How long Do We Have?

Image by Mosharrof MoHo from Pixabay

How long do we have?

I just came back from an EDE (Ecovillage Design Education) training, where I facilitated a Work that Reconnects workshop and Gaian Economics/Right Livelihood conversations. Many questions came up: the tension between “design” (a form of control, even if well intentioned) and flow, and we settled for “emergent design”.  There were questions about going deeper and past the societal and cultural stuff we have learned to be foundational: do we have to have an “exchange”, or can we decouple giving from receiving? What exactly are needs and what about the needs beyond survival: do we only want to “survive”? What happens when we don’t meet these other needs, such as attention, love, beauty, community, touch and so on? We talked about commoditization and what real regenerative economics looks like. We talked about why we travel to other communities to “find our tribe” and how we have all be wounded in our own communities for a start. We talked about chaos and control, shape and flow, questions with no answers and more…

And we talked about Deep Adaptation and waived the Work that Reconnects beyond the workshop and into the exploration and co-creation of emerging designs for right livelihoods in a rapidly changing planet with an almost inevitable short-term societal breakdown…we talked about minimizing suffering and fairness and real social justice and so much more…

News about the climate crises accelerating are overwhelming. When it was rare to find something about climate change only a few years back, not a day passes now when we don’t have an article, a UN report, news from “unprecedented” fires, heatwaves, floods, melts…

There are other things as well: runaway deforestation, pollution, species extinction, forced displacement of peoples, refugees, migration, walls, abuse, social injustice, right wing ideologies and groups on the rise, conversations about moving to Mars, planting trees, going off the grid, escaping the system, survivalism, disaster preparedness, new economics, Green New Deal, how should we live now…

People ask: how much do we have left? Is it worth to continue “trying” even when it looks bleak?

The (mostly) young people I met at this EDE were well aware and already engaged, many experienced confusion and disorientation about what to do and whether they were doing enough. Many also expressed regrets and despair.

It was heartbreaking to witness even when we only touched the surface.

I myself had questions of worth and belonging and about the value of what I was bringing to them or whether that was the best environment, where I had to “dance” with chaos, identity, egos and lack of boundaries more than one time.

I came home inspired, just to clash once more with my other reality: a few years back, I chose to stay in this edge between mainstream (I live in a suburban, middle-class neighbourhood) and the work I do in ecovillages and other similar groups. It has not been an easy choice and it is not final, but it is my reality: I have seen both the benefits and the many challenges of doing this: it takes a huge toll to try and navigate two different worlds and create bridges between them, with the hope that more people may cross to the regenerative side…

Last night, I had a very vivid dream, one of those you carry for years.

In the morning, I could barely focus on my work, and started calling the people in my dream first, then others who also shared or were part of my childhood. I spent the entire morning doing this and crying.

In a few minutes it was clear to me that the life I have had for 40 years suddenly shrunk into a small box compared with the love, memories and strong emotions from my childhood and my home country.

The question of where I should be when things become unbearable and when we are no longer able to make choices and go back was clearer than ever in my heart. I felt detached from what I do and my entire adult life.

I don’t know how long we “have” and not sure if that is even the right question: does it matter? When we have been diagnosed (as this society/culture and the entire life in planet Earth as we know it) with a terminal illness, time matters…but what matters more is what we do with that time: one of the few advantages of a terminal illness is that it has the potential to wakes us up from this dream-delusion of everyday lives. The urgency of the climate crisis (and all the other crises around) no longer can tolerate us to be complacent, comfortable and slow pace. We can not longer hide: we need to be bold and honest and face this truth.

In my dream, one of my cousins was giving me a funny pair of giant glasses. I first laugh because they were ridiculously big and ugly, but I tried them on anyway. What I saw socked me to tears: I saw them all as they were when we were children, back in our muddy backyard building mud cities for worms and having the Fun of a Life. I woke up crying.

It doesn’t matter whether we have 100, 20 or 2 years before things become so bad for everyone in this planet that life as we know it becomes unrecognizable. What matters is that there are things in life that carry all the meaning of why we are here and who we actually are. The entire universe and its history and meaning can be contained in a childhood memory, a kiss or a hug.

Maybe it is time to stop and start dreaming, to stop even the good projects we are working on, the many tasks we surround ourselves with, so we forget the pain. The pain for the world we all carry inside.

The time we have left is for this: allow ourselves to dream and remember who and what we are; to remember the ones we have true allegiance to, to remember what matters most.

2 Comments on “How long Do We Have?

  1. Lately, I have been thinking about these very words, Silvia – “remember what matters most.” I remember a vision that appeared to me at the most unlikely time and place. It’s something I wrote about in an old post. I was working on my doctorate while serving as a teaching assistant at the university. I was excited! I had just received word that I would be funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a study that would almost certainly guarantee a successful career in academia.

    As I rushed up the hill to the class I TA’d, I passed the site of the decisive defeat of the Sauk and Fox people. A stout elder with long braids stood near the monument the described the battle. He looked at me sternly and said “You need to remember what is important.” Ever the dutiful student and worker, I didn’t take time to process the message or experience at the time. Yet, within a year, life would lead me away from the university to take a job working with tribes.

    These days, it is so hard to figure out what is most important and what I can possibly have to offer. Nonetheless, I can’t help being deeply touched by the power and determination of an ancestor who appeared on the site of a battle lost long ago to urge someone from the next generation to continue to stand for the people and for what matters.

    It is helpful to know there are those who stand with us in so many other places around the globe now and through time even though it often feels we stand alone, insignificant, doing what little things we can to keep the light alive.

    Sending you hugs and much love, dear sister in spirit. ❤

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    • Thank you Carol, your words are so important to me in this moment. Those of us who have mixed nationalities and ancestry and belong to more than one place, sometimes find that we don’t belong to any. It is also difficult to point to what matters when there are so many things to catch our attention and so much work to do…

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