What would happen if I really let myself journey into the realms of death: of our species, of other species, of our planet, of all our human potential for beauty, creativity, compassion, evolution? What if I really opened my heart to this realm, to this possibility? What if I named such a journey sacred, a pilgrimage? What, then, could my living be like?
What if our planetary demise became my default scenario while always allowing for other possibilities? Because surely I believe that anything is possible. Yet, what if I embraced this default, again, as a sacred journey rather than a fearful, egoistic apocalypse – which is the story my culture would have me believe? This is not such a fanciful notion. Many spiritual and wisdom traditions see death as a great teacher and innovator. I know when I try to deny the possibility of planetary death, I feel stuck, limited, small. My heart feels closed and ironically dis-empowered.
I see our earth in great distress. I see us killing her with every mountaintop removal, every clear cut, every fracking, every oil well and tar sands extraction, every mine, every monoculture, every toxin we put into the air/soil/water/seed. We are killing ourselves. We are killing our bodies, minds and spirits with every war, every act of violence, every act of injustice, every act of arrogance and separation.
Clearly I see the planet and our human sensibilities as dying, but are they dead? Are they mostly dead? Soon to be dead? Even now I keep hearing reports that we have fifty years (twenty-five, ten, five) to change things around before we have reached irretrievable overshoot. Some suggest that we already have.
So it comes around full circle. I feel that a critical component of our planet-time is the willingness to face death, a death far more challenging, most likely, to grasp and accept than that of our own. The question is, accepting this, embracing this, what is the call? How does one answer the call? How goes the journey? Where is the gift?
I would like to share this story by Michael Meade from his book “The World Behind the World – Living at the Ends of Time.”
“Run Towards the Roar”
“As fears about the world accumulate and terrors abound, I often recall an old African teaching about fear. On the ancient savannahs life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. Nearby, lions wait in anticipation of the hunt. They send the oldest and weakest member of the pride away from the hunting pack. Having lost most of its teeth, its roar is far greater than its ability to bite. The old one goes off and settles in the grass across from where the hungry lions wait.
As the herds enter the area between the hunting pack and the old lion it begins to roar mightily. Upon hearing the fearful roar most of the herd turn and flee from the source of the fear. They run wildly in the opposite direction. Of course, they run right to where the strongest lions of the group wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive. ‘Run toward the roar,’ the old people used to tell the young ones. When faced with great danger run towards the roaring, for there you will find some safety and a way through.”