Waking from the dream of causality

I was reading about Italy’s weather turmoil in the midst of southern Europe’s continuing hellish heat wave and unprecedented storms and then I read this: “The minister for civil protection, Nello Musumeci, wrote on Facebook: “This is one of the hardest days in Italy’s history . . . Climate change has hit our nation and demands that we all change our ways. There are no excuses.”. And I realized something – what is happening on a global scale is the same thing that is happening with individuals these days, namely widespread existential turmoil. Nations and individuals are running out of hope. But we have to recognize that Climate Change has an existential component. It reflects how we see ourselves.

We, citizens of the planet – Chinese, Indian, Germans, French, Australians, Brazilians, Italians, Spanish, Americans, Canadiens, Russians, Japanese etc. have to take responsibility on a collective level and on a personal but also on an existential level! No more excuses.

This is good advice for people of all ages who don’t seem to make any headway in changing their lives when their lives aren’t working. You can say, this is the best I can do because . . . X. Y, Z. But I have heard of men in prison on trumped up charges who could have given into anger and bitterness and given up but sometimes, remarkably, something shifts in their attitude. It’s not so much that they decide to make the best of a rotten situation, but they take full responsibility for themselves and decide they want their life back. Now, even in an environment that seems to be set up to stifle our spirit, even at this late hour, such an attitudinal shift is possible. It can be done because hope lies in the future. But is the future real? Yes, but only as a possibility.

It’s what we do with who we are that makes a life. Throw away the crutch of excuses. Excuses might explain why we are challenged in very real ways but they don’t have to define us. Jung got me to see how we live life in stages. Through approximately our mid thirties causality rules. After that teleology should guide us – future causes. Let our choices and decisions be influenced by the life we want to live that is drawing us toward it, not by citing reasons that we can’t make that better life for ourselves. Break the chain of causality.

Not easy, but it is liberating.

But now, given the world we live in, it is not just a good idea or something a life coach might recommend. It is necessary because we have basically sentenced ourselves to life in a world that is going to be increasingly uninhabitable. Why is this happening? Because we all fed into the illusion that what is happening now with climate wouldn’t or couldn’t happen. And when it looked like we were going to be proven wrong, our excuse was, the causes are out of our control. Our excuses were myriad and were snow-blinding us. But listen to Nello Musumeci again: “Climate change has hit our nation and demands that we change our ways. There are no more excuses.”

If someone’s house burns down, that is a tragedy or if a neighborhood floods because it was built on a floodplain, tragic. (And those poor folks in Bangladesh who get flooded out every rainy season!) But remember when Gary Snyder introduced us to eco-consciousness by saying the ecology is our house? He said: The water table is our kitchen.

Now the house is burning. What is our excuse now? We can’t help because we’re in prison.

But it’s not a prison of concrete and razor wire and steel bars; the prison is existential. It is our excuse that we are helpless pawns in a causal universe. It’s like we’re sitting in our cell wringing our hands thinking: Something has to play out and it could mean our death and a curse on future generations . . . but it’s out of our hands!

For the sake of discussion, there are two kinds of voids: the chaos that is breaking down into disassociated bits and then nothing (the dreamless void) and the nothing of a chaos that is always on the verge of building into something unprecedented (the vacuum plenum). The world as we know it, the ecology, the house we live in, our existential prison, is a void trying to decide whether it wants to collapse in on itself or become real and true.

Sound far-fetched? Damien Broderick (internationally respected author, critic and theorist) writes that some physicists find it useful to postulate the existence of a probability field to account for how probability space can “bend in the presence of some psi (paranormal) elements of consciousness.” He asks: “Can coupling between intentions and matter and energy cause a warping of . . . the probability field?”

Suffice it to say that the middle world (our existential prison) is always in a state of flux. It is half-baked, floating on a vast relativity of values and dreams and barely functional systems, secretive bellicose governments, the ruins of ethnicities, great train wrecks of religions, the stirrings of new and renewed visions and environmental breakdown. It is a soup of disparate energies, moral restlessness, continuous war and cultural mayhem. Joan Halifax notes: “As we have seen, shamans are trained in the art of equilibrium, in moving with poise and surety on the threshold of the opposites, in creating cosmos out of chaos. The middle world then, is still a dream that can be shaped by the dreamer.”

We are living in a dream of causality. Our causality-dream is disintegrating at a rate that is impossible to ignore (finally!). Why? because no one in charge has a vision! A vision is a glimpse of something new. Visions could be common occurrences and should be during times when the status quo is failing everywhere and out of hope. But there is an intermediary step before visions become commonplace. We have to listen to those who see through the chaos of the end-game into the vacuum plenum and it helps when people in leadership see something that is real and true, like the Italian minister for civil protection, Nello Musumeci. He is saying that we have to stop seeing ourselves as the innocent victims of climate change, but we are all responsible for it (even the freaked out tourists trying to get back home) and once that really dawns on us, we can start approaching all of our global problems like that – No more excuses. . . for example, for getting into wars. Then we can start having visions of what to do next.

We can begin to shape this bad dream because it is our dream that is destroying our house.