The Advent of the Earthling
I’ve been noticing a few articles about Climate Grief, feverishly circulating the platforms of social media. I've seen a lot of counter-posts about the psychological effects of emergency tabloidism or what’s come to be called "destruction porn," as well as counter-counter arguments, passionately denoting the damage of living passively while the world runs out of time.
I wonder if the obsessive awareness, discussion, tiny-screen-fights and supposed understanding of these immediate and large topics is overshadowing the action of possible solutions. I also wonder if this grief is largely due to what the very recent introduction of social media has offered us collectively. We have this new opportunity to witness and interact (from a safe distance) with the events of the world as they play out endlessly. Good news, bad news, good news, bad news, bad news, bad news, good news, bad news, bad news, bad news, bad news, bad news, bad news good news bad news bad news.
Maybe the world has gotten worse through the lens of perception, and I think that grief, no matter the cause, must be honored. To try and even discuss why someones grief is irrelevant is horrorsome and cruel.
What would happen if we each decided on one thing and did it? Something such as, "I'm going to dedicate time to a garden, and I'm going to start with lettuce," or "I'm going to learn how to weave a basket from local invasive plants," or "I'm going to pay attention to the life cycle of dandelions for one year." What would then happen if we all shared what we discovered? I think this is kind of a personal exploration of solutions, because I often become stuck staring wide-eyed at the horizon of unsolvable problems that I end up sinking into the sand; transfixed, heartbroken, and finally numbed by the vastness. I forget that we were never meant to absorb so much, and that things such as self-awareness and growth take time - especially when time feels sensitive, and strangely so changeable. But maybe the solution begins with patience, service, and - here's the hard one - learning to make peace with failure.
I watched a documentary recently entitled The Biggest Little Farm, which spans the course of about 12 years. It’s about two folks who leave the city to begin their lives anew as farmers, starting from less than scratch. And during their gradual climb, their successes are sprinkled with a healthy dose of failure. Being part of an effective ecosystem or community means learning through failure. This is probably the only way to learn. To try, and try again. Failure is an opportunity to observe, and be creative through a fresh approach. Nothing more. Of course it's exhausting, but what's lost in "quick and easy" is the sense of satisfaction. Humans were made to face challenge. In fact, it's part of our greater purpose. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be so ceaselessly, relentlessly busy. We wouldn't be filling the best parts of our day with menial activities. At our core, we ultimately love to be productive because that's what we've done best as a species. I think it's just a matter of learning to redirect our energies to something more useful. And we'll get there.
I had this flash of enlightenment a few days ago while thinking about how absolutely satisfying it was to farm. Despite being sunburned, exhausted, dehydrated, frustrated, freezing, wet, and sore, there was something about it that I still romanticize and miss every day. I spent my time connected to life. I would plant seeds and watch them grow. I was responsible for little life forms- hundreds of plants, thousands of insects and animals, millions of microorganisms- growing them to keep others alive too. The smell of the soil when it was dry versus when it was wet was a lesson. The crowding and retreating of the tomatoes, and the resulting relief of healthy propagation after being given space offered by the help of human hands was a lesson. The deer that kept finding new mysterious ways into the fields - arriving in the dark and leaving before the light, and eating all the greens - was a lesson. I spent my days learning from the greatest teachers there are. And in reflecting on it, I wonder if my idea of humans being pests or a virus is all wrong. Perhaps we were born from this planet to be of service to it. Maybe we were invented as something of a support system. There's this idea that if we just leave things alone, that if we just disappeared, that the earth would be fine. In our self-loathing, we also disregard our responsibility - and maybe that's why it's become so popular to be a species that hates itself. If we know we are not worthy, then we can wallow and wait for our eviction notice, going about business as usual until then. But if we recognize our worth, then oh shit, maybe we have to take charge and understand that we're actually amazing and can do anything. We can even solve the unsolvable.
I believe that humans are here for a reason. I also have begun thinking that despite having great purpose, we're also complete toddlers. A very young species learning big things, like what emotions are, what identity is, and how to exist in this world without killing it in the process. I think we can, and thankfully our home planet is a pretty patient teacher; biding her time as we play, fight, multiply, and learn through joy and pain alike. Just as children do. It’s of course important to look back and learn from the past, but to idealize something with only a margin of the details is unfair to a prosperous future. Extremes often leave us even further confused and angry. The past acts as parents, fuzzy in the background as we learn to walk on our own. We want to go back to the crib, the nest, the womb - but cannot. The only option from here is to boldly risk the odds, which, when done, has been the greatest choice imaginable. Bravely going forward together elevates us into more than just humans. We become earthlings. Because to simply coexist is not enough.
We must now learn to interthrive.