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In the face of collapse, neither polyanna nor doomer

In the face of collapse, neither polyanna nor doomer thumbnail

Carolyn Baker writes with passion, insight and courage about a topic that most people turn away from – the emotional, psychological and spiritual aspect of what she and many others call “collapse.”

Collapse is the convergence in our times of economic unraveling, resource depletion and human created climate instability that could bring the destruction of the world economy, major governments or even industrial civilization as a whole.

It’s scary stuff and you won’t find it on the nightly news.

But outside the mainstream media, there are many writers exploring the economic and environmental aspects of this collapse (also called the Great Unraveling, the Great Turning or the Long Descent). Yet Baker steps boldly into that territory where few dare to go, addressing with clarity and compassion the importance of emotional and spiritual preparation for what lies ahead.

Collapsing Consciously

Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times by Carolyn Baker, 208 pp, $19.95.

Baker’s newest book, Collapsing Consciously: Transformative Truths for Turbulent Times is a collection of essays and meditations that expands and enriches the ideas in two of her previous books (Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition and Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse.) It’s an important read, both for those already immersed in the concept of collapse and those just discovering the depth of our predicament.

Our culture is relentlessly positive. We’re trained to trust there will always be a solution, to believe in happy endings, to turn away from what is painful or frightening. Joanna Macy calls it a “cult of optimism.” It leaves us unprepared for life’s challenges and sorrows, in ordinary times and even more for the cataclysmic changes and challenges our future holds.

As Barbara Ehrenreich writes in Bright-Sided: How Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, “There is a vast difference between positive thinking and existential courage.”

Baker shows us how to walk the path of existential courage, in the face of whatever life hands us, including and especially living in today’s uncertain and disturbing times.

In her opening essay, The Joy of Mindful Preparation, Baker writes,

The tremendous losses we are likely to encounter will result in savoring and appreciating incredibly simple experiences and sensations, and doing so is likely to evoke deep feelings of joy…the more we lose in the future, the more crucial it will become to savor what we still have.

Other essays in the book expand on this theme. In Hoping for Happiness or Metabolizing Meaning, Baker writes, “what matters is not ‘happiness’ but meaning…somehow our lives and experiences make more sense, and interconnected patterns of our life’s journey begin to reveal themselves… (this) may provide a long-term sense of fulfillment.” This essay concludes with the question, “How do we find meaning in collapse? One way is by asking what collapse wants from us. What does it want us to be, as well as do?”

Baker’s essay Getting Real About Our Predicament continues this theme with the idea that “we need to stop focusing on physical survival and focus instead on transition from the old paradigm to the new one.”

In the last essays, A Culture of Two-Year-Olds and the Gifts of Collapse (part l and ll), Baker asks, “What are the ‘gifts’ of collapse?” and offers her response to this question.

Baker makes an analogy to the indigenous practice of initiation, an ordeal or challenge that calls forth the transformation from child to adulthood.  She doesn’t see the coming collapse as the end of our species but instead as a worldwide initiation into a more mature human existence requiring humans to leave behind a culture based on personal consumption to arrive at a time of human renewal.

She invites us to “hold in our hearts and minds – as much as is humanly possible – the reality of the pain collapse will entail alongside the unimaginable opportunities it offers.”

The thread and theme running through this book is not so much to show us how to survive the coming collapse of our civilization as we have known it, but rather to ask us what can we learn from facing that collapse and how can we grow through it.

Most importantly, Baker invites us to consider how can we contribute to what may arise on the far side.

Collapsing Consciously is a map and guide for living a deep, full and joyful life within these turbulent times and contributing our best and fullest selves to a possible future. This book is a compass to carry with us as we all travel together this road less traveled.

– Dianne Monroe, Transition Voice



8 Comments on "In the face of collapse, neither polyanna nor doomer"

  1. sunweb on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 6:50 pm 

    Besides writing and earning money from a collapse self-help book, what is she actually doing physically to live in this collapsed world? Does her real meaning come from the writing, traveling and earning money speaking? Does she work the soil? Darn her socks?
    Without her website, speaking, writing and consequent adulation what meaning does she have in her life? What model is she really portraying?

  2. Nony on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 6:53 pm 

    There was a lot of downer stuff in the 70s as well. Then Reagan beat Carter. Price controls went away and US production helped crack the OPEC cartel and the oil flowed. Synfuels and solar became ignored.

    Little bit of tension in the early 80s with The Day After and nuclear freeze and PATCO strike and all that. But by 1983, the USN was full of ships. We were feeling studly after kicking ass on Grenada…that old losing the Cold War feeling was gone and it was the Russkis who looked a little shakey.

    Gorbie came in and people argued if he was really a “liberal” and it turned out he actually was. By 1989, the Wall came down in Germany (who but a total optimist would have predicted that in 1980 with Afghanistan, Iran, Angola, etc. disasters). The rest of the Warsaw Pac spun off as did the various non Russian republics.

    After 1984, “breakfast in America”, Reagan had to step down in 88, but GHWB got a sort of third term. A fun little war protecting the Kuwaitis and Sauds from Saddam (I loved it when Kissinger said to let Iran and Iraq kill each other in the mid 80s). So much for the “battle hardened Iraqis” fighting our untested troops! Gotta remember what Moshe Dyan said about how great the Israili soldiers are “it’s easy to look good when you fight Arabs”.

    Then 1992 and even the Democrats were sort of conservative (pro death penalty, pro military…gotta love those Monica missiles). Al Gore invented the Internet for us and the late 90s were party time for jobs and such.

    2000 brought us more of the same with two chips off the old block squaring off and the election coming down to an NFL playoff tiebreaker. The dotcom/stock crash, shortly followed by 9-11 kind of pissed in the cornflakes. But we soldiered on and America seemed to be muddling through…until 2008 and the next stock/bank/real estate bubble crash.

    That year brought us the first Oprah-selected president, for the next two terms. Things were pretty doomer and downer…but it seems like they are starting to pick up now.

    By now, the Russkis have been through Yeltsin and are back to an autocrat. Things are not great for the central Asian republics. And Russia still tries to Finlandize her old peons…but still better than during the Cold War.

    *****

    Things are never as bad as they look or as good. Better to “stay medium” in the famous words of Jim Zorn. History does not repeat, but it does rhyme. We’ll get by.

  3. Northwest Resident on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 8:37 pm 

    The World According To Nony — Political comedy is my favorite. Got any more?

  4. MSN (revised) fanboy on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 9:58 pm 

    They are enjoying life sun web the way BAU told us all to do. Just means they will understand when collapse happens and they will die.
    Kind of like seeing the iceberg hitting the titanic, playing with the shards of ice fallen off on deck while coming to the conclusion they were going to sink.( And die) Then went back to the bar and whoever was listening would buy them a drink to listen to how the unsinkable ship would sink, then have another drink.
    Never really understood these people, the kind that know the plain has a 90% chance of crashing, tell others then climb aboard.

  5. Davy, Hermann, MO on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 10:25 pm 

    Read this report if you can. I included the conclusion bellow:

    Tipping Point
    Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production
    An Outline Review
    David Korowicz
    Feasta
    & The Risk/Resilience Network
    15th March 2010 1

    This will evolve as a systemic crisis; as the integrated infrastructure of our civilization breaks down. It will give rise to a multi-front predicament that will swamp governments‟ ability to manage. It is likely to lead to widespread disorientation, anxiety, severe welfare risks, and possible social breakdown. The report argues that a managed „de-growth‟ is impossible.
    We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes. From now on the risk of entering a collapse must be considered significant and rising. The challenge is not about how we introduce energy infrastructure to maintain the viability of the systems we depend upon, rather it is how we deal with the consequences of not having the energy and other resources to maintain those same systems. Appeals towards localism, transition initiatives, organic food and renewable energy production, however laudable and necessary, are totally out of scale to what is approaching.
    There is no solution, though there are some paths that are better and wiser than others. This is a societal issue, there is no „other‟ to blame, but the responsibility belongs to us all. What we require is rapid emergency planning coupled with a plan for longer-term adaptation. 5

  6. Northwest Resident on Mon, 24th Feb 2014 11:09 pm 

    Davy — Sounds about right. The paths that are better and wiser than others tend to lead in the opposite direction from where the majority of people are heading. No surprise there.

  7. GregT on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 1:44 am 

    Thanks for report Davy. I’m reading it now. So far it sounds similar to most of the other reports I have read.

    I have long since come to the conclusion that ‘rapid emergency planning’ is not going to happen, there are simply far too many of us that are unaware, and even if we were aware, any viable plan would take decades to implement. Our ‘leaders’ are leading us in completely the wrong direction. I’m still not sure whether this is being done intentionally or not, but at some level it probably is.

    Longer term adaptation, I believe is the only viable option at this point, for those that are prepared and have made the right decisions. All of the rest are in for an extremely rude awakening and a very uncertain future. IMHO

  8. Davy, Hermann, MO on Tue, 25th Feb 2014 12:19 pm 

    @GregT – Longer term adaptation, I believe is the only viable option at this point

    I hope we can make it to that point!

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