Pleased to announce my recent poem on Climate Change will be in print soon, published by Poet's Choice: http://www.poetschoices.com/
As a mental health counselor, I see a crisis unfolding in the lines around people’s eyes, the wrinkles around their lips—in my own soul, and I don’t believe in souls.
Life has always been hard. The now infamous phrase, ‘we are wired for struggle,’ did not reverberate across the Western consciousness because Dr. Brene Brown’s voice is sexy (not saying her voice isn’t) but it hits us in the gut because it’s true. Even before we exit the womb of our mother’s bellies, we are struggling.
I feed the hummingbirds. It has become an obsession really, to make sure every hummingbird is patted down to branch with a full belly of sugar. My way of making sure their struggle is easy that day, that hour, that minute. Their appetite for sugar is constant, insatiable, as is the human’s desire for cargo equally—if not more monstrous—insatiable.
Cargo. A Papa new Guinean asked Jared Diamond: Why you white man have so much cargo and we New Guineans have so little? Cargo meaning stuff. Jared Diamond puzzled over the question, giving birth to one of the greatest books of all time, ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel.’
The book reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, told from the mouth of an ecologist, detailing people struggling to conquer, to acquire, to lit up their corner of the night sky—to survive.
It is our nature to struggle, and the struggle is for survival—or at least it was for most of human history. Somewhere, along the way, we wanted or sought—oblivious to the unintended consequences—more than survival. We wanted to ‘thrive.’ We wanted a full guarantee that we would no longer have to fear the Siberian tiger looking for an easy kill that we’ve enslaved the entire animal kingdom, a solution for bug bites that we’ve nearly destroyed our natural pollinators, immunity from darkness itself that we’ve blotted out the stars, and so much food on our plates that obesity has entered our ever growing list of diagnosis and maladies.
Many academics, including Diamond himself, thinks our biggest stumble from survival towards ‘thriving’ is the agricultural revolution. It appears to be a game-changing event, one that drew people from the forest, disemboweled egalitarian bands of knitted groups to the wheat fields; people bent, with animals alongside them, working the ground, too, forced to be beasts of burden.
Given that this revolution occurred in different parts of the world, without the aid of Facebook memes to transmit ideas (even bad ideas), means it unfolded from a biological print. It is written into the genes of any given species to take the road towards population boom. And that nature within us, plus our uncanny ability to secure cargo-albeit not equally among our species—has led us to this disaster, has led us to the great dying. Climate change is here.
We are living in the sixth mass extinction, an extinction for which we are the sole cause. We are living on a dying planet, the corpses stacking around us. The stench right under our noses.
And we know it, even if people do not fully realize it cognitively, we sense it on a cellular level, cells barging around our veins, competing with particles of plastic. The plastic we traded for fish in the oceans, plastic now condemning our bodies, because what we put in the river, we drink from the river. Our rivers are polluted.
We sense the dying, and it is killing us, emotionally, and psychologically. We call it depression, anxiety, and other buzz words meant to dispense us more medications, but Prozac cannot cure grief, and nor can Zoloft mend heart break.
Echoing Chief Seattle’s sentiment: We are not the web, but merely a strand, and as the web unravels, we are unraveling.
Sitting, posed as a counselor, ready-made to solve the crises of life—this one included—I have no words. I, myself, wake up daily in a state of grief, keenly aware of the dying. I only have mantras, cliché’s, and one-trick ponies.
Love Yourself. Be positive. Set Goals. Don’t shoot yourself.
The words are as empty as the eyes that peer back at me; our eyes hollowed out by too much screen time. Ours brains liquefied into succumbing to advertisement after advertisement that promise happiness via more products of oil.
Somewhere along the way, our wire for struggle was hijacked by companies we created, corporations we built. And somewhere along that path, we traded family dinners for McDonald’s drive-thru, satisfying connection for Facebook, and real intimacy for Pornhub, and it’s making us sick. The toxicity of this sickness spews from our bowels in the form of colon cancer, from our minds as neurosis and from our own hearts, the decay, the spillage pollutes our relationships, eroding the fabric of our communities.
We were too capable at getting what we ‘wanted.’ The thumbs we prize for shelling peanuts at record speed, helped us build, and maintain, the stock exchange that we’ve become shackled too. The brains we hold up to the rest of the animal world in a show of intellectual prowess is the same brain that confines us to habits of confirmation biases, psychic pain, and the inability to sacrifice today for tomorrow. We gulp down sugar in 64oz plastic containers, because our ‘master’ brains are still pinned to the plains of Africa where sucrose is scare, and one must consume it when one finds it.
Like kids spoil reared by parents too indulgent, too quick to hand down gold stars for basic behavior like pulling up one’s own pants, the ones on this planet gulping too much, until all is gone from a straw harassed into giving, we have, too, become rotten. And the barrel, too.
Even our pets are sick. Sitting on couches all day, a parade of treats—that don’t quite serve as a substitute for real play—fattening them up. Puppies left to cry in kennels, told to get used to the cage, to make it a ‘den of safety,’ and they do eventually stop crying, giving up on the need for litter mates, learning to hold urine in small bladders for hours while ‘owners’ work for the machine that made the kennel. If this sounds cruel, and a recipe for unnecessary suffering, it is.
Cue the counselor’s mantra; Love Yourself. Just Be You. Stay alive for the cat.
These tired chants won’t solve the cancer metastasizing in our cores. We need a humbling, a fall from grace, a reminder of our universal fragility, and the tenuous strands that bind us to the larger world, and to the living world itself. We need an unplugging from the wires that simulate a fake world of dancing bears, while the real-world hangs on life support, a planet where real bears are plummeting quickly, and quietly into extinction.
This is not a dismissal of specific pain and trauma. My God, the things we do to one another can most certainly cripple the heart (as a survivor of much trauma, I know), but so can the trauma of a culture of too much, right now, serve to corrupt and disform limb by limb, including the limbs of Oaks and Redwoods.
We need a disarming. A rising above of our so called ‘superior’ nature. The planet’s ability to sustain life beyond roaches, and one-celled organisms depends on us to refocus our zeal; to distinguish the difference between what we need to survive, and what thriving genuinely looks like.
I would argue thriving is not full access to hedonistic stimulation, but rather access to the natural world on display, aweing us with her indifferent majesty. Thriving is not a fridge busting at the seams with cakes, cookies, and dead animals (animals that have been tortured in factory farms) but access to the natural ebb and flow of abundance in nature. Thriving is not a shielding from anything and everything that can harm us naturally, but rather an appreciation for the small place we occupy in the world. We cannot resist that humbled place by forging forts of manufactured comforts. We are not immune to the kennels we create. The bars trap and choke us.
We need to a return to the trees, the birds, and to each other. We have, via an accident of nature, become a species out of context, out of rhyme with the tides, the moon, and the drag of ocean waves. It is making us sick, and the whole of the planet sick.
To the universe, I pray, and I don’t pray, humble us—humble me.