How can we prepare? We cannot prepare. But we are being prepared.
-Charles Eisenstein, in 2013: The Space Between Stories
It’s New Year’s Eve. I’m sitting in utter solitude near the wood stove. Everyone I know and love is removed from me now, and in fact, I’ve removed myself. Somewhere there are people having parties, drinking, carousing. What are they celebrating? That the unbelievably hellish year of 2012 is over? That we’re on the cusp of a new, terrifying era?
In Charles Eisenstein’s essay, linked above, he describes the current moment as being a space between the old Story of the World, the narrative that used to make sense of the way our culture works, and whatever new Story might arise after it. We’re in this space, now, because the old Story is broken beyond repair. Eisenstein writes, “We no longer believe our storytellers, our elites. We don’t believe the politicians, we don’t believe the doctors, we don’t believe the professors, we don’t believe the bankers, we don’t believe the technologists. All of them imply that everything is under control, and we know that it is not. We have lost the vision of the future we once had; most people have no vision of the future at all.”
I’ve been attempting to peer into the future, and what I see is starkly sobering. The old story of “progress”, domination, “success”, and “growth” is a glaring deception to me. I don’t doubt any longer that it was always a fairy tale held together with a little glue and some tacks. It hangs in the air, still, a veil of perception blanketing the minds of those around me, and I’m swinging at it with a machete. This is often not a warmly received action.
It is blasphemy, it turns out, to point out that such control is an illusion. It is blasphemy to name names of complicity. Here, I’ll start: I, Jennifer A. Hartley, am complicit, and there is blood all over my hands. You, reader, you are complicit, too, just as surely as Monsanto and Exxon and Bank of America. Own it, damn it. Look at the damn blood, and let the horror of it knock you to your knees.
The new story of the future isn’t written yet. It’s not meant to be written. We can visualize a beautiful, resilient future all we want, we can tend our gardens and build community, whatever that means, we can stop buying stupid plastic shit, we can power down and walk away, we can do all of that, but I swear to you, it’s not enough. There is action, and there is the unbearable surrender to non-action, to witness. On the cliff edge, it’s the willingness to be pushed over by some inexplicable force, to experience the free fall fully, perhaps trusting that terror will transform into grace, perhaps not.
As it is in the wider world, so it goes in our (seemingly) personal lives. So very many people that I know are experiencing huge tectonic shifts in their relationships, their work, their activism, their beliefs about themselves and the world, their sense of where to go or who to be. I’m no exception. As I persist in writing, which is my own version of free falling; as I describe with imperfect language the landscape that I see, both within and without, there are an increasing number of people who are contacting me, recognizing a kindred soul, telling me their stories, listening to mine.
We sit by the fire, us human animals. This is what we do. We huddle in the dark winter night, shattered storytellers, gathering up words from the old story that have broken on the ground. Hmm, look at this one. How could we have believed this? we laugh. We fumble, like children learning to talk, plucking a new alphabet and syntax out of the air, uncertain authors of a new dictionary.