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This past week I spent the whole hour with Dr O talking about my fears concerning global warming, looming social chaos and the environmental catastrophe I felt was soon to overtake all of human civilization. Not only did I rail against our stupidity in overpopulating the earth, despite loud and vociferous warnings (remember calls for ZPG - zero population growth) in the 70s or 80s and our feckless overuse and wasting of earth's resources, including fossil fuels, but I likewise accused her of being unwilling to help me "opt out when the time came."
"And when will that be?" she asked. "Sometime soon?"
"I don't know, I don't know. But it could be within the next few years, the way the world is progressing towards disaster. If the permafrost continues to thaw and the antarctic to melt..."
"What? What do you anticipate will happen?"
"Well, seas will rise, maybe 100, 200 feet. Florida will disappear. All the coastline will be drowned. All of Connecticut will go, certainly the Connecticut valley, which means me. I'm right next to the Connecticut River...and I'm so afraid of drowning. I am afraid of the Big Wave..."
"You've always been afraid of drowning. It is your biggest fear--"
I became tearful at the thought that all of civilization, all those children born in innocence and hope would also perish in what I believed would be a sudden and devastating tidal wave as the Southern ice cap slid into the sea and sea level precipitously and catastrophically rose on the crest of an enormous tsunami...
Well, today I was roundly but gently disabused of this wrong-headed notion. Thank heavens! My good friend, Leila, to whom I also confided my grief for the species as well as my personal fear of death, managed to penetrate the gloom and doom. A Buddhist by temperament and conviction, and longtime meditator, Leila lives with the understanding that everything changes and that nothing is permanent, everything becomes something else and it is all of it good and natural and "the way things are." She has an attitude of acceptance about this that I truly admire but cannot yet share, though I find I depend on her belief to shore me up sometimes...One good thing about Leila as well is that she is a National park ranger and naturalist and self-taught cosmology and physics enthusiast who knows, well, all sorts of things about the paleo-history of the human race that I do not. So she was able to assure me that humans have survived many different climate changes. We may yet endure, she told me, even if all of us do not. Also, and even better for my immediate frame of mind, she reminded me of certain physics principles that contradict my dire predictions of an enormous tsunami wiping out the US coastal populations and indeed coasts around the world.
First of all, the Antarctic ice cap would never abruptly "slip off into the ocean" and even if it did, the ice would float. Floating ice does not displace water and therefore it would not cause sea levels to rise. Only the slow melting of the floating ice cap would do that, which would take a fair amount of time, leaving giving us some warning and a lag time in which to migrate inland...in what Leila believes is only an absolute worse case, even impossible, scenario. Mostly she told me I was succumbing to Hollywood's disaster-flick mindset and scare tactics. She reminded me that I have a choice to live in the present and enjoy life or live in the fear of the future and tear myself apart.
All of which makes me try to remember that we do not know what will happen, but it likely will not be the sudden world wide catastrophic cataclysm predicted in movieland. In any event, I can live my life in fear and trembling, or go about living it as I really want to: with the joy that I am in recovery and finally able to do the sorts of things I am now able to do, enjoy the friends I am finally free to make, look forward to the future I can still allow myself to hope for. Nothing is certain but that nothing is certain - neither disaster nor bliss. And I can accept that what is to come will come, and that every molecule that makes me and makes up the planet is stardust, borrowed from the universe. And it all eventually goes back to being stardust in the great revolving dance of becoming and of un-becoming.
But of course, I will not remember this for good. No, knowing me I will forget this as often as I recall it, and probably will sink again into the slough of despond once more, feeling that it is hopeless to dream and act and hope because "tomorrow we die" and it is useless to go on as if there is even a tomorrow. But I do know there is a way out of that hopeless way of thinking, I just need to remember how to trigger the healing response, the helpful non destructive thoughts...If nothing else, I need to remember to ask Leila to remind me how to change my thinking again. It would be better by far if I could self-generate such healing thinking, but so be it for now.
Someday, (if there is a someday...oops, you see what I mean?) I may have that sort of indestructible backbone assurance that disaster is not just around the corner. But right now personal disaster is not all that distant a memory, falling apart in the blink of an eye is not that impossible a thought to me for me to disbelieve the notion that civilization could not be wiped out in just such an instant. But if I can go a year, two years , three or five or six without a breakdown, then perhaps I will have a better sense of stability both personal and planetary, and come to trust that some things can, well, be trusted to stay more or less the same.
The climate will change, as we now know for certain, but the earth will remain more or less the earth, though its surface may appear different due to climate differences. The planet will go on, with or without us, and so will life of some sort...Meanwhile, when I grow sad to think that "we" must end, that geologic time is occuring in the blink of an eye, I will turn to those who can set me straight, change my pessimistic brain, lead me onto another path. I'll link hands with someone who takes me where it doesn't hurt so much, someone who sees the future as half full. I will learn to see through a clear lens rather than darkly through one unpolarized and de-colored, the one called fear.
Posted by pamwagg at June 5, 2008 06:27 PM