What are we called to do in this time of collapse? Work harder? Think faster? Compartmentalize and multitask better?
No. None of the above. In fact, we are called to do the opposite. According to Yoruba wisdom, we are called upon to slow down. We are called to settle more deeply into the present, to soften and loosen our grip on whoever we imagine we are, or were, wherein we assimilate the world as it is, changing so rapidly as it is, and watch our responses, our default habits and self-serving diversions happening in the microseconds between apprehension and response.
Among other things, we discover our hyper-dependency on the construct we call time. We discover the difference between its relative and absolute nature. We also discover that hope is a diversion from this softening.
Time is a conception arising within our limited view of reality. Normally, we are not capable of another view. When we interrupt that dependency, a different possibility opens and we are reintroduced to timeless matters: connection, curiosity, gratitude, courage, love and grief. When we slow down, we are in the middle again. We discover what we seek has never been gone. It is always at hand, everywhere we look.
What enters our space in liminal moments we share with a single person—or even in a group? Resonance, a timeless quality, gently arrests us. What arises in the space between vision and execution as a quiet presence is Inter-Being. This space is filled with knowledge, yet is neither yours nor mine. We become present in such knowledge–or it becomes present in us.
There is no such thing as a unit of time in any absolute sense. Since that is so, we could even define “presence” as something more like absence. The absolute nature of time is a vastly spacious awareness no longer held in the tight grip of someone who ‘hopes’; one so expansive that even “embodiment” implies a limitation, so permeable that emotional states and the ambient phenomena of group process no longer impede the flow of connection.
Temporarily at least, one is so completely ‘here’ that time stands still. At the same time, no one is home. The ego has been rendered quiescent, if only for a moment. Since there is no future, there is nothing to hope for here. One may even enter a non-conceptual state in which there is only feeling, a seamless realm of knowing. There is nothing to grasp here, nothing to cling to and no one to cling to it.
From the relative (dualistic) view in which subject and object exist, we imagine events follow an order, stretched along a continuum without beginning or end. In the timeless space, discrete events exist without order, arising in random fashion, crowding each other out, competing for ‘space’ and attention, arising and disappearing in a chaotic flow.
This competition appears as sense perception and feeling, which we evaluate and then choose according to our preferences and motivations; whereas in the awakened state, the timeless space we occupy when we downshift to an imperceptible crawl is not just another unconventional and unfamiliar form of time in which ‘events’ occur.
Awakened mind lives outside of time. It permeates the construction we call time yet is not time-bound. Then again, neither is it other than time. The true nature of emergence (consciousness and biology) is the opposite of our habitual hyperactivity. It is a tsunami of perpetual stillness, an infinite evenness subsuming everything, a continuous tidal wave of creative interdependent unfolding that has no beginning, no end, no boundaries, no center and no limits.
In this realm the very idea of a separate self is an inexplicable accident; in which we realize our movement and intention within a unique place in the web of life also holds all others, informs and is informed by all others. We are so completely and fully at home there is nothing left to ‘do.’
In the context of collapse, hope has no place in such presence. It simply cannot be. It is foreign, as it is entirely incompatible with the pervasive dynamic evenness of radical presence in a timeless state. Ultimately, hope relies on causal relationships in a universe without cause. It is a condition we put on our commitment to the present, as if we need a future reward as a prerequisite for undertaking the task at hand. If we hope long enough or hard enough for a particular outcome, perhaps something will happen. Perhaps not. But ultimately, in hope we seek our own continued well-being. In that sense, hope keeps us stuck in denial of our unfolding relationship with grief. It allows us to run away from our direct experience. Hope does nothing to interrupt Business As Usual.
As Stephen Jenkinson says, “Hope is what allows us to continue [what we’re doing]; instead of stopping, we are waiting to be stopped.” If that ever happens, it will be too late. Unfortunately, such thinking exists in a narrow linearity that conflates intention with faith. Being neither intention nor faith, hope lies between the possible and the impossible, between what we know is within and what we imagine is beyond our capacity.
Vaclav Havel once remarked, “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that it’s worth doing regardless of how it comes out.” That certainty is faith, knowing we are doing the right thing now and being committed to what matters most, not regardless of some future outcome, but because we already know what the long-term outcome is likely to be; its features are already emerging. Hope becomes a defense against despair.
Of course we cannot control the future. But faith is an absolute belief in our agency in the present. Hope lies at the opposite pole of fear and despair, a duality in which we oscillate from one extreme to the other. Without hope, there can be no despair. By creating and clinging to hope, we create space for fear.
Evaluating our decisions based on an obligation to future generations, even seven generations hence, as is customary among some indigenous communities, does not require a reliance on hope. We do what we know is right. A nebulous disempowering wish about the future dies a quiet death as we rise to our obligations and clarify our responsibilities in the moment.
Again, Stephen Jenkinson:
The question is not Are we going to fail? The question is how. The question is What shall be the manner of our inability to care for what was entrusted to us? The question is What is our manner of failing?……
Grief requires us to know the times we are in. The great enemy of grief is hope. Hope is a four-letter word for people unwilling to know things for what they are. Our time requires us to be hope-free, to burn through the false choice of being hopeful or hopeless. These are two sides of the same con-job. Grief is required to proceed.
Reverse engineering the next hundred years to determine how we must act now puts hope in a different light. We may not be able to shift the course of the entire human enterprise, but at least we have taken a long view and fully exercised our capacities in the service of Inter-Being.
We immerse our selves in our immediate experience, in the feeling level of our responses to our sense faculties, without regard for their source. Such immersion attains without labeling experience, becoming neither attracted nor repulsed by any of it, without analyzing, meditating upon it or turning away.
In other words, without turning it into an object of interest or adding it to a collection of memories, neither categorizing, discarding,…..nor even believing it. In so doing, we are both immersed and freed simultaneously, watching from a vast view, yet also noticing, feeling and burning in the fires of the moment. Our principle acts must be to reduce suffering, which only becomes clear as we allow ourselves to suffer. Rumi said, “In suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.” There is no place for hope in this equation.
All of this may appear to be highly idealistic because mainstream thought and the pursuit of happiness is a relatively closed orbit, exerting immense inertia on moments of awakening that come from a full descent onto our grief, lest that awakening threaten the grip of consensus (relative) reality. And yes, regardless of how the expression of presence may appear, since it must co-exist with material reality, it is nevertheless a condition worthy of cultivation.
No matter what arises, even if heaven and earth change places, there is a bare state of relaxed openness [available], without any underlying basis. Without any reference point–nebulous, ephemeral, and evanescent–this is the mode of a lunatic, free from the duality of hope and fear.
—Chöying Dzod (pt. IX) Longchenpa
Let’s all become lunatics! Our resilient future depends on it.