November 24, 2019
True Climate Change
Bill Isaacs: Try this thought experiment: Imagine you are in a great building. You look up to see a vast ceiling that seems to reach to the stars. Corridors spread out in every direction. Light streams in. There's a rich, warm and recognizable atmosphere in this place. It is immense. To call this a building is somehow strange, because it is unlike any other you have ever seen, but the term is also somehow apt. You realize you're in the halls of a great court, the court of a great King. You know where you are.
We live in a sacred world. While human memory of any such place is quite dim, we each have an easy ability to step into an awareness of it. This is true for anyone, wherever they are on the planet. There are many people who are, in one form or other, awakening to this potential. It is becoming less and less imagination, and more and more direct experience. And it is also, for many, quite disorienting, because it challenges everything they have ever known. But this experience is nevertheless emerging.
For a very long time human experience has had a definite ceiling. There have been many different efforts to make meaning, significance, and purpose within the confines of this world. It was the world everyone knew, and from that perspective did not seem small. But looking back in history one also gets the sense that earlier times were much tougher. Mere survival was very challenging. Human beings were more scattered, less in touch with one another, less organized. The physical world no doubt appeared massive and unpredictable.
We live now in a period when the world seems to be shrinking. We are aware of people all over the planet, in touch in such intimate ways that physical distance is becoming largely irrelevant. We can travel quite quickly many thousands of miles. A journey that might have taken weeks or months or even years takes a matter of hours now. Economies move at the pace of milliseconds, not hours, or even years, as was once the case. We are more aware and more connected physically to each other than has ever been the case. There certainly have been many improvements in the quality of the forms of human experience—greater availability of protection from disease and the vagaries of the weather, more reliable food production, better quality shelter. While unequally distributed, some places on the planet at least have an unprecedented level of wealth and quality of development.
Yet one could easily also question how much has actually changed. Many underlying and basic patterns are exactly the same as they have always been. People have always exerted considerable effort to improve themselves, to extract what they imagine they need for their own fulfillment, and to control their environment. They compete and imagine that for some to win others must lose—a zero sum game. While the techniques and methods may have changed, the attitudes and impulses are the same. All this effort has stemmed from the absence of any direct experience of the kind mentioned earlier, though arguably it is all intended to recreate it. All that was evident to people was what was immediately physically present, with little, if any, awareness of anything else. Ironically, the actions people have taken to protect themselves and find fulfillment have created not only greater comfort but also considerable suffering and numerous unintended consequences. The pervasive belief that this is all there is, that scarce resources would eventually be claimed, and that human effort can alone achieve results, has inexorably led to conflict, suffering, and war. So underneath all the apparent progress, there remains a widespread sense, present in every generation, that things are somehow not what they might be. The very fact of this awareness suggests there is some kind of vague knowledge of something else.
To address the ills that are present there also arises, particularly in this generation, the hope for a technological oasis, technological solutions that would magically provide respite and relief from the challenges we may face—whether they are scarcity of energy, food, or the threat of disease. Years ago, Amory Lovins wrote a book in which he sarcastically noted the people believe fervently that "technology is the answer!" but neglect to ask, "But what was the question?"
The control that human beings experience springs from what has been known, meaning that it springs from memory. Such memory is based in the confines of human experience, which, as I have mentioned, operates within definite limits. The cumulative impact of this approach, with its inherent limitations, is being reached and made apparent in very graphic ways now. There is evident collapse in many directions.
I want to focus here on one particular dimension of a serious breakdown—the so-called climate. The term "climate change" turns out to be enormously inadequate to describe the scope of what is happening. The focus for most people is on the weather—and physical transformations that are occurring on the planet. But the climate goes far beyond that. The climate is the total atmosphere in which human beings live. We are hitting rather dramatic constraints on this front. Even for those of us who might consider ourselves alert and aware of the nature of the wider changes that are occurring at this physical level, it is worth looking a little more carefully at what is happening.
Fogginess of vision on this topic stems in part because there is a great deal of fear underneath the surface. Fear leads human beings to avoid staring at the abyss. There are various ways in which such fear patterns manifest themselves, denial being dominant. Ultimately, however, we are facing a looming disruption that will be increasingly hard to deny, even though people are making every effort imaginable to do it.
Of course, some people are starting to face facts. But even for those who consider themselves aware, it is worth taking another look. For instance, we can note that the five hottest years on record occurred in the last five years; and also the twenty hottest years in the last twenty-two. The atmosphere is certainly heating up. There is also a myth that all this is moving rather slowly. And yet the fact is that more than half of the greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere have been put there in the last thirty years. This totals more greenhouse gases than have been present, by some estimates, for at least 800,000 years. and possibly a great deal longer.
The change here is exponential—once described by Hemmingway as slowly, slowly, then all at once. The changes these factors will cause do not amount to a simple bump from one range of living to a slightly less comfortable but stable new range.
From the perspective below the veil of larger awareness, within the memory-controlled governance of human experience, the changes that have been activated aren't slowing down, or stabilizing at a new level. They are accelerating. And they will continue to accelerate for a very long time, quite possibly for many hundreds of years. David Wallace-Wells has recently written a book called The Uninhabitable Earth. It begins like this:
"It is worse, much worse, than you think. The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says it isn't happening at all, and comes to us bundled with several others in an anthology of comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving no life undeformed; that it is a crisis of the "natural" world, not the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it; that wealth can be a shield against the ravages of warming; that the burning of fossil fuels is the price of continued economic growth; that growth, and the technology it produces, will allow us to engineer our way out of environmental disaster; that there is any analogue to the scale or scope of this threat, in the long span of human history, that might give us confidence in staring it down. None of this is true."
— The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
The willingness and ability to look at any fact without flinching is a function of an anchored and awake experience. But it is still quite easy to overlook the details.
The human world is passing away. If you live in the Maldives or South Miami or Bangladesh or California, you're increasingly aware of the fact something is up. It may well be that what is required to move human beings into a state of greater openness is the point of the sword. Very little else seems to work.
The control pattern based in human memory was once termed "the first heaven and the first earth." This is the governance system that human beings have invented for themselves to direct human existence. Yet the prediction made a long while ago was that in season the "first heaven and the first earth were passed away." Revelation 21:1
While there is evidence of this passing in an external sense, the place where this really matters is not out there, but in here, in me. It turns out that what is passing away is doing so at very personal internal levels. The change of climate is also an internal atmospheric shift. As one has some experience of this and rises into position to handle it, one can entertain the possibility that all this may not be a disaster, but a wonderful opening to a vast world, to an awareness of the sacredness of the earth, ultimately to the whole of cosmos.
What does one do about so-called climate change? In a nutshell one first changes one's own atmosphere, the climate within which you live, the quality of the field in which you function. This requires work now. Simply put, a new climate emerges because of the quality of the Tone one expresses now, ultimately because one shifts into a new experience of identity. It becomes obvious that there is something different to do other than scurrying around trying to shore up a declining condition. While there may be moves to bolster failing forms, mainly to buy time, what is needed is really something else altogether. I suspect that if undertaken, the possibilities of healing even at the planetary scale are quite different from what is currently visible under the veil of present awareness.
Yet we can also see that even though there have been many decades of warnings and growing awareness of the seriousness of the dangers, all that has happened in recent years has been a doubling down on emissions. The causes of the trouble have accelerated, not decelerated, and there's no sign at the moment of any change in momentum. The difficulties that are likely to appear as a result of 3° or 4° or 5°C increase in the temperature of the planet are potentially quite devastating. Early signs of this are appearing now— not in fifty years' time.
We are in an era that asks each of us to express, from our personal vantage point and authority, the Tone of Life moment by moment, and to do that accurately relative to the exact factors that appear in our consciousness. Doing this requires movement "upstream," to address and transform things that may appear to be completely intractable.
It is remarkable how from below certain factors look absolutely impossible to change. I certainly have seen this in my experience, where an attitude about someone quite close by, or about a situation close in, looks rather fixed and permanent. It is useful in such moments to recall that all this is merely human thought attempting to define one's experience. You can always ask yourself the question, who would I be without that thought? As one operates from a different level, one can choose to have a stance of compassion towards any oppressive reaction or rigid thought that appears in one's consciousness, whatever it is, and however valid, justified or permanent it might seem to be. One can know in oneself for sure that it isn't any of that.
It is not always so easy to extricate oneself, but this is the work of climate change—meaning clearing out the unreal pollution within one's own consciousness. This is a continuous activity. We come to operate from a place that allows step-by-step these inherited factors to be released, dissolved. Change comes from above.
The human notion about how to make change is that one has to somehow scurry around or gather people together in order to get a result, typically using some measure of force. True change doesn't work that way. The "fire" falls from above. The willingness to experience transformational change requires open-heartedness and humility. Thinking from this place is a very different experience from the thinking based in the memory-controlled scurrying around world. One would be hard-pressed to call the latter thinking at all.
What does it take to liberate oneself from these factors of restriction? What's needed is not some kind of passive sitting around waiting for life to show up in one's experience, but the active expression of a positive tone, moment to moment.
There are simple ways this can be done. Taking an attitude of thankfulness, for instance, immediately lifts us into a new level of experience. It's impossible to hold onto the restricted grip of prior memory and be thankful. The act of preparation can do this, too. Prior to any experience, if you center yourself and consider how you hold the circumstance, reflecting on the factors that might need release in yourself and others, you will open doors that will shift things. This requires that you move upstream, become aware of invisible factors beyond the immediate, and encompass them. People who carry this quality of reflection, and innocence, who have moved to some degree or other upstream, exude a certain radiation. They do things that are often unexpected. They may be deemed to be naïve or pollyanna because the tough-minded notion is that one has to use force, to fight it out for the remaining scraps in a scarcity minded world. But this is the nature of the first heaven and the first earth that needs to pass away.
One individual who inspired many people, including many children, by expressing a deep quality of acceptance and respect was Fred Rogers, about whom there is a new movie out starring Tom Hanks. He created a television show for children called, "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," which played for over 30 years. Listen to Fred Rogers speaking in response to receiving a lifetime achievement award for his television work:
"It's a wonderful evening in the neighborhood...
So many people have helped me to come here to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away and some are even in Heaven.
All of us have special ones who loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life?"
"Ten seconds of silence. I'll watch the time."
"Whomever you've been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they have made. You know they're the kind of people television does well to offer our world.
Special thanks to my family, my friends, and my co-workers in Public Broadcasting and Family Communications, and to this Academy for encouraging me, allowing me, all these years to be your neighbor. May God be with you. Thank you very much."
Not your typical award speech! A loud and clear invitation pointing the way to an open-hearted acceptance of life. This is a man who used the circumstance he was in—a very public and visible one—and turned it into something transformational.
We all have circumstances into which to bring an active positive quality of radiant leadership and so change the climate. This may not be what people expect, and yet their resonance with it is easily evoked. It is not far below the surface.
As things intensify externally, a new kind of balance is needed internally. Anyone who has awareness and responsibility here needs to be ever more precise and available, willing to shift quickly as factors appear. This allows the radiation and experience in the sacred halls of being to be known and shared. The illusion is that there is no such thing, when the fact is there was never a time when this reality was not present.
There are simple moves to make within oneself that can allow whatever arises to change. We are part of an operational whole that will emerge into visible human experience as we do so. We are entering a very particular phase of active radiant leadership where many factors that may have appeared quite stuck can quickly become unstuck. We need a certain amount of fluidity—and humility—to allow this to happen. This means that old images and pictures of oneself and everyone else have to be released.
The first heaven and the first earth are passing away. A transformational experience can arise, allowing everyone to recall the vast place in which we all actually abide.
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