Thursday, January 12, 2017

repatterning civilization in Uruguay

I write this post sitting outside and a little green bug keeps jumping to different points of my body. It's annoying, but important, that I tolerate this little insect. A friend recently visited us here in Uruguay. She said, "I am going to have to get used to the heat. In the summer I move from air conditioned house to air conditioned train to air conditioned office." It is indeed an important (and unsustainable) part of our modern existence that we are alienated from nature. I don't mean this in the lofty sense. I mean it in a very practical one. We don't feel weather, we don't see bugs, our feet never get dirty, we never feel our skin respond to changes in temperature and humidity (unless in our outfitted, planned excursions to the gym). All that is different for us here in Uruguay, and it is the first step in getting close to nature, rather than trying to constantly defeat it.

I am on a listseve of what you might call environmental academics, and in a recent email chain a man named Ruben Nelson said the following:

To me what is most important... is [the] sense that the root patterns of our consciousness, cultures and form of civilization need to be re-conceived/re-patterned/reinvented.  That is, we need to re-pattern/reinvent the imagination by which we organize all of our experience, inside and out, including our formal organizations.  It is this wider, longer, deeper, more integral and more reflexive point, that we in the Modern/Industrial west are missing and resist.  We desperately want to "solve our problems" one piece at a time without having to even see, let alone think about and transform our unconsciously inherited Modern/Industrial patterns of consciousness, culture and forms of civilization.
We want sustainable forms of organization without having to pay the price of personal/cultural/civilizational transformation.  In Bonhoeffer's terms, we want cheap grace.  It was always thus.  Tragically, if we do not pay the price of a truly humane and sustainable future, we will not co-create one.
And to repeat the guts of my earlier post, the above is news that, at least to date, we in the Modern/Industrial West as well as most of the rest, are unwilling and, therefore unable, to see/hear.
In my view, developing the capacities -- personal, organizational, societal

-- to see, and undertake this wider and deeper civilizational-scale work is the most pressing issue of our day.  One cannot deal with a living complex human system one piece at a time.  But, bless us, we do try.

I see what we are doing here as the work of that personal cultural transformation that is so desperately needed if we (as a species? civilization? I am not sure exactly what form I mean) is going to survive. So, we learn how to live with imperfection, to tolerate the bugs and the sounds of birds and sweeping the leaves that are constantly dropping. To let your daughter play with the washed up sticks and stones on the beach (and to deal with a beach that hasn't been combed by the municipality). To feel the weather and be impacted by it ('run! get the clothes off the line!' is certainly something new to me).  To sweat and smell and do outdoor work. To work your day around the hot sun. To live life in the rhythms of a place. To make decisions based on the wind (can we swim at the beach today or are the waves too big?) or the clouds, or the hour of the day. It sounds dreamy, but when you are used to being immune to all of these considerations, it takes work to readjust. It is the work we are committed to doing - re-organizing our experience in a way the befits the impending future.

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