At a time of cultural devastation, the reality that a courageous person has to face up to is that one has to face up to reality in new ways. Jonathon Lear ‘Radical Hope’
How to bear living with the sixth great extinction in the history of our planet and know we are responsible? We live in challenging times – normal service will not be resumed despite our knowing disavowal of the crisis.
To face into this crisis, we need to resource cultural narratives with stories of radical change. Jonathan Lear describes the story of how the Crow nation adapted to a new way of life after their traditional way of life had collapsed. Like the Crow, we live in an age of deep and profound angst that the world itself, as we know it, is vulnerable to break down. As this is a man-made crisis, especially of Western modernist man, it will take a radical decentering to re-imagine our place in the planetary ecosystem.
The potential for a collective shift seems blocked by the biggest psychological symptom on our planet - the denial of climate change. The Earth systems and the cultural systems are in a parallel process of rupture. Western culture is distracted by our many escapist entertainments that help maintain a sense of ‘normality’ despite the increasing symptoms of eco-anxiety, addiction and suicide. Examples of our cultural malaise include:
- Issues of overstimulation and lack of self-regulation
- Loss of human capacity to relate to others outside of a bubble of self-reference
- Reality seeming to fray at the edges; unravelling and hyper-normalisation
- Unprocessed grief from the many losses of place and species
- Apocalyptic fantasies and dreams
- Remorse at recognising responsibility versus helplessness and despair
My focus here are not on climate science, technological solutions nor on individual maladies but rather on the collective crisis of how humans create cultures through which we live...and which are likely to leave our children inheriting an endangered world. The culture crisis will force a species wide challenge to imaginatively adapt to a very different world. I am exploring cultural interventions where the distress and grief can be named along with the ritual actions of remorse and the potential to re-imagine old stories as new ways of healing and transformation.
During lock down see the Climate Psychology Alliance website for Through The Door and other zoom events.