"May you live in interesting times," states the old Chinese curse, and without doubt we do. Until the last decade I thought living in interesting times would be fun and exciting. Now I'm not so sure. The world is changing so quickly that even the calmest among us feels agitated and anxious. Before we can catch up with the events of last week, they have spun into newer more complex versions of themselves. We are lost in a sea of uncertainty while the worries of today and tomorrow lay in wait.
This interesting world is one we created and must now take responsibility for. We must conquer frustration and impatience and our own ignorance and solve our problems, including the most pressing, climate change—before which all other problems fade to oblivion. What good are your devices if no network exists, if there is no food or fresh water, if your home is under water, if the Gulf Stream has quit streaming?
Naomi Klein is a Canadian writer who gave six years and a great deal of thought to the problem of global climate change, and I recommend her book, This Changes Everything. It's not an easy book, but you will be glad you read it. There is also a documentary film by the same name.
Klein's book reminds us in heart-wrenching ways that this interesting world, this beautiful, endlessly fascinating globe spinning through space, is our only home, and we must protect it with the same strength and energy we protect our children or ourselves. There are ways to do this if we act quickly and with collective strength, and her well-documented book is an excellent resource, a good place to start.
But what we also need to do, I think, in addition to marching and writing letters and donating money, and paddling kayaks in opposition to Shell, is to remind ourselves of our selves—or our souls if you prefer. Our disconnect from Earth has grown slowly over time. Conveniences like electric light and steam generation; and coal, oil and gas, and the digital revolution, enticed us away from Earth's natural pace and rhythm. But ever so gently, so that we hardly noticed how alienated—and destructive—we have become.
I am lucky that I have easy access to the natural world and have learned that if I pay attention it will speak to me. The caw of a crow, the sound of wind through the firs, the sudden bolt of a young deer, all work to bring me back to the present. Suddenly I am out of my head and back on the pavement paying attention to now. Nature is willing to help us if we only pay attention.
And while a charming landscape is helpful, it's not required. We can attend while sitting in front of our always captivating screens by simply remembering that we are alive; that we are in the world now. We may not like where we are but what matters is that we acknowledge the moment, that fleeting moment that is gone before you can name it. Life and Earth are gifts, and acknowledging that, however briefly, will serve us all.