Yesterday our circle gathered for a Gorsedd. We call it that, though it’s really more of a Moot, where we just hang out together as Druids.
We have a bit of structure. We generally do a guided group meditation at the beginning, to ground and center ourselves. After that, however, it’s free-form.
This time we did a council-style session — that’s where one person has the talking stick (or stone, in this case) and speaks without interruption while others listen — on the subject of what is working well for each of us within the group.
During this council session, one of our group, Anne, made the comment that she felt that a “fresh wind” was blowing through the world. She wasn’t sure what it was about, and was looking forward to seeing it play out.
Her comment struck me. In my head, I’ve been in a dark place these past months: this year’s election cycle is bringing out some true inhumanity in the US electorate. Were I writing a dystopic novel, it would be a trivial matter to write convincingly of the US toppling into fascism, civil war, economic collapse, or tribal barbarism.
But as I reflected on Anne’s comment, I realized that I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. I ask myself: when I get up in the morning, before I have a chance to think about anything, do I smile or do I scowl? When I get to a break in my workday and stretch, do I smile or do I scowl? If I wake up in the middle of the night, do I lie there worrying, or do I smile and go back to sleep?
As it turns out, I smile.
I don’t really know why this is the case. It could be nothing more than that my digestion is working well these days. It could be that so many other things are going well: new job, more stable income, new house, my music has recently been performed, I’m married to the best woman in the world. Those are all good reasons to smile.
But I’m also well-aware that I could view all this good fortune with terror. I spent many years in that state as a result of my upbringing, which centered around an abusive God who gave nothing good without the threat of taking it away. In some ways, good fortune was worse than ill fortune: with ill fortune, you knew where you stood with God. Indeed, the most stable foundation was rock bottom, perpetually begging for God to lift you up.
I’ve worked hard on getting past this childhood damage. Perhaps I’ve finally succeeded, and I’m in a place where good things can happen, and I can simply enjoy them. I’d like to think so — it would be yet another reason to smile.
But given Anne’s comment, and our subsequent conversation at the pub (our Gorseddu always end with food and beer) I wonder if my smile isn’t like her sense that a fresh wind is blowing through the world.
If so, I can only speculate on what it is about, because I certainly don’t see it yet.
There are several things that will change within the next century, possibly within what remains of my lifetime.
We will stop burning petroleum products. We’re on the downslope of peak oil, now, and prices are going to rise relentlessly. That will cause much grief in the short term, but then people will adapt — either some breakthrough technology will replace oil, or it won’t, and people will learn to cope without cheap and easy transportation.
Our economic system will change. The current system is unstable and unsustainable, and institutions (government, banks, media) have been “cooking the books” since the 1970’s to cover up the fundamental problem: that money grows exponentially because of interest, but no real economy can grow exponentially because of supply (natural resource) and demand (population) limits. Ultimately, a stable global economy must become steady-state, with no growth at all. This means it’s increasingly difficult to hide the problem as the global economy slows toward zero, while banks and investors still try to milk high-return exponential gains out of the system.
Our environment will change. Carbon-loading in the atmosphere has a long lag time. It’s like steering a really big boat — if you want to go around a particular dock, you have to start turning a long time before you reach the dock. Had we cut back on carbon emissions in the 1970’s when the issue first came up, we’d probably see the same warming we’ve already seen, but it would be peaking now. We didn’t, so we’ll continue to see warming well into the later parts of this century, regardless of what we do this year, or next year, or ten years from now. That will have consequences in terms of crops, sea levels and loss of port-city real estate, and destruction from extreme weather.
So by the time I’m ready to go to the Summerlands, perhaps, or certainly by the time my grandchildren are ready to join me there, we’ll live in a world without gasoline, without financial interest or investment as we know it, and with major shifts in population distribution because of climate. These are not worst-case doomsday projections: these are inevitable changes without any catastrophes.
The world we knew is being swept away. Our institutions will be swept away with it.
I think we’ve all been growing aware of this inevitable change. It has created a terrible frisson, a cognitive dissonance, as our institutions and their supporters try to pretend that we simply got a little off-track in the 1980’s (for the liberals) or the 1950’s (for the conservatives) or the mid-1800’s (for the tea-baggers) — that all we need to do is to “return to the fundamentals” by electing one ideology-spouting panderer or another into our political system and all will be well. Perhaps the reason the culture war has become so strident is that we recognize, unconsciously, that we’re all blowing smoke.
They say that in the Arctic, the period just before the ice breaks in the spring is a time when people get tense and crazy. When the ice finally breaks, it’s like a fever breaking, and people sense the change and go back to normal.
Perhaps what Anne is sensing, and what I’m feeling, is the first break in the ice.