In recent times I am finding myself caught between a sort of extreme techno-optimism inspired by new developments in technology which allow non-hierarchical organisation such as blockchain, Liquid Democracy or Loomio – and a kind of despair that the apocalypse is unfolding around us in the shape of the collapse of industrial civilisation and we are unable to do anything about it, characterised by people such as Paul Kingsnorth of the Dark Mountain project, John Michael Greer and Derrick Jensen.
To the latter reading list could be added the name of Carolyn Baker whose previous books, Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition and Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, tread this sort of path. This review deals with the book ‘Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times’ which came out in 2013 and is reviewed here at resilience.org by Dianne Monroe.
Our culture is relentlessly positive. We’re trained to trust there will always be a solution, to believe in happy endings, to turn away from what is painful or frightening. Joanna Macy calls it a “cult of optimism.” It leaves us unprepared for life’s challenges and sorrows, in ordinary times and even more for the cataclysmic changes and challenges our future holds.
As Barbara Ehrenreich writes in Bright-Sided: How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, “There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.”
Baker shows us how to walk the path of existential courage, in the face of whatever life hands us, including and especially living in today’s uncertain and disturbing times.
In her opening essay, The Joy of Mindful Preparation, Baker writes,
The tremendous losses we are likely to encounter will result in savoring and appreciating incredibly simple experiences and sensations, and doing so is likely to evoke deep feelings of joy…the more we lose in the future, the more crucial it will become to savor what we still have.
Baker makes an analogy to the indigenous practice of initiation, an ordeal or challenge that calls forth the transformation from child to adulthood. She doesn’t see the coming collapse as the end of our species but instead as a worldwide initiation into a more mature human existence requiring humans to leave behind a culture based on personal consumption to arrive at a time of human renewal.
She invites us to “hold in our hearts and minds – as much as is humanly possible – the reality of the pain collapse will entail alongside the unimaginable opportunities it offers.”
Baker’s latest book is titled “Love in the Age of Ecological Apocalypse“.
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