has always been in a dance of becoming, ageing, sickening, dying back and rebirth. There have periodically been storms that sweep through and destroy life forms and periods of growth and plenty and of peacefulness. Even in peaceful times there has been competition as well as co-operation between and amongst species. We humans are just one type of life form in the earth’s biosphere. It managed without us for billions of years and could do so again – so long as we don’t lay it to waste. What seems to set us apart as a species is a level of consciousness which gives us unparalleled powers to both create and destroy. The human part of the greater biosphere therefore has some distinctive characteristics that have profound consequences for all species – and it has been in trouble for some time, indeed for some centuries. As we have grown technologically more advanced, and our societies more complex and hungry for resources, we have progressively involved both of our fellow humans and other species in an intricate web of inter-relating that has proven increasingly unsustainable and toxic to life as a whole.
Set against this backdrop, the covid19 virus is just one example of how our self-made problems unfold, causing widespread suffering. This time it does not seem to adversely affect other species. But the climate crisis has not gone away, and nor have the over-exploitation of the earth’s natural resources and ravaging consequences of inequalities of power, rights and access. To those who live in any case on the margins – in war zones; in flood waters or fields of drought; in lands made toxic by the waste of consumption, industry or wars over the control of natural resources; by rivers or seas depopulated by over fishing or pollution; in epidemic or famine zones; or on the uncared-for edges of wealthy societies – covid19 perhaps does not have the ‘shock’ value it has for more privileged populations. It is yet another terrible threat to add to the others which already make their lives precarious.
However, there is rarely a phenomenon which sweeps the whole human layer of the biosphere in a relatively short time-span, taking out hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, within months – and directly affecting the usually secure and wealthy.
All crises in our lives send us rapidly along a change curve, rather like a bereavement: we experience shock, disbelief, numbness, depression but also – and sometimes alongside – inspiration, heightened intuition and even a sense of elation or liberation. We are all exposed now to some fundamental truths. There is much suffering, but also numerous opportunities for extending compassion, forgiveness, kindness, interconnectedness and love. The coronavirus pandemic has swept us along these change curves individually and collectively – like a roller coaster which has started unexpectedly, in which most of the carriages have no safety belts and most of the passengers had no idea they were on board. Clearly we all want to stay safe – stay in our seats, in our carriages and keep those we love close to us. This reptilian instinct for survival is essential – we need it now more than ever. Our mammalian need for more pleasure and less pain will also guide us to keep ourselves and those in our own carriage not only safe, but happy – with small pleasures if necessary. However, our more developed nature also allows us to look beyond our own particular carriage to the situation and condition of those in other carriages, and the way in which we are all connected through our human-ness and our being-ness. We are, after all, human beings.
This part of our nature gives us the ability to keep a corner of our awareness free and clear of pain, anger and fear. And in the space in our minds swept free of these negative emotions we can both live a more wholesome NOW and dream a more wholesome FUTURE. Lessons in what this entails and what it means for us bound each day. Here are some which have been brought to my attention has we have clattered along the roller coaster rails with precious little control over where, or how fast, we are travelling. I do not claim these as my own insights: they belong to the prophets of our epoch and before them to our ancient wisdom traditions, as taught by indigenous peoples all over the world.
1. Oneness is true. We are all one, interdependent, interconnected web of human life, intricately interwoven with other species and all other life on earth.
2. Feedback loops are real. Nothing we do – whether wholesome or flawed – ever goes away. What goes around comes around, often magnified. To contribute to a healthy, sustainable biosphere we need to treat the most distant and least familiar life forms on earth as our nearest relatives.
3. Structural inequality is unsustainable. Our interdependency is characterised by over-reliance upon structurally unequal relationships among humans and between humans and other species and is in desperate, urgent need of re-evaluation, transformation and renewal
4. Consciousness is key. Our state of consciousness – not our material means or status – determines how we react to a crisis and makes a real difference to what happens next i.e. whether our response is only self-protective and we isolate and withdraw (ie contract and harden), or whether we reach out to connect and we expand (ie open and soften)
5. Consciousness can be cultivated. From personal experience, I have found that an expansive, connective consciousness is supported by:
I commend all of these to you, dear reader, as you plot your course through this unchartered terrain.
At the Equality Academy, we aim to live, dream, breathe and walk our talk by working collaboratively to contribute to the wave of consciousness sweeping the planet in search of a better way forward. We hope we can join with you in this endeavour.