how people might have understood what constitutes the world, or their place in it. In days gone by, I think it is really elusive to us, so it’s really proper that we not generalize from our predicaments, our lack of them, our mania for being out from under them as quickly and as sort of blindly as possible. With all of that in place, then let me see if I can do justice to the question that you asked.

To become awake, maybe that is another good word for conscience, to deeply awaken, to... I do not know if there is another kind, frankly. That might be redundant to say that, but to awaken is a very costly enterprise. How do you know this? I think you know it this way; if awakening were all it was cracked up to be, people would be doing it all the time, wouldn’t they? And there would be no reason for this ever to lapse. That you would be permanently and fixedly awake if it were such a compelling proposition as the purveyors of awakeness would have it be for us all.

So then, you realize, man, there is something in the architecture that mitigates against awakening. I am not saying conspiracy-wise, I am saying architecture. In other words, there might be something in the confluence of being a human being, or trying to be, or trying to imagine that there is such a thing on the one side. And doing so in the context of the living world whose livingness may or may not depend on our presence on the scene. But if we are present, its livingness may very well depend on our capacity to be human, by which I’m suggesting to you that it may be that being human is not a lifestyle option for human beings. It might be the most mandatory proposition going and not for our sake. That is the big one. That it might be in the nature of being a human being that your humanness is something you take on for the sake of that which sustains you; meaning the living world.

If you put all of that in and then we revisit the question a second time, then a little etymology is pretty useful right now to awake. Okay, the A prefix sometimes functions the same way the O prefix does in the English language. For example, for o’clock, it means of the clock, pertaining to the clock. And awake would meet in the manner of wake, and we know of wake as a noun in its several contortions. It means more than one thing. It means the trail, the ebb of consequence as you plow through your allotment in years, or in place, or in relationships. As you plow through those allotments, whatever fans out behind you is properly understood to be a wake.

And of course, the other version of wake is those who attend your demise and tell stories about you, some of which may be true, but are probably fashioned to be user friendly in a troubled time. Which is to say it is a deeply unreliable version of you that normally appears at your wake. And by which it would be very challenging for other people to plot a course based on a very selective version of yours.

I know this is more than you asked for, probably, but maybe the gist of it could be something like this. My MO these days is that humanity is an allegation, not a description. It is a rumor, and in some respects, it is a cruel rumor because it is such a fugitive and a phantom so, so often.

Then awakening is principally awakening to how fugitive one's humanity really is, and how possible it is to so deeply betray it, even though it would appear to be something, which is called :ours.” But I’m suggesting it probably isn’t ours, even though humanity is entrusted to us, not as a personal possession, but in some kind of... In a way, that perhaps domestic animals on a farm are entrusted to you; that establishes a kind of covenantal way of proceeding -- the two of you together. And maybe your humanity is something similar, that it asks much more of you than it would appear to give you.

If you awaken to that, and that is just the personal experience level, I do not know how the tone of your awakening could be anything other than a sob, frankly. And that a sob might be the operatic sound that awakening really calls for. Then, imagine that you are awakening in a time and a place, which as you said in your introduction, is so palpably troubled and troubling, that it is almost a compound fracture. To awaken in such a time and to actually make the case that your awakeness is more necessary now, when there is much less of a payday for it, than it might have been when the stakes were not so grim or so high. How to make such a case? How to go from city to city, or interview to interview and pitch this idea as somehow good for you.

I am not sure it is good for you as much as it might enable you towards a kind of goodness that is so counterintuitive that it asks... well, it asks the world of us, maybe.

Chris Martenson: That was very well said, and it is getting to the heart of what I want to get to. You said there is something in the architecture, maybe, that prevents this awakening process; and that architecture is cultural, which is the theme I really want to weave through here. Because this is ultimately what I and everybody is up against in this story; it is the culture. And so, knowing that’s a thorny thing that will weave its brambly way through this conversation, I’ll just set that aside for a minute and return to this idea that you just raised. Which is that we have two levels of awakening we maybe can come to. One is our own personal awakening that has probably always been part of the human condition, if I can conjecture and hypothesize.

And that’s part of the humanness of being human. And today there’s a special condition, which is we’re at a really special moment of human history; not U.S. history, not Canadian, not Indian, but human, where we’ve hit the edges of our Earth. We can feel that. We are still connected to nature in some way. Those webs of connection are breaking. Some people can feel them. They feel them acutely, but that is the second level of awakening. With the vast troves of information we have access to now, we can actually, if we choose, to consciously look at this data and see what it says.

It says something like this to me, and I would love to get your reflection on this. When I just look at, say, the ecological data, it overwhelmingly is pointing to me, to what I read as an unsuccessful conclusion to the human experiment, unless... to use that word from one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, The Lorax, unless... we do things differently. Is this, do you think, an unfair or overly cynical way to be approaching the world at this time?

Stephen Jenkinson: That... give me the first part of what you said again, sorry.

Chris Martenson: That this... that when just adding up the ecological data that we have, say it be global warming, or species loss, or the fact that of the insects we do track, bees and butterflies, their populations are heavily depressed and declining. Or the bird species, or the phytoplankton is forty percent reduced, and these sorts of very large scale things that to me scream time out, take a step back big boy, let’s see what you’re doing. But our culture seems to be saying very clearly, we’re not going to look at that right now. You have to be alone with that information. Is that... that is where this... I feel when you say something in the architecture that prevents the awakening, there is not a lot of support, I feel, in the culture in which I find myself.

Stephen Jenkinson: Sure, that is an iteration of that point I was trying to rather use a minute ago, which is, I do not think the culture is actually preventing anybody from awakening. I think the subtleties are such that it is simply unwise to awaken. There is no prevention, there is no coercion of that ilk, I do not think. I think rather there is a running commentary on what constitutes good, right, just, and merciful, and sane, and getting your fair share, and all of that. What constitutes rights and all of that? When you look at those item-by-item things, what you find is the case is made that inattention to the kind of detail you described is well advised.

Because attention to it mitigates against happiness, contentment, your capacity to be a good neighbor, your sense of wellbeing, to be able to sit there with your legs crossed looking out the window and not feeling you have to do something. But there’s nothing to do, et cetera. This is... it would almost appear to be diabolical in how subtle it is; and I suppose maybe that’s the running definition of diabolical, is that you look in vain for the darkness when you’re already in a dark place. So, the darkness is in our eye. It’s not in the way it is. So, this awakening in the face of what you just described a minute ago is first and foremost a courageous proposition.

Whether or not it is mandatory, I do not think it is too hard to argue that, but mandatory in and of itself is very... it does not have much compelling power to it. It has more “should,” it is more “got to,” and people... It seems to me in North America, as a rule, have long since changed the channel from the “got to” channel, or the “should” channel, from the parenting voice, from the deeply disapproving voice. The irony is they apparently refer to the era that you and I now are speaking in as Anthropocene era, which bears sonically a resemblance to the word obscene; certainly, it does, but that means human centered. Or you could say to sound slightly more biblical, that everything around it is wrought now in our image. In our image, that is what we have accomplished. We’ve placed ourselves so ruthlessly at the center of things that you would think that the capacity to be human, to awaken to all this, to marshal our best efforts for the sake of no other reason than for our own sense of wellbeing, would be an inevitable consequence of living in a world that’s human centered.

But you look around and you see basically the opposite responses in full effect. There has probably never been a lonelier time to be alive and to be human than in a human centered world. That loneliness might be the sin that whispers in the middle of the night, what is the point? And turns it into a rhetorical question to defeat every inquiry that you can manage.

Chris Martenson: All right, that rings true and I think a lot of people listening to this, myself included, can certainly have a relationship with that idea of the loneliness of this end. So, when you said it’s perhaps unwise to wake up in this culture of mad... the culture isn’t preventing it, but this it being unwise... Here is the first thing that I think pops up, and that is why I wanted to start with that original quote from yours about the grief soaked proposition. It is possibly unwise to wake up to this, because there is a lot of grief in this material, which is a normal human response in a culture that studiously avoids anything related to emotions. But grief in particular, you’ve said in the past, if I got this right, grief is a skill. What did you mean by that?

Stephen Jenkinson: Well, let me go back one sentence before in your characterization of grief being in the realm of feelings, for example. I am going to suggest otherwise. And to suggest grief is avoided. I’d like to suggest otherwise to that one, too.

So, there is a lot of... the self-help section of the bookstore might be the bookstore now, for all I know. I do not know... with a small business section in the back maybe. Between those two things, that covers everything now, and the biggest section in the self-help department has got to be right now today, this grief thing. It is astounding how sudden it is making a claim on the front page. But you think about the front page. If the front page is the first thing you read, it is the first thing to ebb away as you plow through the details, isn’t it? Just literally in terms of thumbing through a paper. So, as soon as you turn that front page, pretty much that’s gone as something that has banner  headlines and is pleading for your attention. That is exactly what is happening with grief.

Right now, it is front-page news, but by dint of being front-page news, it is doomed to the budgie cage very soon. Just like all the talk about dying and all the euthanasia discussion and all of that. This is a kind of competence addicted culture’s way of neutralizing everything that seems to neutralize competence. It pretends to take it into consideration just long enough to reassure you that you’ve now done that, too. So, the party line on grief is that it’s essentially some kind of combination of feelings that’s temporary, that intrudes on the natural order of things long enough to get your attention. If things are going well long enough to get your attention, but not much longer than that, and you seek out the right remedies, and you too shall be emerging on the other side of grief somehow subtly shaken, but not fundamentally stirred. And to get on happily, and blithely and more capably with your day than you were able to before; so you realize the whole operation is that even grief is being seconded now as a self-help project.

Now, let me offer you an alternative way of understanding it. What if grief is not a feeling, but in some fashion or another, it is the end of feelings? And what if grief is not an intrusion into the natural order of things, but actually a deep recognition of the natural order of things? And what if grief is not temporary, but that once it deeply visits you, it informs you so irrevocably that it becomes part of your take on things. Not what happened to your take on things, but actually, your... it becomes a capacity, and not something that disables you. That is my understanding of how it functions. It is principally an action, and we are not on the receiving end of grief, we are on the practicing end of grief. That means it is something you grow some skillfulness not to cope with and endure until it passes any more than any other skillfulness is something you endure temporarily so you can get back to... what? A less skillful proposition? It is in the nature of skill to hanker after it once you have had a taste for it, and grief is some kind of kinship to that understanding.

Grief... you hear that the grief and loss industry... it’s said as if it was all one word, as if grief and loss is this compound obligation you have to understand, that the hardest things are the ones that you lose. And dying would be a very good example of that, and if somebody close to you dies, we would use this as a synonym. Well, losing is what you do to something; it is not what something does to you, obviously. You lose your wallet. You have done that to the wallet. And you lose your father, and that’s what you did to your father. The language of loss sees to it that the capacity for grief does not happen. Is not grown, because loss is deemed to be something that is inflicted upon you, that you’re the victim of it.

I do not need to tell you or anybody who is listening, how compelling victimology has become now, and it is one of the great get out of jail cards that this culture has produced. To the point now where as James Shillman [PH] so gorgeously observed, there is no difference anymore between feeling abused and being abused. Apparently, they have become the same thing. So grief, and my understanding of it, in my practice of it, and of my observation of how scant and rare a proposition it actually is, is a very redemptive... Not in the born again sense of the term, but in the real sense of the term. The verb “to redeem” means to declare, to pursue in a disciplined way, and to declare a meaning heretofore gone into eclipse. You know the verb “to deem” means to suggest or mean something. To redeem simply is to reconsider the meaning of something. It has nothing to do with the rapture and who gets in, and who does not, that is not what it means. So they don’t own the word.

The redemption project, a phrase I am fond of, is a project that is pleading for our humanity to appear and to work. It seems to me that the declaring call of the redemption project in a time such as ours comes in the form of grief. That grief is the awakening that you were asking me about earlier. It is not the means of awakening, that once you have awakened you do not need the grief any more. Like a takeout coffee cup, no, the grief is the awakening that you inadvertently were seeking unbeknownst even to you.

Chris Martenson: So to redeem this word grief, if I can paraphrase what I’ve heard, is that instead of wading into the self-help section, finding something I can consume, and I’m going to experience grief so that... I can make it more intense, less intense, last longer, last shorter, learn something from it, operate my day better, and in some way become more competent. Those are all very masculine approaches. I am going to experience grief for a purpose, I am hunting, and I am going to kill something with this.

You were saying, if I have this right, that grief is something we form a relationship with like we would form a relationship with a family member. Not so that... but because in a relationship things unfold, things emerge through that. Is that fair?

Stephen Jenkinson: I wouldn’t put it that way, only because to do so suggests that grief is a being somehow, and I would rather stand for the idea that... Let’s use a very simple way of coming to it. Let’s imagine that you enjoy tennis and that you play it. I would ask you why do you play it? And you say because I enjoy it. I would say to you, are you trying to get better at it? And you would probably say, well of course. I would say, why? Because it ups the enjoyment of it, of course. And there is nothing wrong with that, it’s all quite well observed. I would say to you, but you’re not getting good at it so that you can finally stop playing, are you? Which makes no sense whatsoever, until you begin to recognize that a kind of skillfulness Vis a Vis grief. When I propose that, the hearing in the popular culture goes something like this: Oh right, so you get good at grief so you can get on the other side of it, so you do not have to do it anymore. That’s what getting good at grief is, even like having a good relationship with this grief, so it won’t bite you in the ass too badly, kind of thing.

I am saying that grief is, in and of itself, a skillfulness of being a human being. It is not something you have a relationship with. It is that which in a deeply disciplined way, you practice. You partly pursue, you are partly being pursued by it at times, both of which has hopefully the purpose of a deep kind of introduction that you cannot turn away from again. Because it has made a claim upon you and it has the order of necessity about it, not the order of affliction. So, it’s not a matter of declawing and defanging grief until it sits quietly in your lap like a poodle. Not at all, no, grief is a human scaled mystery. That is what it is. I am not sure if there is “grief in the world” that we partake of. It may be so, but this might be an interesting thing to consider.

In medieval times, in northern Europe in particular, in the monastic life, there are stations that you awaken through the course of the evening deep into the night and into the early dawn, where you are at different layers of prayer and contemplation and so on. I am told that one of the contemplative exercises for those people in that time was to say in a kind of chanting fashion, a Latin term, lacrimae rerum, which translates fairly readily for us as the tears that are in all things. And this is what they would say. They would not say it in order to dry the tears that are in all things. They would say it so that it could be known, so that the deep facts of life that requires endings in order for things to proceed. That visits human beings as an awareness of your end before your end actually comes. The possibility of you deepening your life as a direct consequence of realizing how fundamentally limited it is in time, and in consequence, and in import, all of those things inform your days as part of this wakefulness we were talking about earlier. I do not know how grief cannot be a consequence of this, including a wish that it was otherwise, of course.

Just like at the level of the turbulence and the torment that we are describing that is part of our corner of the world now, of course, there is a wish that we had proceeded otherwise. But largely there’s an enormous sense of kind of race level guilt about the fact that we haven’t done so. And so W.H. Auden said it so gorgeously and so remorselessly, it seems to me. He said, to paraphrase him, something in the order of, I am of a time where we would rather be defeated than be persuaded. And if you can pass through the self-hatred, the misanthropy, that that would seem to lead you towards, recognizing misanthropy as just our version of self-absorption and come to the deep understanding that you imagine that we could have done it otherwise. But we didn’t; why not? There is something really wrong with us? Or, it would appear that we couldn’t have done it otherwise, because we didn’t even though there were options galore of proceeding otherwise. But we didn’t do so; so what’s the angel, what’s the midwife of proceeding otherwise? Awakening to the realization that heretofore you have not done so. If that ain’t grief, I don’t know what is, but that’s the awakening I’m talking about.

Chris Martenson: I want to, at this point, turn... I think it is appropriate here, because that is so beautifully said, and the connection here, I think you are informed, if I can be so bold, by all of the time you spent in assisting those who are going through the process of death and dying.

Stephen Jenkinson: It does have its affect, yeah.

Chris Martenson: Yeah, I bet it did. So, to begin that, what is our cultural death phobia?

Stephen Jenkinson: What is it?

Chris Martenson: Yeah. You have described it...

Stephen Jenkinson: You have kind of said it in the question. You have characterized it quite well. I could say that there are... let’s imagine that there are iterations of it that don’t appear phobic in the least. Let’s take, for example, be all you can be. There is a good one. It is a kind of mania, but it is never presented to kids as mania. But, my God, it’s the most intolerant mania you could possibly imagine. Be all you could be. But where’s this could live? Where is this thing called my potential? Where am I to seek it out? Well, by definition it is in the future. And when does the future happen? The answer is, it does not. It does not; the future is forever, but not yet. The not realized, the not appeared in the rest, you see? So the whole idea of holding young people in particular to this kind of iron maiden torture called “your potential,” as if the person who’s talking it can see it, and the young person has no clue, and the older person is holding them to this kind of standard. The whole thing reeks of a degree of intolerance for anything that constitutes ordinary, average, typical, and the rest. So, the only iteration of yourself that’s allowed is the superhero version of it. And that’s what’s buried in “death phobia.” Death phobia sounds like a well-informed aversion to limits, and fundamentally, leaving out the well-informed part, that is what death phobia, is. It is an aversion to limit.

You see why from that characterization, being able to talk about death phobia in those terms leads you so readily to a consideration of “what we’ve done” with this corner of the world that was entrusted to us; because the language is virtually identical. We are limit phobic in the extreme. We are growth addicted. We are competence addicted. And the intolerance that’s in there would appear to be life affirming only if you understand life as being the stage wherein all your genius gets to come out to play. But you know, and I know, that’s not what life is, a staging area for your genius.

What life is, is oftentimes tormenting, broken, a place where, as my countryman who has recently died said, a crack where the light gets in. and that’s it. So, to be deeply intolerant of limits, essentially dooms you to a project of unrestrained, unfettered, and untethered growth. If I may take one more iteration of that and push it a little bit, and it is not a concept, what I am about to say. It is observable. I worked for years in the realm of oncology, and so tumors were a daily fare. And let me suggest to everyone listening now, that a tumor is best understood as growth for its own sake. That is what a tumor is. A tumor is unrestrainedly leaning forward. That is what it does. It simply continues, and it increases. So, its rate of growth... I mean, you can invoke all kinds of economic language here, and it would not be out of place. The rate of growth, when it slows, is good news for the patient, but not good news for the tumor. So, the tumor’s job is to continue regardless of the consequence to its host. Sound familiar? Yeah. It is disastrously familiar. So, apparently, Mars is plan B now.

It is interesting that all the dot com money is going towards ending disease, ending death, and getting to Mars. It is quite astounding that that’s where this new money is going. And all these guys, these millionaires sound philanthropic. And the word philanthropic means human loving. Well, maybe human centered is a better rendering of those projects. If we are not supposed to die, what the hell are we supposed to be doing? What is our death... is our death really an insult that enough dot com money can finally put us on the right side of? How is that not the mania for growth iterated in another direction? And of course, the consequence of tumors is by virtue of it growing untethered to the consequence of its growth, it literally kills what sustains it. That is its job description, to kill what sustains it. But at least to grow. And then you think of that language in terms of the personal growth industry, by which North America is so easily recognizable in the rest of the world, and you realize, my God, it’s the same language again. And it is. And it’s the same mania again, and it’s the same intolerance again. And it’s the same blindness and the deep unwillingness to be a human being and to be reined in by grief. Not to be restrained, but to be bound to what sustains you. That is not deceit, unless your project is to be unrestrained; then it is.

But if your project is to live a mutually nourishing life, then to be restrained in that regard is to be disciplined so that your capacities serve something. And in so doing, you recognize how much on the receiving end of being served you have been. Which is of course what our childhood is for. And the ending of our childhood is often accomplished by recognizing how deeply on the take we have been without ever recognizing it. And sometimes you get to live long enough where you can go...where you can turn to your parent and you can say, I’m sorry, I had no idea for the longest time. And of course your parent would probably say, yeah, I know. And there it is, at the level of family.

Well, what kind of... I do not want to say cosmic pair... what kind of planetary being can we turn to now and say, I am sorry; I had no idea.

Chris Martenson: So, I am wondering if perhaps some of the energy for that self-help industry is not contained within the rather meaninglessness that many people find themselves locked into. And so you’re speaking to this idea that there’s a deeper meaning, and that grief can help us get closer to that. Death can help us get closer to that. That there is a call to greatness that exists within these things that might be termed things you would rather avoid, or find a verse in our culture. Other people are starting to turn towards them, but to get to the heart of this, you had a really important piece from one of the many downloads, transmissions, whatever you call them, that I took from the Rowe weekend was this:

When you say we are spending all this money to try to go to Mars, the tyranny of hope is what pops in; and I would love you to explain that people right now; what you mean by the tyranny of hope.

Stephen Jenkinson: The tyranny of hope, well, okay. Thank you for asking. Hope has a very, very elaborate PR firm working for it. Especially in a grim time such as I think we agree that we are in, then hope actually doubles down, and that you are obliged to be hopeful now as a kind of primary obligation to be able to go to any other form of action, you have to be hopeful.

Okay, so let’s go into about what being hopeful actually does to you. Not the content, not the hope for a thing, but what is the consequence of enacting this generic hopefulness that we are awash in at almost a terminal degree. Well, a parallel might be helpful; and if this is an economically astute audience that we are speaking to this will not be lost on anyone listening.

There is a thing called a mortgage. Of course, the word mortgage, the first part of it is the word death, and the second part of it is the word to portion out, or a gradient of. So a mortgage very clearly is like death on the installment plan. That is what the word actually means. But let’s go through the consequences of being ensnared in a mortgage. The principle consequence is that you are obliged to set aside things that you would do now, money you would spend now, because you’re in debt, with the assurance that if you are willing to forego enough for long enough you will come into the full ownership, outright ownership, of that which you have been mortgaged in the name of.

That is essentially how it functions. In other words, it is the function; it is the consequence of being mortgaged to become hostile in principle to deeply occupying the present moment. Even the present moment itself is mortgaged for the sake of some possible future; some reassured or guaranteed future, economically speaking. So if you take the understanding of this from mortgage and consider hope, you realize my God, item by item, it functions the same way.

The best way I have tried to get people to feel for this when they are sitting across from me as I say, are you sitting there now hopeful that you are sitting there now. And people look at you like, that just simply makes no sense at all. And at some level they’re right. But it’s a kind of nonsense that’s a mandatory realization. Hope, by its definition, happens in the present, but it turns you away from the present for the sake of the hope for something, which is always, always in the future.

So, when I was working with people who were dying for so many years, and they were obliged as a kind of moral obligation, really, to engage this hope project along with their lunatic cheerleaders, which you would know as family and close friends. And altogether now, we can think good thoughts of Barkly and all the rest, because there’s nothing... there’s no giveness to the ending of your life. That’s what hope is for is to crucify endings and make them pay, and make them suffer, and make them leave you alone. Anybody thinks I am overstating this, they have not thought about it enough. They have not been around to see what being hopeful actually does to people who are dying anyway. It is a terrible affliction and it means nobody no good, and the outcomes are this kind of compound loneliness where the allegation that hope and life affirming... When you think about it for five seconds, you realize the only portion of life that hope affirms is the endless, limitless potential life.

Well, please, somebody tell me where that life is. The limitless, the potential, where is it? Well, we have been sucking on the tit of that for quite a while now in the west, and the world is shriveling as a consequence. There is no such thing as limitless. Even in hopefulness, and sadly, some people have to come to the utter bankruptcy of hope as a prerequisite for being able to begin to practice the grief that I was talking about earlier.

Chris Martenson: The one turn of that phrase that I loved is that you are not preaching that people should be hopeless, but to be hope-free.

Stephen Jenkinson: Hope free.

Chris Martenson: Hope free, I like that.

Stephen Jenkinson: Hope free... yeah, you do not have to go back and forth between the two terminal propositions. You know hopeful, oh so you are hopeless. Well, I used to be hopeless. Oh, so you are hopeful. No, better. What is better than hopeful? Well, you know, I am not trafficking in two versions of the same thing, which is what hopeless and hopeful are. They are two brands of cola on the same shelf at Walmart. That is what they are; and they change nothing, no matter which one you are afflicted by. Hope free on the other hand suggests something like this.

You have been afflicted by hopefulness, and you have experimented with hopelessness just as resolutely. And something happened whereby you lost them both and you’re no longer capable of practicing either. I do not want to make it sound like it is some kind of elevated status at all. I am simply suggesting that if your hopefulness and your hopelessness are properly exhausted, your capacity to be hope free can now appear. Where it simply means that you do not require hope to proceed. That is all it means. And in the face of what’s coming, what may have already begun to come, in the face of that, awakened people need to be able to proceed without hope. Without an insistence that they need an assurance that whatever they try to do will pan out in the long term; and without that assurance, you cannot count on them. That is the affliction I see around me.

Do not ask me if you cannot reassure me that what I am prepared to work towards could come to pass. I am saying, as one grown up to another in a troubled time, you have an obligation to be able to proceed minus any assurance that anything good will come from it. And if you don’t have the capacity, you’re still seven years old. And you still want the pay day before the work goes in.

Chris Martenson: This is where you use the word courageous. To me that is the definition of courageous, which is I’m willing to proceed even though I have no idea, or any assurance of the outcome in this. And...

Stephen Jenkinson: I think it is a little more afflicted than that characterization. It could be something closer to this:

Samuel Beckett, great Irish writer. He has a book title. And the book title says what you and I are talking about right now. The name of the book is, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.  Now, if you do not pay attention to how he has phrased it, you think what he is saying is I cannot go on; I can go on. But he doesn’t say that. See, that is hopeful and hopeless again. He says I cannot go on; I will go on. And at the risk of cheapening an elaborate and well accomplished book just by making a phrase of the title, I believe his title says this:

I have an obligation in a troubled time to go on, not being able to.

If you let that stand and you do not try to resolve that, and you recognize the inability to go on is no more predicting of the outcome than the ability to go on is. Neither one of these foreclose on what may yet come to pass. However, the depths of the trouble mean that there is such thing... there is such a thing as not being able to go on and you turn away from that at your peril. The recognition that you cannot go on is a real time in people’s lives. It is not a failure, moral or otherwise, it is not a collapse. It is a true thing, and it takes courage to know that you are at a time when you cannot go on. And what Beckett is saying is, there come times in our lives when we go on not being able to. Where you are not obliged to choose between those two realities that both of them are your companions now; and I think the degree of trouble that we are seeing beginning to crest now, requires both of those skills. The skill of not being able to go on and the skill of doing so at the same time and not being obliged to choose between them. And pretending that because you read or watched Bucket List enough times, you know how to get on the other side of being defeated.

There is nothing on the other side of being defeated. When you lose, you lose. And what we have done to that which has sustained us, we’ve done it long enough now, that the losing has begun. That is a nonnegotiable situation. You can have as many politicians as you want try to get your vote from you by claiming they are going to make something great again. But there is no again to go back to, you see. That is what grownups know about a troubled time and that is... there is a degree of courage in that absolutely, but it is a courage that has no promise in it. That if you are courageous secretly, it is going to be okay.

Chris Martenson: Yeah.

Stephen Jenkinson: You see? This kind of courage is being able to proceed knowing that it is not going to be okay any time soon.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely, that is so beautifully said; and you know, in preparing for this I, I’m right at the heart of this now, I came across a recorded speech you gave. And this one line really jumped out at me, out of an hour. You said:

“If you want to change something, then your lens and your thrust has to be at the level of culture, not at the level of individual psyche.”

I know many of my fellow members here at Peak Prosperity, very much want to change things, but this idea of changing something at the cultural level may strike some of us, it does me, as both reasonable and terribly difficult. Or, at least, a generationally slow project where we might not hold the view that we have that sort of time. So, in your direct experience, how can culture be consciously amended, appended, or dare we say, changed?

Stephen Jenkinson: Yes, another well-wrought and very disturbing question.

Well, let’s start slightly earlier than when you asked it, and let’s ask whether or not you can change your mind. Now, you know all this self-help brigade clings to this as the latest, greatest hope that anybody possibly has. Like until I can change me... We could go on for fifteen minutes with these kind of affirmisms. An unchanged me would just result in the same. I have to change me, work on me, and all of that. Well, here is the question, and I am not saying this as a Rubik’s Cube foolishness. I mean, really. If you are going to change your mind, where is this mind that you propose to change? What is your relationship to this mind? What part of you is not the part that needs changing when you think about changing your mind? Who is doing the changing while your mind gets changed? Who is in charge of dictating what the nature of the change should be? Do you see what I am saying? There is no part of you that is unafflicted by that which you propose to change, including your understanding of what needs changing.

Now, that is very confounding when you let that in. Another way of saying this is, the solution generating industry is the same industry that generated the dilemma that it is now proposing to fix. See what I am saying? So, an understanding that is addicted to fixing, but completely unwilling to be aggrieved by that which needs the attention of the fixing is a place that is simply selling... you know that great song by The Who in 1970s, Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss. And that’s what’s coming; and that’s what all the solutions are.

The real question to my mind is not how do you change culture, but how is culture made. If you would imagine that it is not naturally occurring, like the clouds outside my window right now, it is not naturally occurring. It is a consequence of X number of humans, I do not know the magic number, proceeding in a certain fashion yes. But how? If we can reserve the word culture for some kind of human scaled mystery, which is an accomplished thing, not an inevitable thing, then we can ask the question, well then how do the humans make culture?

I submit to you it happens something like this: Culture is made by enough people being willing to proceed mindful to the point of deceit about what the consequence of enough of them being together in one place has become. That is what culture is.

It does not sound like any kind of accomplishment at all. I know. I know it does not. I know it is a hard sell to imagine that the principle attribute of culture is the willingness to recognize the immense consequence that we have on the place that we settled in while we are trying to be cultured. So, real culture, it seems to me, is an achievement that is a consequence of a willingness to know the deep expense or consequence we exact on the place that we propose to be nourished by. And to do that, you have to have a deep understanding and a willingness to know that all of this nourishment, all of the sustenance is fundamentally limited in scope, in scale, in consequence, in nourishment, in time. That it is not bottomless. I do not know how old you are, but you certainly are aware that there was a time when everybody knew there was enough oil.

Now, I am not saying it was true, I am simply saying everybody knew it. Well, how could you tell? Because of the way everybody proceeded, that is how you could tell. All the decisions that were made, all the buying decisions that were made, all the city planning decisions that were made were all predicated on that idea that there would be enough oil; and then, enough cheap oil, and all the permutations. And of course, this is demonstrably false. But, that didn’t prevent many of us, from “knowing” it and proceeding accordingly.

So... and then until recently, there was enough water, wasn’t there? Now, what does it even mean? Okay, where does this understanding come from that what sustains us most deeply has no bottom? Because that is the prejudice.  I suggest to you it comes from monotheism. Everywhere the world has endured monotheism, it has endured this idea that it is in the nature of the divine to be unlimited and bottomless and infinitely capacitated.

If we could rehabilitate our understanding of what constitutes divine, to include understanding of divinity limit, then the cultural change that you are talking about, I think, has the possibility to ensue. But until our take on the fundaments of life include limitations, especially the ephemeral or the spiritual, or the divine understandings that we might have, until that change occurs, I don’t see any possibility for a culture willfully, purposely, changing itself before it’s destroyed, before it goes down the pipe howling. I do not see it. I do not see it, because the fundamental misapprehension of what sustains it is whispering, there is always more. And that’s why I said that thing about... And we don’t have to die, we don’t have to be sick, and we can get to Mars. That is absolutely an unrepentant idea. And it will not give way as you can plainly see. And enough R and D money, and we can do that, too. But we’re in the land that was built by R and D money. We are in a time that is a consequence of big budgets for these things, and this is what we have.

Who is doing the math? It seems to me it is kind of obvious. How is it working so far to be all you can be? And of course, the apologists say, well, we’re not all we can be. Well, why not? Well, we have not spent enough R and D dollars. Here we go again, you see. So, let’s imagine we’re at the very limit of self-improvement, and that the limit of self-improvement looks like the world that we’re about to bequeath to people that are being born this week. Let’s imagine that. Let’s imagine that’s the very antithesis of deep human culture. The real human culture is lived understanding that your obligation is fundamentally not only to the human unborn, or not yet born, but to all the manner of life forms not yet with us; and that we proceed as if they will be. That would be something.

So, all of these fundamental disturbances seem to be, to me, to be mandatory before a change of the magnitude that your question suggested, is even imaginable, never mind pursuable, I think. Of course, if you are willing to rethink your take on the divine in this fashion, then the change you are asking me about is probably already underway. So, it is not even a staged out, or sequenced proposition, it is a kind of alchemical or myoepithelial moment, where one thing changes and by some mystery that I do not pretend to understand, eighteen thousand changes ensue almost immediately from something like that being entertained.

Now courage again, isn’t it. But a foolish, or wiley kind of courage that has cunning in it is really what we’re talking about here, not like armored Christian soldiers does. A courage that is deeply informed. My countryman again, he’s got a gorgeous line in one of his songs, he said:

“You loved me as a loser, but now you are worried that I might just win. You long for the way to stop me, but you do not have the discipline. How many nights I have prayed for this to let my work begin, first we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”

That is not a bad recipe and not a bad understanding that your adversaries require discipline to contend with you once you have begun to cultivate this grief nourished understanding of what is being asked of you. And generally speaking, adversaries to a deeply soulful existence don’t have discipline. They have fear. They might have power, but they do not have discipline. And minus discipline. They will do what they’ve done a thousand times before. But if the deal shifts, and if your capacity, if your willingness to present otherwise shifts, then their habituated understanding simply can’t contend. You could say that human freedom, fundamental human freedom, is the capacity to respond differently to an unchanged something. That is what I am advocating, I guess.

Chris Martenson: That is so beautifully said and in the final quote of yours I had prepared here, I think maybe you have just answered it. Because the question was around this quote of yours where you said:

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Stephen Jenkinson: Yeah, truly, huh. You can learn this from being a parent. You can learn it; it does not mean you will. But one of the most unnerving things you can do to your child is to continually remind them that they are the center of your household, and that their emotional disposition governs the day, and the rest. Kids, when they have a sense of their consequence, or their power of that magnitude, they can go out of their minds with that stuff. And it seems to me the human centered understanding of things has driven many of us to the very brink of sanity, while proposing to ennoble us, and to grant us our sanity. I mean, who among us wants to have that much consequence in the world? Even the most pompous and bombastic and running for office types... when they actually win, they blink in the camera and you can hear it... God, what have I done? You can see it in their eyes. I mean, they love the contention of running for office, but the idea of actually being there, and not just fighting completely unnerves them.

What human wants to have that much consequence in the world? Really. So, a little local life lived as... What we have been talking about is true, informed by the understanding that the ripples of your days are not for you to decide their meaning. They are for you to labor in the premise of the meaning of other people, the ones who came before you. And understanding all the while that the meaning of your life is in the hands of those to come; that you do not have an authoritative voice in the meaning of your life. You do not, and it is proper that you do not. There is humility, yes, but there is no humiliation in that. The humiliation comes in when you try to compensate for feeling impotent by overstating your consequence. Overstating how important you are in the scheme of things. It is your humanity, baby, it is not you. It is your humanity that the world needs; it is not you. You are free to be your small self, let the world be fed by your humanity; not a bad deal for all concerned.

Chris Martenson: That is absolutely perfect. I got everything that I had ever hoped for out of this interview and more. I can keep talking, but in honor of your time, respect for your time, I am going to call it here. I want to first thank you for your work in the world. I am acutely aware that to be a truth teller is sometimes a lonely place to be; sometimes a hostile place to be, depending on how you said it.

Stephen Jenkinson: I have heard that, yeah, I have.

Chris Martenson: And your work is just beautiful, it is just brilliant. If we could... I have many, many more things to ask you at some point, if you are open to that and will make a request later if that seems appropriate. But for now, I would love to let people know more about your work, how they can follow you. I know we have a lot of people interested in who you are. We are going to link to your books, and of course you have a website as well, and I wonder if you would be willing to tell us a bit about your school.

Stephen Jenkinson: Sure, happily. First of all, I hope nobody is interested in who I am, because it’s not a big deal. Apropos of what I was just saying, maybe there is some usefulness in some of the things I am trying to contend with, vocally, but not me. I am just a little example, so just we put the emphasis on the right syllable there, hopefully.

Yeah, thank you for asking about the school. I was lucky enough to be prompted by the ludicrous idea that people would be willing to be troubled in a similar fashion to the way I was, and that they would actually pay for the privilege. And that is exactly what’s happened since 2010 I guess it was. To the point where we opened a new class at the school and it was filled in three or four days again. This happens now virtually every time. I think it is an indication not that I am doing anything right at all; much more so that there seems to be a quietly increasing willingness to be drawn in to the deep concernedness that these things ask of us. Not to bank on reassurance and the twelve steps, the five stages that all the solution mania, but actually to be, to linger for much longer than sanity would seem to dictate with those things that trouble, and sorrow, and harrow; because all of these have their sustenance. Anyway, so we do the school a couple of times a year for each class over a two-year period, and it are a proper school.

There is inquiry, there is study, there is the discipline that I was mentioning earlier, there is a reading list and all the rest. It is a thrill, and it is an enormous privilege that people are willing to do this, and come and sit down alongside me, and with each other. I would never have imagined it... As I said to my wife in those days, I said to her, but nobody would come, because who is dreaming such a dream? I said, thinking it was a rhetorical way of contending with her suggestion. And lo and behold, I was wrong again. And these ways I have of being wrong on occasion, have turned into some pretty good arrangements, and that’s one of them.

So, the Orphan Wisdom School is what it’s called and anybody who is interested in learning about it is OrphanWisdom, just like it sounds, all one word dot com, and there is a brief, but to the point description of the enterprise there and some other things that you’ve been kind to mention are there, too.

Chris Martenson: As well as other events that you have going on, and I would encourage anybody, if you do have the chance to attend Orphan Wisdom School, I have not, but having met people who have gone, and having interacted with Stephen, as briefly as I have, I would highly recommend that. Or seeing him if you have the chance. Well worth your time, as well the movie Grief Walker, and his other books, which we are going to be listing at the bottom of this. Stephen, thank you for your time; it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today.

Stephen Jenkinson: Well, you know, please understand that as a privilege that I have to be spoken to as if what I have been wrestling with for years might have some use to somebody somewhere down the line. Because that is the greatest acknowledgement, the greatest gift, and I am on the receiving end of that over this last hour, and my appreciation goes back to you for that, too.

Chris Martenson: I thank you for that.

Stephen Jenkinson: You bet.

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herewego's picture
herewego
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 11 2010
Posts: 142
sobbing and celebrating

Over the past 3 years I've provided home care to 3 elders. Two have died.  Witnessing their losses of functionality and grieving their deaths is what some would call painful.  But knowing them and being so integral in their lives at such a time was profoundly precious.  I would never undo it to escape the tears.

I enjoyed the depth of this interview and will listen to it again.  Even before the 3 Es came along and helped radically reshape my worldview I've recognized the need for deep inner work to allow such conceptual and lifestyle shifts.  It is so satisfying to hear others working with that innermost level of reality in tandem with grappling with the physical aspects of the age of limits.  There is more of that here than one listening could catch.

For the moment, it occurs to me that once the reckoning is done, if there is anything left of humanity and of Earth, there is nothing inherently grievous about living within limits. It's different than what we've been up to, but it's not tragic.  It might be fascinating.  It might be satisfying.  Imagine not being at war with our ecosystem!

I find celebrating is a fine and true sister-practice to grieving.  By that I mean setting aside time to notice what is loved, what has been given, what is precious.  By that I don't mean clinging to what has been perfect, or easy, or what is guaranteed forever.  Both the grieving and the celebration feel like catch-up work.  The planet has been a glory for eons, and has been suffering at our hands for lifetimes.  I won't catch up with either the loss or the glory, but I'll do my part.  I value grieving and celebrating because they reveal truth.  What I love, raw.  What I long for, no cultural edits.

So far it usually turns out that what is celebrated and what is grieved are the same thing.  Those body-racking sobs are emotional evidence of our innermost love and joy, as far as I can see.  We grieve what we love.  So yes, love and joy are sometimes a bitter challenge.  Being human is not for sissies!  But I wouldn't undo that either.  Being part of this planet is the soul dream for this human.

 

 

 

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 7 2007
Posts: 5441
This was an important podcast for me too
herewego wrote:

(...)  There is more of that here than one listening could catch.

(...)

So far it usually turns out that what is celebrated and what is grieved are the same thing.  Those body-racking sobs are emotional evidence of our innermost love and joy, as far as I can see.  We grieve what we love.  So yes, love and joy are sometimes a bitter challenge.  Being human is not for sissies!  But I wouldn't undo that either.  Being part of this planet is the soul dream for this human.

This was a very important podcast for me, which is still resonating and sinking in.  Stephen is really an amazing voice of our times.

I've personally listened to it 2x even though I was the interviewer...and I learned more each time.

This podcast really get to the heart of something I have long struggled with and felt, which is the grief of being alive.  To hear Stephen say that grief is a skill, not a practice or a 'thing' you do once and you're done, but a skill like tennis, was really helpful to me.  

"To be conscious now is a grief-soaked proposition," he said.  The 'now' is different from past times because we have access to so much more information and because the web of life is snapping strand by strand.  To the extent we remain connected to the web of life, and we are far more than many realize, and that web is breaking down is a deeply troubling experience.

I think this explains some, or maybe a lot, of the anxiety that most people now report.  I don't think it's possible to put a few holes in the ship's hull and not have some worry come up.

To be emotionally resilient is to begin to confront the very issues that Stephen raised in this podcast.  I'll have much more to say as  this conversation develops.  For now, I'll leave you with the notion that this may be the most important podcast I've done...for me.  Personally.

aggrivated's picture
aggrivated
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2010
Posts: 523
agreeing yet disagreeing

Great interview.  One consequence of learning the information of the 3E's seriously is grief. One deeply feels the weight and even dread that ensues from that understanding.  Stephen's reflections, based on his experiences with/of grief, are profound and resonate deeply within my own experience of struggling with the loss of my own parents and others I have cared for deeply since my first encounter with death during the violent loss of a childhood friend. It is also great to hear someone call for a rejecting of our current understanding of grief for one that I think has a much longer existence in the history of being human. To face unconquerable disease, famine, slavery, etc has been the longer experience of civilization. To learn to live in grief rather than to pass through it has, I would think, been the norm for most of our existence as a species. Our current understanding is a recent development.

Stephen calls for a return to accepting our limitedness and our short personal existence on this planet. This (and this is where I disagree) does not necessitate rejecting monotheism but rather rejecting a view of ourselves as being the same as divine beings. From this perspective, it looks like we have as a culture replaced a monotheistic god with a view that humanity has the powers once attributed to that god. To say that monotheism came first is true. To say that currently mankind views itself as a limitless is also true. To make the first as the cause for the second is not necessarily true.

I am no scholar of western religious history.  I suspect Stephen has studied that area much more than I will ever. So he may be able to ably support his assertion. However, my suspicion is that there was a turning point in the self understanding of being human that occurred not before, but after or maybe concurrently with the growth of the use of energy.  For example, the mores of slavery changed after the use of energy and technology made slavery an unnecessary part of getting a lot of work done cheaply.  Until then slavery was pretty much a part of business as usual. People power was replaced by fossil fuel power.

To reject monotheism because it seems to have spawned mankind's view of itself as limitless on this earth is a jump that is not supported by the discussion. I grant it was only touched on but I suspect it is a pertinent subject for some PP readers. That is why I would like to pursue this a little further.

It does appear that many religious groups act today as support groups for the current paradigm for unlimited growth. Many of those groups are monotheistic. That may have been Stephen's personal historical path of experience which he has moved on from.  But, if I were looking for a causation for our current hubris the correlation with our use of energy looks to be a much more likely culprit than does the tie to monotheism.

The effect of seemingly unlimited energy from this earth is obviously a powerful agent of change in culture. It's effect on religious views needs to be studied. Religious views are changed by the culture around them. For one thing, it makes them more palatable for larger membership. But monotheistic beliefs may have suffered from unlimited energy as much as many other parts of our cultural heritage including our understanding of grief.

 My rejection of our current hell bent (to use a religious term)use of energy and its resulting devastation of our planet came first from my exposure to a monotheistic religion.  When I encountered the Crash Course I was delighted to find a convergence with my own religious experience and the facts that our current human hubris was self destructive.

 So, if I were looking for correlation being causation in our history I would point mainly at  the growth of energy use, specifically from fossil fuels. We should be careful not to reject or throw away pieces of our deep culture that have been only distorted and deformed by our present love affair with using so much energy. They may be necessary in the future.

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a couple of resources

Hi Chris,
Thank you so much for interviewing Stephen and being willing to name the importance of confronting these deeper issues inside ourselves.

I want to offer a couple of additional threads for interested folks to follow.  First the School of Lost Borders in California offers a program called the Practice of Living and Dying.  One of the teachers in this program is Scott Eberle, An MD here in Northern California who runs a wonderful hospice program.

Second, I really appreciate what herewego said about the connection between celebration and grief.  In this vein I recommened a book by one of my beloved teachers, Martin Prechtel, call The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise.

--Suzie

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Embracing hubris and, also, aggrivated

Good discussion with ample stuff to chew on. However, some things just never die. Stephen touched on what I see as the biggest liability and potential for malice. What’s your motivation?:

So, to be deeply intolerant of limits, essentially dooms you to a project of unrestrained, unfettered, and untethered growth.

If your project is to live a mutually nourishing life, then to be restrained in that regard is to be disciplined so that your capacities serve something.

I’m no Bible scholar, either, but some  truths still resonate from my earliest exposure to religious thought:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

Perhaps humility is what we should be embracing

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Excellent

I am one of those people that intuitively knows that grief and sadness is where some of the most beautiful things in life are so I tend to not resist it like most people. Thank you for introducing me to his work. I am going to get more of his materials.  I feel like he took my view of the world and tilted it.  Once again you are blowing me away with the breadth and depth of the material you present.    

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Tears that are in all things

Great podcast, I could deeply relate to Mr. Jenkinson's ideas.  Often I feel like I am living in grief and, at times wonder, temporarily, if life wouldn't be easier if I were one of the clueless.  I especially liked " lacrimae rerum" (the tears that are in all things) Throwing away an empty bottle of Crown Royal causes me pain as I see the energy that went into its production.  The bottle is beautiful and it's very useful.  It's so sad that we pollute our land with beautiful and useful items. (glass isn't accepted in our recycled bin) Books are items I grieve over as well.  They represent a richness of life that my words are insufficient to describe.  People are getting rid of books in mass because they can now read a book on a digital device.  Someday owning a tangible book will again be a privilege and a pleasure, I believe.  My husband and I are taking advantage of this new trend and picking up books for pennies.  Not sure who will read all of them but knowing what I know they are a valuable resource.  I liked the phrase Mr.Jenkinson used that the meaning of our life is in the hands of those that come after us.  If the berry bushes I plant feed someone in the future great, if only the birds, that's okay too.  The activity of planting them was worthwhile and money to buy them well spent.  Oh if only those who come after us were the basis for our decision making.

One comment about the podcast would be - I would have liked to hear a discussion about is fear.  In taking classes on Aging and seeing what's going on in the world fear can be a very real companion of grief. Aging can be scary as can be death.  Fear of the unknown can also be very real.  Those of us who have an understanding of the changes we face may very well be better suited to meet the future, hope free.  The story of Pandora's Box was that hope was the worst of the horrors unleashed when the box was opened. How many will and are clinging to the idea (hope) that civilization still travels the path up the growth  hill rather than  down the other side of the hill.  

Will listen to this podcast again!  Would like for you will have Mr. Jenkinson back for another interesting discussion.

PS - I took a Death and Dying class and the very first class the instructor said "statistically speaking, 100% of people die" which puts the subject into perspective.  Everyone is affected by death, loss, change and grief so this is an important subject!  Kudos Chris for delving into this subject which affects us all.

AKGrannywgrit

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Absolutely the most important podcast ever
cmartenson wrote:

"To be conscious now is a grief-soaked proposition," he said.  The 'now' is different from past times because we have access to so much more information and because the web of life is snapping strand by strand.  To the extent we remain connected to the web of life, and we are far more than many realize, and that web is breaking down is a deeply troubling experience.

I think this explains some, or maybe a lot, of the anxiety that most people now report.  I don't think it's possible to put a few holes in the ship's hull and not have some worry come up.

To be emotionally resilient is to begin to confront the very issues that Stephen raised in this podcast.  I'll have much more to say as  this conversation develops.  For now, I'll leave you with the notion that this may be the most important podcast I've done...for me.  Personally.

I've learned a lot of things from the Peak Prosperity community.  This podcast resonates with me "hands-down" as the most fundamentally powerful, deep, and true podcast of all.  I'm ready for these truths.  Lately, I've been reading about the irredeemable nature of our civilization in books by  Derrick Jensen (recommended by a PP commentor) and re-reading Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  And I've been thinking of my aunt who is fully in denial (hope!) about her stage 4 lung cancer that has metastacized into her bones...   What I mistook for malaise, sadness, or 'depression' is likely a legitimate grief.  It won't pass, because these circumstances won't pass. 

I've accepted an invitation to sit on a panel next month called "United With Our Environment: where we are now, the new administration, and the future." The organizers have stated that "the goal of this panel discussion is to provide the * Valley a feeling of positivity and empowerment in light of the recent change to our administration next month."  Sounds a bit like "self-help", doesn't it?  The organizers may not know it yet, but I plan to bring a dose of realism and acknowledgement of our circumstances along with a clear roadmap of what I'm called to do (i.e., quit my job as a mining hydrologist and produce local food).  I doubt I'll be sharing much "hope and positivity", but I'll certainly be sharing realism, acceptance, vision, and determination.  And I plan to listen to this podcast at least three more times before the panel discussion.   

Chris and Stephen - thanks for this podcast.  It is absolutely amazing. 

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Waterdog14,I wish

I could give you more thumbs up. Folk are in a "Pascallian quandry". "Do I deny and suffer the consequence, or accept, live accordingly, and enjoy the descent"?

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Other points for unpacking Stephen's perspective

One deep theme that ran through the discussion was the need to live in the present. One of the struggles we face is grief. Another is fear. Another is worry. All of these require the discipline of living in the present. I would love to have a revisit with Stephen and Chris to unpack some details on these and similar areas that I suspect afflict many of us as the Peak Prosperity site is first encountered.

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Hope-Free

[hope free] simply means that you do not require hope to proceed. That is all it means. And in the face of what’s coming, what may have already begun to come, in the face of that, awakened people need to be able to proceed without hope.

I see being hope-free as misplaced hope. That is, you are now trusting (placing your hope in) an attitude thinking it well help to accomplish some goal.

Many years ago as a teen, I heard a speaker (on cassette tape!) talking about a time in university where he had read a philosophy book and was trying to understand the author's point of view. As I remember, the speaker went to his professor to ask him to explain the book. The explanation of the book was essentially "The Titantic is going down. We know it is going  down. We can't stop it. So we might as  well arrange the deck chairs in a nice way so that it looks good while we are going down."

That sounds like hope-free to me. It also sounds like madness.

My (monotheistic) world view tells me to "rejoice in hope of the the glory of [G]od. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also..." Why do I rejoice in hope and glory in afflictions? Well, that delves into topics that fall outside the guidelines for this community.

If we want to explore spirituality, we have to grapple with the possibility of contamination of the human spirit and its cause and its remedy.

Like aggrivated said above, I can agree that

It does appear that many religious groups act today as support groups for the current paradigm for unlimited growth.

But I also would not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

Personally, I'm sticking with hope (of the glory of [G]od).

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The human paradox

Great interview.

Isn't it interesting that the more we let go of hope the more positively we can live; the more we live in the present the better able we are to cope with the future; the more we're able to let go of the need to control the more we can accept what is?

It's totally confounding to the mind! Which is, I guess, why it's so useful to go beyond the 'thinking' mind from time to time.

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To Be Hope Free
David Allan wrote:

Great interview.

Isn't it interesting that the more we let go of hope the more positively we can live; the more we live in the present the better able we are to cope with the future; the more we're able to let go of the need to control the more we can accept what is?

It's totally confounding to the mind! Which is, I guess, why it's so useful to go beyond the 'thinking' mind from time to time.

The Tyranny of Hope was a really powerful segment of this interview for me.  I guess I'd never thought of it that way before, but those clinging to hope are really denying themselves a chance to be present.

To be hopeful, or hopeless, means that one is living in some other place and time than the present.

Too be hope free means one has decided to live in the here and now, with things as they are (rather than as one would hope for them to be).

Most people here have probably known someone, perhaps quite personally, that when faced with a certain fatal prognosis, chose to spend their remaining time "fighting a courageous battle" against whatever disease has claimed them.  

And that battle is really rooted in a profound desire to not face mortality straight on, and so often, painfully often, quality of life is traded for a few more days, or weeks or maybe months.  

It's such a phenomenon, it provides the humorous context for this Onion article:

Loved Ones Recall Local Man's Cowardly Battle With Cancer

On Jan. 26, just four days after visiting the doctor for what he thought was severe indigestion or maybe an ulcer, Russ Kunkel got the dreaded news: A malignant, fist-sized tumor had metastasized between his stomach and liver. It was cancer.

Russ Kunkel with wife Judith and son Jake. Right then and there, faced with the prospect of a life-threatening disease, the 34-year-old Florissant, MO, husband and father of three drew a deep breath and made a firm resolution to himself: I am not going to fight this. I am a dead man.

On Feb. 20, less than a month after he was first diagnosed, Kunkel died following a brief, cowardly battle with stomach cancer. "Most people, when they find out they've got something terrible like this, dig deep down inside and tap into some tremendous well of courage and strength they never knew they had," said Judith Kunkel, Russ' wife of 11 years. "Not Russ. The moment he found out he had cancer, he curled up into a fetal ball and sobbed uncontrollably for three straight weeks."

Said Judith: "I can still remember Russ' last words: 'Oh, God—I'm going to die! Why, God, why? Why me? Why not someone else?'"

According to Russ' personal physician, Dr. James Wohlpert, the type of cancer Russ had generally takes at least four months to advance to the terminal stage. But because of what he described as a "remarkable lack of fighting spirit," the disease consumed him in less than one. "It's rare that you see someone give up that quickly and completely," Wohlpert said.

"Cancer is a powerful disease, but most people can at the very least delay the spread of it by maintaining a positive outlook and mental attitude. This, however, was not the case with Russ." Russ' friends and acquaintances saw that same lack of fighting spirit.

"Russ did not go quietly, that's for sure," said longtime friend Bobby Dwyer. "He did a tremendous amount of screaming."

I think the onion could write a similar article about people's inability to face the many predicaments in which we've placed ourselves.  

Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to suppose that our deep seated fear of mortality extends to and informs our collective inability to really face the other limits of life.  

But the great paradox of living is that in order to really become one things, you must embrace the other. 

A few that I wrestle with and am constantly deepening:

  • To love deeply one must be willing to grieve deeply.  The depth of one defines the depth of the other.
  • To step fully into one's masculine self, one must encounter and integrate one's feminine self.
  • To step fully into one's feminine self, one must encounter and integrate one's masculine self.
  • To fully live, one must embrace one's own death (not conceptual death, but personal death).
  • Ultimate freedom comes with ultimate responsibility.

Each of these has an entire mountain of discovery and learning beneath them and I'm just getting started.  The more I learn, the less I know.  If I keep this up much longer, I won't know anything at all.  

Oh well, I am having a blast, so I guess it's all good.  :)

In the meantime, to be hope free is something I aspire towards.  I think it helps to explain the concept of "dying into life"  and provides a means of assessing when I am in the grips of hope.  It is the difference between secretly hoping something will happen, and deciding what will happen.  

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Serious training in grief

I'm wanting to add "Grieving" to my skill set in my personal profile.I have asked for the category to be added. I got some serious training in grief when I was told that I had only months to live due to raging metastatic cancer. I had a "I can't go on, I'll go on" moment. I clearly saw the end of my life before it was to come. I remember walking outside to install a rainwater filtration system that was, just days before, going to be for "us" and now was going to be only for my wife. I made myself finish the job for her and for the sake of the job.  Now, 12 years later, I play celebratory music at lots of funerals and I am gaining more skills in empathy and grief. (And the rainwater system still works well.)  For some reason, only known to God, I am still alive.

 

 

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Another view?

Many years ago, I was a milkman in Winnipeg, Manitoba and many of my customers were Jewish and had, somehow, survived the Nazi pogroms of the 1930's and 1940's. Many of these individuals I got to know on more than a casual basis and when they remembered their experiences(which wasn't often) there was a tenacity of spirit and grit that was palpable. It eventually gave way to a profound sense humor reflective of their current life. As one individual told me, "You can resign yourself to the inevitable or try and "stick-handle" your way around the opposing players and body check if you have to; and not worry about the penalties". We all have one shot at this life and it isn't over until the final whistle. Regular visitors to the PP site are painfully aware of the obstacles facing mankind. But our response to them should be measured; call me old fashioned.

"Ultimate freedom comes with ultimate responsibility". 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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St Francis of Assisi

While watching a PBS presentation on St Francis of Assisi last night, the correspondence between his life and these PP discussions was clear.  He found radical freedom and joy in poverty (i.e., dying to that to which one is attached).  While not a Catholic, I found it to be very engaging; a valuable resource.

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Responsibility, grit, and even hope

This discussion reminded me of a quote from a 20th century Russian Christian monastic. "Keep your mind in hell, and despair not." There are many others who have experienced the ongoing tragedy that is part of survival and the joy and purpose that is needed to go on.Some have carried within them a hope in the immaterial. Without knowing that others have been there and done that, all the data in the world wouldn't convince me to abandon 'the good life' that endless energy promises.

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Living in the time of the Great Unravelling

This was a wonderful and sad interview for me, too.

'Tis one thing to understand the lifecycle/ population peak and descent curve of yeast in an overcrowded vat of sugar water.  But to live through it and see ones children live through this is heart wrenching.  The grief that we may see is staggering.  But there does seem to be some peacefulness from letting in that I will die anyway.

Oliveoilguy's story was much appreciated.

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Loss for Words

I am somewhat at a loss as to how to respond to this podcast so please forgive me as I plow ahead.

As a firefighter/EMT and as an emergency room nurse for almost 20 years years I have witnessed the tyranny of hope many, many times.  

As a "Doomer" I have run the math backward and forward and have been unable to convince myself that we as a species are facing anything less then a catastrophe of literally unimaginable proportion.

As a person who had a heart attack 5 days ago and is grappling with the idea that I am alive today by the barest of chances.

I do not have to "Be all that I can be", I just have to stand in the place were I am, love the people I am with, enjoy what time I may have left.

This was a fascinating pod cast to open up in the midst of a deep and personal existential crisis.

Thank you,

John G.

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JGriitter, so glad you are still with us!!

JGritter, so glad you are still with us!! 

I do not have to "Be all that I can be", I just have to stand in the place were I am, love the people I am with, enjoy what time I may have left.

Your quote resonates strongly with me.  After so much time spent experiencing the painful emotions that come with facing the likely ramifications of our current predicaments, I find myself surrendering to what is.  And by that I mean accepting the truth of what is, not giving up. The result -more of a focus on living in the here-and-now (because that is all we have)- is the best comfort I have found.  It may sound strange, but I actually find the Zero Hedge motto, "On  along enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero" to be comforting. It reminds me that "we are all here on a temporary basis, so live now." 

Best wishes for your health, John!!

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John, a speedy recovery!
jgritter wrote:

As a person who had a heart attack 5 days ago and is grappling with the idea that I am alive today by the barest of chances.

I do not have to "Be all that I can be", I just have to stand in the place were I am, love the people I am with, enjoy what time I may have left.

John,

I too am very relieved that you have survived your brush with mortality and have decided to remain with us a while longer!

So glad you are taking the event for the gift that it was; a chance to really live, be with those you love, and stop living as if all the time in the world remained.  Perhaps that wasn't your way, but it's certainly mine from time to time as I get wrapped up in relatively meaningless stuff and lost track of the being here now.

I do think, more broadly, that as the impossibility of it all speeds into people's awareness, that the sort of soul-searching Stephen elicits and elucidates with become more common.  And that too is the gift of these troubled times - a chance to really live, here and now, with what and who we have.

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Speedy Recovery Seconded

John.....I can empathize and feel the intensity of your situation. I'm so glad you are maintaining.  Every moment is precious. I didn't truly understand that until I thought my life was ending. Although some complacency has crept back into my life 12 years after my crisis, I am still thankful every day for all that is.  And I try hard to take nothing for granted.

Two months ago when my daughter, her husband, and my 1 year old grandson told me that they were moving out to the country to my small town, I cannot put into words the joy that I felt. To be able to spend more time with my family is an immeasurable gift. You and I may not be able to solve any of societies problems, but we can make a difference in the legacy that we leave and the kindness we impart.

By the way, my kids are PP followers and if I may be so bold, I would say that they have their shit together. They got out from under an expensive suburban home mortgage and now own 14.5 acres and a modest country house debt free. 

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History of Socializing Costs

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Sweet
jgritter wrote:

This was a fascinating pod cast to open up in the midst of a deep and personal existential crisis.

 

Glad you have extended your leasehold on your current residence, so to speak.  It's all a gift, and beauty is everywhere we turn.  Even though this is IMO one of history's hair-raising pivot times, I still feel fortunate to be here.  

VIVA -- Sager

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Dying well

So here's a thought that has been rolling around in my head over the past several days.  Picture the scene.  I walk into the ER were I work.  Triage nurse says "You look like shit, what's up?"  "I think I'm having a heart attack" says I.  BAM!  Things start to happen fast!  Several minutes later there is a slight pause in the action.  I lay half naked in a tangle of tubes and telemetry leads, vasodilators on board, anticoagulant running in an IV.  A young resident physician has informed me that the EKG suggests "a significant LAD lesion" (translation: classic "widow maker", imminent risk for cardiac sudden death).  A buddy of mine standing at the bed side gives my a wry smile.  "Wouldn't it be ironic", he says, "if after all your years of careful prepping you drop dead and miss the Zombie Apocalypse".

Dong!  My head is still ringing.  What if instead of struggling to remain hopeful, or struggling against hopelessness, in the face of crushing evidence, our role is to be "hope free"?  Just to be clear and present for the teaming masses who are no more able to mitigate their biosphere destroying behavior the then the yeast in sand puppy's sugar solution.  

Ok, I hear a bunch of people out there saying, "Well, duh!  Morning, sunshine, welcome to being awake"  It feels like that moment when you meet the eyes of a family member across a dying patient and you can see that they get it, that the situation is irrevocably terminal.

Thanks for the well wishes and thanks for letting me process out loud.  

I wonder if we can add another "E" for "existential crisis".

John G.

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Ding Dong - the bell has rung!

John G, great last post - as were so many others.

Hope. It is something that I have always felt is a must have in order to keep going, to give impetus to live well and strength to overcome obstacles. Now I am re-thinking.... very deeply.... have been for a long time actually, every since I awoke to the reality of our collective predicament. My dilemma though has always been equating letting go of hope with giving up. Giving up is not in my nature and indeed I think it is part of the human thing - the fight or flee instinct. I am a fighter by nature. I push back for all that is right and good. Trying to make things better. But is it still right to do this? I am having big doubts.

I guess the challenge is to find the happy medium which resides in the middle of the two extremes of hopeful and hopeless - which is (choose your word) peace, contentment, nirvana, enlightenment... whatever.

Perhaps all this time I have simply been fighting the hope within, not realizing that that very fight was causing the unease for which I felt the need to fight? Hope can be exhausting. Acceptance somehow is looking easier to achieve now.

Jan

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Birth and death

There are many things that need to die now, so the new can manifest.  No need to wait for the zombie apocalypse, we are living that.  Only the walking dead could live the way we do now, destroying the  earth for such small minded and selfish gains.  In the end perhaps we will see the beauty of it all, and realize that we have been dead all along. 

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I can't go on. I'll go on.
westcoastjan wrote:

John G, great last post - as were so many others.

Hope. It is something that I have always felt is a must have in order to keep going, to give impetus to live well and strength to overcome obstacles. Now I am re-thinking.... very deeply.... have been for a long time actually, every since I awoke to the reality of our collective predicament. My dilemma though has always been equating letting go of hope with giving up. Giving up is not in my nature and indeed I think it is part of the human thing - the fight or flee instinct. I am a fighter by nature. I push back for all that is right and good. Trying to make things better. But is it still right to do this? I am having big doubts.

I guess the challenge is to find the happy medium which resides in the middle of the two extremes of hopeful and hopeless - which is (choose your word) peace, contentment, nirvana, enlightenment... whatever.

Perhaps all this time I have simply been fighting the hope within, not realizing that that very fight was causing the unease for which I felt the need to fight? Hope can be exhausting. Acceptance somehow is looking easier to achieve now.

Jan

The parts I have bolded above speak to me as I'm sure they do to many people.  I am typing this on Christmas day, which in the pagan and indigenous traditions across the entire northern hemisphere, celebrated the first inching step of the sun back up into the sky after three full days of hanging at its lowest ebb in the sky (with the great northern cross constellation behind it, hence hanging on a cross).

This is the lowest, darkest point of the year in a literal sense.

Metaphorically this darkness can become a fertile time for deep inner contemplation.

I find myself increasingly drawn to the inner world, and what we need to do individually to keep moving during these troubled times.

To immerse oneself in the population data, or to dare to ingest the ecological data, or to peel back the covers on what our leaders are really up to, is to step into a place of darkness.  So, metaphorically and literally speaking, how do we manifest ourselves in that space?

Most turn away, unable or unwilling to ‘go there.’  But the people assembled here have chosen to turn and face our many problems and predicaments squarely, aware and accepting of the burdens and costs imposed.

There’s much that Stephen spoke of that touched me, with the Tyranny of Hope being a critical piece, and I would invite everyone to listen or read through that part as many times as necessary to fully get the nuances of what he’s saying, but right now I’d like to focus on what he said right after that segment.

I asked if courage was an appropriate term for the people who can operate ‘hope free’ and Stephen dug a little deeper and said this:

Stephen Jenkinson: I think it is a little more afflicted than that characterization. It could be something closer to this:

Samuel Beckett, great Irish writer. He has a book title. And the book title says what you and I are talking about right now. The name of the book is, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.  Now, if you do not pay attention to how he has phrased it, you think what he is saying is I cannot go on; I can go on. But he doesn’t say that. See, that is hopeful and hopeless again. He says I cannot go on; I will go on. And at the risk of cheapening an elaborate and well accomplished book just by making a phrase of the title, I believe his title says this:

I have an obligation in a troubled time to go on, not being able to.

If you let that stand and you do not try to resolve that, and you recognize the inability to go on is no more predicting of the outcome than the ability to go on is. Neither one of these foreclose on what may yet come to pass.

However, the depths of the trouble mean that there is such thing... there is such a thing as not being able to go on and you turn away from that at your peril. The recognition that you cannot go on is a real time in people’s lives. It is not a failure, moral or otherwise, it is not a collapse. It is a true thing, and it takes courage to know that you are at a time when you cannot go on.

 And what Beckett is saying is, there come times in our lives when we go on not being able to. Where you are not obliged to choose between those two realities that both of them are your companions now; and I think the degree of trouble that we are seeing beginning to crest now, requires both of those skills.

The skill of not being able to go on and the skill of doing so at the same time and not being obliged to choose between them. And pretending that because you read or watched Bucket List enough times, you know how to get on the other side of being defeated.

There is nothing on the other side of being defeated. When you lose, you lose. And what we have done to that which has sustained us, we’ve done it long enough now, that the losing has begun. That is a nonnegotiable situation. You can have as many politicians as you want try to get your vote from you by claiming they are going to make something great again. But there is no again to go back to, you see. That is what grownups know about a troubled time and that is... there is a degree of courage in that absolutely, but it is a courage that has no promise in it. That if you are courageous secretly, it is going to be okay.

Chris Martenson: Yes...

Stephen Jenkinson: You see? This kind of courage is being able to proceed knowing that it is not going to be okay any time soon.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”  I cannot go on, I will go on.  That distinction is so important.

To go on even when you have already lost, when there’s no hope of a happy ending, when there are no guarantees of anything…I know that sounds like a dark and degraded place to inhabit but it really is not, it’s the opposite.

To finally and deeply accept ‘what is’ means being able to be present with what is.  All we ever have is each present moment and having the twin skills of both not going on and going on is vital to being present, to fully engage with the magic of being alive at this time.

To be filled with hope is to be forever waiting for something to arrive to make things better…in the future.  To be hopeless is to be despairing that things are not and have not been different than they already are.  Both conditions deprive you of being present with yourself and your loved ones and forestall the ability to keep moving despite or in spite of your hope or hopelessness.

These are troubled times.

We cannot hope them into being otherwise.

What we can do is keep moving, to go on, and so that’s why Adam and I built this site and continue to do all the things we do each day to keep moving, to go on.  Honestly, I would not be able to continue, and would not have lasted this long, if I required a promise that if I applied myself well enough that it will all be okay.  I know too much to hold that view.

Getting to this point was not an intellectual process.  It was an emotional journey, during which I discovered that much of which I had been trained by my culture to avoid because it was depressing or dark, contained within it the seeds of true freedom and greater joy.

This was just one of many paradoxes that I now understand inform and inhabit the mature condition.  The ability to make an impact in the outer world is reflected by one’s ability and wiliness to journey deeply within.  As within, so without.  I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

So my invitation here, even and especially for myself, is to continue to deepen the twin skills of not being able to go on, and going on.  To settle more fully into them trusting that even greater freedoms and enlightenment exist as I/we/you spiral more deeply into them.

And with that, I think I hear my children stirring.  Time for stockings and joy.  Time to carry on.

 

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Re: I can't go on. I'll hope on.

It was heart warming to see WestcoastJan's post and equally so to see Chris reference her post. Jan has a connection to and is an advocate for people with disabilities and her perspective on life is unique.  It is this communities diversity and quest for understanding that provides the medium for growth and richness.

I ponder - what if this point Chris is making regarding "I can't go on, I'll go on" is the most important preparation for an emergency, catastrophe, hard times etc. of all our preparations.  Wow what a fundamental concept.  Can't help but think the practice of gratitude fits right in here.  Gratitude can keep us grounded and provide a frame of reference for the present I think.

A great Christmas Day gift, thanks Chris.

AK Granny

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Predictive Text

Dang, even the predictive text sticks "hope" in the sentence.  Hard to get away from that hope thing.

Should have been "I can't go on. I'll go on."

 

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Hope is overrated ;-)

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Life without hope

"The tears in all things," describes what lies beneath the facade of 'happy, happy,' -- that the social sphere requires we participate in.  Once we peel that layer back we're overwhelmed by the sadness, tears, shame and guilt we are required to repress.  Openly expressing vulnerability or anything outside of the prescribed social 'talking points,' is frowned on.  The collective ego which is very scripted, is confused and annoyed by it. 

Peeling back the gift wrap of the social self only exposes the box the self is contained in. Remove the lid and you discover another box and so on and so on, until you get to the minute quantities of DMT the brain produces and through which it can translate its own essence into other, dreams, other realms, possibly paralleling realities, different regions within a multiverse.

We are not lost or gone at death.  We transcend this ludicrous goofball planet, this absurd Kabuki theater.  There is reason for deep hope. We are rooted in joy and to deep joy and love we will return. 

Merry Christmas!  

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Chris, Norman Vincent

Chris,

Norman Vincent Peale's twisted reign of positive thinking is done!  And it is happening in the macro, right down to the micro --- our bodies, our minds and our relationships. Thinking realistically can be quite horrifying and depressing and there is no answer other than to just endure. It's what humans do best and is ennobling, even though we are beaten and bloodied by it. 

We seem to have to go through being beaten and bloodied, one way or the other --  even while  imagining, firmly believing, or 'knowing' that there is nothing on the other side of it.

We should honor, at the same time, that we are operating in a bit of an informational void, no matter how much we think we have it 'nailed.'  We know nothing for certain, including that there is nothing on the other side of Bummersville. 

 Whereas Michaelangelo's fresco depicts a hand with extended finger reaching out a finger to Adam, it's as if God is now giving us the finger, or simply firmly gesturing with the same hand to 'stop!' It's the ultimate negative gesture.  The power of 'no'. Nope IS the new hope!  

 

 

 

 

 

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Loss of self

l have not heard things phrased exactly that way.  It seems that I cannot go on, I will go on, without choosing  one or the other is about loss of the self, eliminating the division between the observed and the observer.  The self exists, but no longer acts as lens that distorts reality. Unfortunately it seems that it takes enormous suffering to bring us to that point. Western philosophy is so utterly infected with the ego and the self.  Eastern traditions are full descriptions and methodologies to achieve that very end.

So even in these "dark times" we are given exactly what is needed to transform ourselves, perhaps that even involves the physical death of the species, I do not pretend to know.  But I do think that it is a choice that we can make if we wake up regardless of what the math tells us.

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Loss of self or loss of autonomous self-?

The autonomous self was a philosophical construct of Western philosophy trying to counteract the determinism of the emerging fields of science during the Enlightenment. Our present day virtual reality games and toys coddle that 'self' very effectively.

Modern psychology and some philosophy today is working with the concept of self in relation to our environment. Matthew Crawford's thoughts on this are especially accessible. Yes we make decisions. Yet those decisions are tied to our environment. To act from a point of autonomy is not possible. So, why is this important?

For my simple mind I hang onto the saying 'you can't steer a car unless it's moving. Hence the requirement of 'I will go on'. Holding the hand of a very sick child provides a way for that child to move on. Whether to health, continued sickness or death, being there for that other is crucial. Being the change you want to see (I think that's an accurate quote) is another way each of us can provide an environment for each other and our physically adjacent neighbors to go on when they can't go on. And, just to cut that self confidence down to size, others around us may be the reason we can go on.

My father made the decision to start a new family after hearing a remnant congregation singing in a bombed out church in Germany at the end of WWII.

We go on because others go on. Even a leader has followers. Hope, like the autonomous self, needs a rethink in our present culture. For now I'm quite happy to hold someone's hand and keep moving

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I disagree, hope IS good!

After pondering this subject for a while I have difficulty with the "it's good to be hope free concept" because hope almost seems to be an instinct.  I do understand that obsessively hopping can be counterproductive.  So I googled the question "what's the difference between hope and optimism" and found this lovely quote.

Enjoy

  • “One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Knowing what we do of our past, no Jew can be an optimist. But Jews have never – despite a history of sometimes awesome suffering – given up hope”The Dignity of Difference p. 206

  • I think I will continue to hope that the ever so many good and decent people out in the big wide world can, collectively, make positive changes. Yep, I like hope, it's active, and active people get shit done.  And when someone is dying, hoping for one more good day is not a bad thing. IMHO

  • AKGrannyWGrit

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good one granny :-)

Nice post! I have been pondering this a lot myself of late. I think you hit on something that is key.

As I wrote in a recent essay published elsewhere, "...hope is the master key to unlocking the dreams and aspirations of everyone who walks on this Earth.  On some level, regardless of place, status or ability, virtually everyone has some level of hope, for something.  Our survival often depends on it. Without it, nothing happens.  With it, anything can happen."

I can't go on. I will go on. A lack of optimism feeds into the "I can't go on".  Conversely, action is required for the "I will go on". That action must be derived from some level of hope.  The key I believe then lay in managing the hope itself. It must be the right kind of hope - not too much, not too little. Just enough to defeat the negativity of the "I can't go on" while simultaneously supporting the "I will go on".

The hope that we choose to maintain therefore needs structure, like SMART goal setting.  To be truly useful to our well being, our hope must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound. This will put the necessary boundaries around the hope to prevent it from becoming a run away train of endless but unfulfilled optimism.

I can't go on - that is hopeless hope based on hopeless optimism.  I will go on - that is carefully managed hope based on knowledge, awareness, skills and effort all within the confines of well thought out and established boundaries.  If I can stay within those boundaries, I can use my hope in a constructive way to move forward with my life - even in spite of declining optimism.

What it will take is discipline. Now that is where the real work begins.

Cheers all. And heres to a well-managed, hopeful 2017!

Jan

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Granny Grit I agree

I think Stephen wass trying to counteract the false hope many have in medical magjc and its technology. In doing so they most often distance themselves from their loved one who is sick. Hope in the magic is where the Tyranny starts. I may be wrong, but that was my take away from his comments. I like the distinction between optimism and hope. In that sense optimism is static, hope is kenetic.

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It's subtle, but vital

At present, my inner tribe of people are those who can operate 'hope free.'

If hope has contained within it the idea that we do it because we believe in better times, or a positive outcome, and I believe this is the case for what hope means for most people, then it is a deal-breaker because one cannot face a predicament with 'hope.'

The opposite of hopeful is hopeless, a paralyzed state that one must naturally fall into once one is confronted with the idea that there is no more hope to be had, and that hope cannot overcome whatever it is we are facing.

To gyrate between hopeful and hopeless is a complete waste of time, energy and one's ability to be present with what is.

How does one continue to keep moving even without the promise of success of better days as the lure?  How does one exist in the present moment with someone who we love, dying or not, if one is always holding out the hope that somehow this person, or their circumstances, will be different than they are?

My one iron-clad rule for myself is to not be in relationship with someone if I am expecting, requiring or demanding (on any level) for them to be different than they already are.

And this is my present relationship to the world.  The insects and phytoplankton are disappearing.  Hope has no role in their recovery.  The only thing that can possibly bring them back is for us to fundamentally change our relationship to the world.

Our energy to carry on cannot be sourced from the hope we draw upon to fight for new EPA rules to achieve that better world that we seek. Tweeking the rules is an endless life of fighting rear-guard actions that will inevitably fail if the narrative they are tweeking is fatally flawed.

Instead we must arrive at a place where each farmer could not possibly bring themselves to spray neonicotinoids and/or glyphosate (et al.) because to do so would be out of integrity for them.  Deeply and profoundly, because to do so would be too far 'out of relationship' for them to do.  I could not do it myself (anymore; once I certainly could have).

This level of change, the shifting of the operative narrative is so profound, so deep, that 'hope' is an impediment, not a nutrient to the process.

We cannot 'hope' that the insects come back.

We have to change the very nature of our relationship, our kinship, to our many neighbors.  "Love thy neighbor" is wonderfully broad...the invitation was not to "love your fellow humans" but "neighbor." That can mean many things, and can easily include "all those I live near," human and otherwise.

To be hope-free is to find a deeper level off energy and willpower to carry on.  It is a surrender into a deeper power and mystery that affords fewer escape hatches and by-passing thought patterns.  At least for me.  Within the hope-free landscape I discover that both my freedoms and responsibilities exponentially expand.  

My path is my own.  I must choose very deliberately.  I have no one to blame but myself.  I am responsible for my relationships with all my neighbors, and that begins with being completely responsible for my own inner self first and foremost. As within, so without.

It's a mind-bender, that's for sure.  Hope-free is not a concept for everybody, and that's okay too.  The future is going to demand a lot from each of us, and I am agnostic as to what or why or how each person comes to a place of bringing their true and authentic gifts to the emerging narrative.

If hope is what allows someone to get there, and sustain their energy to do so, great!

For me hope and hopeless are polar opposites of energy that balance each other out and leave me with no additional sustenance to deploy.  A see-saw that goes nowhere.

Hope free is a place of mystery and abundance that I am still exploring.  It is a source of energy for me with no counterbalancing opposite waiting for its turn in the light.  

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Aha moment...

Thanks Chris... you have really brought this hope vs. no-hope discussion to life for me with the following analogy;

My one iron-clad rule for myself is to not be in relationship with someone if I am expecting, requiring or demanding (on any level) for them to be different than they already are.

Makes sense.. sure.. I have learned this too.

And this is my present relationship to the world

Ah........................... now I get it.   

 

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Perhaps an instinct

Beautifully written Chris.  One of the benefits of aging is the ability to hold two emotions at one time. I completely agree with you and yet the subject of our human existence is so complex and diverse, under certain circumstances I  do not agree.

You talk about your life being your own and hope free being a place of mystery and abundance for you.  That is an existence many would love to have and enjoy and I/we are happy for you. Certainly to live in abundance with hot coffee, showers and food on the agenda along with time to contemplate our state of being is a glorious place to be.  Many on this site are enjoying a similar existence........at present.

In Victor Frankel's book, Mans Search For Meaning, he points out that many of the people who died in concentration camps did so because they lost all hope. So in a case of living in misery and suffering hope can give life meaning and makes it endurable. I write this not to be disagreeable but rather I can foresee a future where many people's existence may include misery, suffering and lack.  We are an empire and world in decline and our best days are behind us.  Frankl, like you Chris talks about each of us having to search for our own meaning in life.  It is a topic that if explored before a major crisis can help us face the future. I think we all benefit from exploring this subject and like to get feedback from many different people.

Hope, I think can be an instinct. Take for instance searchers looking for survivors after an earthquake. Their insatiable ability to give up hope after a reasonable amount of time has passed enabled survivors who have defied the odds to be found alive.  As a parent I would run into a burning building against all hope to test that sliver of a chance to save my child. When all the odds are against us as they were for many in the concentration camps hope may enable us to work just a little harder to survive and in my case, just maybe make life endurable for those I leave behind. I am actively taking steps to make that happen and it gives me hope that those who follow me will benefit from the fruits if my labor.  That's a pretty good life as well.

This subject alone could make a huge difference in many people's lives especially when facing predicaments. And unfortunately, our modern society has not prepared people's minds for dealing with a crisis or a catastrophe.  What will we tell our children and grand-children about hope, hopelessness and living hope free after a SHTF event.  It's worth contemplating.

AK Granny

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2nd Though

To live hope free is to take emotion out of the equation.  Edward Bernays has shown us through psychological manipulation that most people are ruled by emotion.  We collectively need to do a lot of work.

Chris I hope you visit this subject again.

AK Granny

 

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Ring around the rosy; a pocket full. . .

Having reviewed all the submissions to this particular thread over the last two weeks and cogitating on it more than I can justify, it still strikes me that, eventually, we all face the ultimate tragedy and the consequences it bodes. If the Crash Course doesn't confirm that, then all we are left with, as an alternative is, the comedy. From a Shakespearean perspective, that usually ends with the union of lovers, and, implicitly, a future and hope. So,: "Laugh, Kookaburra, Laugh

 Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,

Merry merry king of the bush is he.

Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gumdrops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra, Stop, Kookaburra
Leave some there for me.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see
Stop, Kookaburra, Stop, Kookaburra,
That's no monkey, that's me.

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The hope-free view from "The Road"

I believe that being hope-free is one of the final states of acceptance of our dire predicament.  I typically agree with EVERYTHING that Jan says, but this quote struck me as appropriate for our current cushy American lifestyles:

westcoastjan wrote:

The hope that we choose to maintain therefore needs structure, like SMART goal setting.  To be truly useful to our well being, our hope must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound. This will put the necessary boundaries around the hope to prevent it from becoming a run away train of endless but unfulfilled optimism.

I watched a post-apocalyptic movie "The Road" over the holidays.  (My spouse read the book a while back.)  Conditions are so dire in this movie that the father truly shows no hope, yet he goes on leading his son to the eastern U.S. shoreline and keeping the boy safe.  He can't go on, yet he goes on.  There's not much room for contemplation and goal-setting, just survival and "going onward".

Will our predicament lead to the gruesome circumstances depicted in "The Road"?  I do not know.  They might become that bad, or almost that bad, in certain places of the US & world.  We are currently doused in pesticides, species are dying - going extinct - all around us, the arctic is warming, pension funds are going bankrupt, antibiotic-resistant microbes are threatening our "health-care" system, food is becoming less available...  The SHTF scenario is already happening.  The financial unraveling is occurring at the edges and stresses are working their way inward.  I don't have any hope that our predicament will change.  We are headed down this path.  This is our path.

Hope seems like a luxury of our modern times.  Part of me enjoys hoping, planning, taking hot showers, driving a truck when I need to haul something, downhill skiiing, visiting family that lives 5 hours away by car....  But these activities won't go on forever.  The time is coming that we will implement our plans and accept the outcome. 

I don't mean to sound pessimistic.  I think I'm a realist.  It's like standing in the Warrior Pose doing yoga,  living in the present moment, not hoping that anything is different than it is, just standing firm.

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It is subtle but vital, yes, and also oh so intriguing...

I am finding this thread fascinating, leading me to delve deeper into this concept to try to get my head wrapped around it. How can one live completely in the present if one is 'hope-free'? Is hope not inextricably linked to our very existence?

Chris, a question for you regarding this paragraph from your post #28

What we can do is keep moving, to go on, and so that’s why Adam and I built this site and continue to do all the things we do each day to keep moving, to go on.  Honestly, I would not be able to continue, and would not have lasted this long, if I required a promise that if I applied myself well enough that it will all be okay.  I know too much to hold that view.

How does keeping moving on differentiate from taking action based on (some level of) hope. Is this site itself not representative of hope - even though we all recognize that it will not all be okay.  If you were completely hope-free, would this blog exist?

In reading the article about the changes to the site and what can be done to increase the visibility to further spread the word about the 3Es it strikes me that this goes to hope for a better world - not fixing the world, but spreading the idea that we can all make things better through our individual daily actions.  In a way, is not blogging and educating others as you do a form of hope?  I ask this not to be a shit disturber, but to truly try to understand.  

Most of us here have gardens and try to grow as much of our own food as we can. In my mind that is hope in action, while simultaneously living/being in the present, accepting the circumstances that are in, which tell me that at some point I may not be able to buy tomatoes therefore I should grow my own. I am keeping moving, going on. When I start my tomato seeds under my grow lights this month, I see that as both acceptance and hope inter-wined, dashed with optimism that I will be successful and be able to feed myself.

I am having a  hard time envisioning living so fully present that I am completely hope-free. Somehow I feel like that is a cop out on the rest of humanity. So that then begs the question: is living "hope-free" selfish?

I hope I can turn my brain off to sleep tonight... lol cheeky

Jan

 

 

 

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my answer, Jan

Hi Jan

This is indeed subtle and tender terrain and maybe hard to articulate.  It's not about vetoing hope, but about being able to remain present with or without evidence for hope, or even a sense of hope.  Some years ago I realized that even in the theoretical complete absence of hope there are other powerful forces remaining.  

With or without hope, there is love.  The love within humans, however buried it might be in say, feelings of hopelessness, has an unmitigated quality.  Whenever I've been able to drop down to that level of self where the love is, it simply is not dependent on anything.  It is.  It is what we have for our - everything.  It is a powerfully motivating state of being that we just happen to carry within us on an everyday basis.

Another place from which action can emerge that is not hope-dependent is appreciation.  Whatever comes next, what we have already been gifted by this planet is beyond apprehension - at least mine.  To act in ways that honor the worth of a lifetime on Earth is a motivation that does not require hope.  It's just truth-telling.  It is soul-satisfying to appreciate what has been: the eons-long story of a planet developing into this exquisite age of flowers and pollinators, glaciers and waterways, fliers and burrowers, furry and scaly.  It is correct for our souls to appreciate and to honor all this magic, period.  We can act from hope, but also from a state of appreciation, hope optional.

I think hope is a fairly fragile state of mind - very dependent on how things are looking outside of us, how isolated we are, how much unhappy emotion we are stuck, what  kind of information (or mis-) we are taking in, who we are hanging with and so on.  So it may not do as a strong place to stand.  I prefer love for that.  Always there, bedrock. 

Overall I'd say hope is nice when you can get it, but not that durable and not necessary to live well. 

A note - love without the assurance of hope can be wrenching.  Grieving is a practice, then, necessary to remain in contact with the love.  Loving in joyful appreciation, love expressed as grief, loving in celebration, again, grieving, no resistance.

It's late.  Hope there was some sense in that anyway.  It's what I know, so far.

Susan

 

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
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Hope? or Vision?

Some folks are born in the Shit that already hit the fan. Their life in the 3rd world is beyond tragic . They have no reasonable hopeful expectations. There are millions who can't go on, but they go on everyday. These people amaze me and humble me. Some of them have little food, and no healthcare. They would feel blessed beyond belief to have our 1st world issues.

I must be a believer in "Hope", because I see pathways out of many of our advanced culture problems. Maybe it should be called "Vision" instead of Hope?........... I see people gaining consciousness to reduce emissions; I see honest people in the investment world; I see organics gaining shelf space in supermarkets and young families providing clean food for their babies; I see scientists working against disease; and I see the chance for the Fed to be audited and properly constrained.

I don't passively "hope" these things come to pass, I adopt these visions as my reality and work toward their fulfillment. Maybe it is "Hope-free", but whatever you want to call it, it is positive and has a basis in reality.

 

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westcoastjan
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Great post Susan, we are drilling deeper now

Thanks for chiming in an articulating that which is so hard to articulate.  I have other friends who also think that being in a state where one simply 'loves' is perhaps, if not the total answer, the direction in which we need to head. Love may not conquer all, but if one were to be able to live in a state where they simply moved through each day with nothing but love, then I would think that is about as good as it can get.

Love and appreciation go hand in hand I think. How can anyone not love this dear Earth and all that it is, to marvel at its breathtaking, almost indescribable magnificence, beauty, diversity? Perhaps those who are devoid of love are the ones who have been the active participants in the rape and pillage that has occurred in the name of creating wealth. That is the grief part - knowing this exists, and because not enough of us have loved as we should have, we are too late. Heart rending indeed.

My sister likes to say something that ties in with what Oliveoilguy said - we should all be so happy and appreciative just based on where we were born. We owe it to all of the poor souls who were and are born in some third world hell on earth, to be happy, to appreciate all that we have just by virtue of where we were born. Our first world poor are third world kings and queens, and then some, simply because we live in a society where hope is an option that has resources available to support that hope. They do not.

The one sticking point I find around the issue of whether we should have hope or not is for those who have children. Indeed, in trying to educate my brother on the 3Es and the limits to growth he came right out and said "I have to have hope for a better future, I have kids!". With that the door was slammed on further discussion. It did not seem to matter to him that all that I do and the actions I am trying to take are because I love my nieces and nephews and I want to leave a better world for them. But he cannot see beyond the short term gratification of a materialistic lifestyle. That truly saddens me, for if he truly loved his kids, he would be doing all that he could to help manage this predicament for the benefit of his own as well as all of the other children who will inherit this mess we have made.

We come full circle then to the idea of appreciation of all that we are and all that we have. Perhaps we are talking about is something that Treebeard has said time and again over hundreds of threads on this site, if I am to interpret him correctly: all there really is is love. Until everyone on this Earth sees and embraces that fully, things truly will remain hopeless.

Jan

 

 

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jtwalsh
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Posts: 260
Deeper Still

 

This has been a most interesting thread, as was the podcast.  What follows is dangerously close to overstepping PP’s guidelines by discussing my beliefs and antidotal experiences rather than asserting provable facts and making logical conclusions.  I have been on my particular road for over forty-five years now. My view of things such as grief, hope and trust are completely tied up in that journey.  I know many of you are hard and fast materialists with no sense of, or attraction to, anything beyond this present paradigm.  That is fine.  I am not presenting this to disrespect your views, or to convert you.  For better or worse, here is my poor attempt to voice my own sense of these matters.

I understand and appreciate Jenkinson’s approach to grief.  I have never adhered to the so called “stages of grief”.   Nor do I look at grief as some type of road block to be out maneuvered and pushed past at all costs.  The idea of “closure” after a grief creating incident, has never resonated with me.  Grief is not a popular song, or book, or television show with a beginning, middle and end.

I do not see grief as an emotion.  It is often accompanied by emotions:  sadness, fear, regret, but in itself I do not experience it as an emotion.  Likewise, I do not see grief as a mental state.  It can produce depression, melancholy, even despair, but it is not one of these.

In my experience, grief is its own reality, loss so real that it produces psychological and physical pain, suffering.  It is as if a foreign object lodges itself in the joints of my mind, soul, spirit (whatever you prefer).  At first it produces constant pain and aggravation.  Any movement reminds you it is there, like a pebble in your shoe.  As time goes on you become more accustomed to the intruding particle and do not think of it all the time.  Eventually your mind begins to form a coating around the pointy rock. Experiences, loves, fears, life, build up layer upon layer. Like an oyster, the mind turns the irritant and pain producer into a small, round pearl. The painful intruder has become a testimony to endurance and life. The grief never leaves but is added to the definition of who you are.

Many times, when I have encountered people older than myself, who seem wise, compassionate and thoughtful, I will eventually discover that their lives are built around a profound grief, or series of griefs.  It is as if the grief has made them more human, more real.

 

The idea of being hope-free seems quite alien. Possibly this is due to my own definition of hope.  In our consumer, society I think most people confuse hope with a type of fantasy, day-dream, wish fulfillment.  i.e. “I hope I win the lottery.” Shows like America’s Got Talent, feed into this idea of “hope” being a way to fantasize into reality the virtually impossible.

My idea of hope is more akin to what Chris has labeled “trust”.  I have a profound sense of the spiritual imbued in physical reality. The spiritual is what enables me to go on, when on the physical level, I can no longer go on.  This has nothing, or little, to do with success or failure in the physical realm.  It is a sense that spiritually, things are working to where they are supposed be. Somehow our lives, our efforts, tie into that. It is paradoxical, but it seems to be that the more present I am to the immediate tasks to be done, and to the needs of those currently with me, the more I am in harmony with the deeper reality. The cultivation of the physical opens the understanding of the spiritual.

We do not go on confident in the result of our personal efforts.  We go on because our spirit has discovered that going on is a profoundly, powerfully, appropriate thing to do. Our trust, or hope, is found in attending to the present, good or bad, while accepting that the spiritual is ultimately guiding things, regardless of how they appear in the physical world.

Jan has hit upon two other important aspects of being present.   To practice love, of self, significant other, family, friends, life, our world, is a major part of the equation.  To practice gratitude is also important. Stop to realize the wonder of the moment, to comprehend the incredible thing it is to be alive and to be able to take in and contemplate the universe around you. The practice of love and gratitude changes you.

JT

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”
Thomas Merton

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good. Vaclav Havel
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_hope3.html

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
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Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 3936
Objective Materialism

died in Copenhagen in 1927.
But what does that tell us about hope and grief?

Intellectually we need to grasp that which evolution deliberately blinds us to, that there is nothing"out there". It is all data, procedurally generated. Your mind exists, your body doesn't.

Or you could cling to your notion of physicalism but then you are forced to abandon cause and effect. The arrow of time is an illusion. There is only the NOW. (Yes Gladys, that means that you never existed a second ago.)

As far as I understand it, when you die you rejoin the vast field of data,keeping your ego.

As an aside, the data seems to be in 3 space, which if Rhineman (sp) projected onto the surface of a sphere becomes the Holographic Universe.

And yes, my views have endured existential crises.

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