who needs water bottles if we’re all about to die?
INcite with angel Kyodo williams
“Your human form took millions of years, millions of years, to be an expression of the universe wanting to be awake to itself. Who are you to deny that responsibility? How could you possibly do anything else? How could you waste your time scratching emotional itches all the time instead of rising to the occasion of what you were born for, to see yourself, you, as the universe, as all consciousness? Recognizing the truth of that is what you’re here for.”
With mass shootings nearer to home, civil unrest spread widely abroad, ceasefires precariously perched, fiscal cliffs to fall over and the supposed end of time nearby, the idea that the beginning is near seems, at first glance, a bit absurd, self-indulgent perhaps…at the very least suggests ostrich syndrome on a grand scale.
But this is the nature of all great opportunity, isn’t it? That it roots itself deep within the bowels of great challenge and then invites us to roll up our sleeves, pull on our boots and get into the muck up to our waistlines to draw it forth. It asks us to be willing to withstand the stench of our own making as we wade through and come to terms with the messes we’ve made in order to discover the pearl of wisdom ushered forth from the grit of our ignorance. To look more closely than ever and become intimate with our fears—in short, to face death—is to meet awakening where it lives. And becoming awake is always the beginning.
One of my community members works in a popular outdoors store. He marveled with nervous humor at the number of people streaming in to purchase tents, sleeping bags and water bottles to head off to Guatemala where they will join with others in time for the end of the world: but who needs water bottles if we’re all about to die?
I surmise they are actually headed to be born again: seeking collective absolution for the havoc we’ve wreaked upon people and planet. In communion with the earth and each other, they can bear witness to the suffering. Yearning to place themselves upon the altar to have their burdened souls cleansed. All of this so they may start anew, leaving their destructive past life behaviors behind.
In choosing to consciously face death, we give ourselves permission to be transformed by our survival, becoming more conscious of the preciousness of the gift of all life in the process.
The likelihood is that we won’t see a sudden and dramatic global scale shift that propels us towards justice & sustainability. but we will see—correction, we are seeing—the crest of the long “arc of the moral universe” that bends towards those ideals. Jews cry out for the freedom of Palestinians, straight people want marriage equal for all, Muslims struggle for the protection of Christians: humans are calling for and creating the conditions to be regarded as one family again. The commons are more creative and more often being created by all.
The beginning of anything must always be carefully guarded, though. As powerful as the energy of creation manifesting into being is, it is still at its most vulnerable at the start, subject to being trampled by the momentum of old ways of being that, though they no longer serve, have the advantage of familiarity. Once you come to understand the mutually dependent relationship of death & life, ignorance & awakening, status quo & transformation—that they are not two, but one—discovering where the opportunities for rebirth and renewal lie is not so difficult…sustaining them against the gale force winds of habit is.
As the world becomes smaller and smaller, with more and more people, the habit of imagining ourselves separate from one another—as communities of people, as nations and as lands—threatens the tender shoots of our new beginning as never before. It will serve us best to use all of the signs given to us—ancient and contemporary, ominous and celebratory—to remember how connected we are, and to act accordingly.
—yours in truth, aKw
dedicated to the people lost to apparent death and dying in my life and the lives of people i love. we are better people for your having existed and touched our lives. Stan Grier, Jesse Awkard, Barbara Cushing…your goodness, brilliance, integrity and most especially humor, live in my heart in every moment and in this way, you are each beginning and born again.
angel Kyodo williams, the “change angel,” is Founder Emeritus of Center for Transformative Change. She now serves as a Senior Fellow and Director of Vision. A social visionary and leading voice for transformative social change, she is the author of the critically-acclaimed Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace.
This article first appeared in The Moon magazine, a new online journal of personal and planetary reflections.