Last month saw our Somerset landscape revert to wetland. Somerset was historically called the Summerlands for that reason, until extensive efforts to drain the Levels and a network of rhynes kept floods at bay. Now a pattern of winter flooding is returning, bringing misery and havoc. Maybe we need to learn to adapt instead of trying to control it. Go with the flow, as the Tao advises.
We often become habituated to periods of stability and expect our future to continue in the same vein. When I was young there was a collective belief in progress – civilisation. However we are realising that life, like nature, is more cyclical. We are discovering our perception of progress is something of an illusion as we uncover the dark underside of so-called civilised nations. Our tools may be more sophisticated, but motives often remain primitive. We congratulated ourselves for abolishing slavery only to discover it thrives in our neighbourhoods. Civilisations break down and shift to another part of the planet. History evidences this. We watch as it becomes someone else’s turn to ‘develop’, hoping they can avoid our mistakes. Individual lives go through periods of progress, success, decline and stability. I hear the words of people who have become homeless, ‘I never thought I’d find myself in this place’. I also hear those who experience achievement and acclaim say the same.
There are times when I look at what is happening in the world, like Fukushima, and despair. I think, ‘That’s it! We’ve finally done it to ourselves and the planet.’ Then after feeling the fear, I find myself moving back into daily activity, experiencing joy of simple things, making plans and endeavouring to take positive action. Like many I hover between denial and overwhelm, but make choices: the choice to live, to love. Even without collective mayhem, we each face the future. We must test the validity of our dreams, the prospect of decline and death, find ways to accept what we cannot change and change what we can, find ingenious ways around difficulties. We need to find faith in ourselves, in each other that we can find something meaningful, even when we feel hopeless.
One of my teachers is a roebuck living in the combe behind my home. He has fathered offspring and appears to lead a peaceful existence. There have been other stags, possibly offspring, but he remains king of the combe. He has half a hind leg missing. I watch him limp and tuck up his back leg when he grazes. He manages.
I observe people I know who live with some health difficulty or other and how they cope. Some focus all their attention on healing and fighting. My habitual belief is to ‘talk about it’; and for some, at certain moments is much needed. I also see those who choose not to feed the difficulty with much attention or energy. They are fully aware, but choose to put their attention on the rest of their life. This is different from what I call ‘positive stinking’, the pretence everything is ‘nice’, ‘fine’ when it clearly is not.
Sometimes our efforts to control change simply throw up unwanted consequences. Too often revolution results in the same type of regime as before, as in some of the Arab countries whose spring promised fresh hope. Change comes with its own agenda. Perhaps it is a question of listening to what change is asking of us so our energy can flow with its tide. As Werner Erhard said, ‘ Learn to ride the horse in the direction it’s going.’