Deep Adaptation was a welcome revelation. I was suddenly relieved of pushing the rock uphill. I was diverted to more productive activity: facing unmediated and unfiltered reality and acting accordingly. These urgent times require that we slow down. I could put my full attention on the inner work of resilience and restoration, taking a slower and deeper journey into its meaning, simplifying and carefully extending myself to live a version of small-scale sustainability. Under current circumstances, as I’ve said, this seemed to be imperative.
Deep Adaptation has been criticized as a regression into despair, doom and disengagement. But I’ve never seen it as refuge of defeatism, more like a dispassionate assessment of reality. Parallel to this shift in attention, is the appeal of post-activism— a walk into the desert beyond the last swimming pool. It’s a cognitive jailbreak from a belief in objective reality. It’s an escape from human centrality, an intention to tend the wounds we have inflicted on our world, on ourselves, by presuming humans alone are the drivers of social change. It’s a turn toward recovering and redefining community away from the parameters of Progress. Conventional activism is an attempt to escape the prison (a diffractive prism?) of prevailing conditions. How is it that despite all our efforts, we largely remain in that prison, redefining ourselves over and over according to terms we can barely grasp. We are like fish trying to find water, immersed in it so deeply, so completely that we can only speculate about its nature. Post-activism is somewhere beyond all of that.
At the same time, as my health drives my attention inward, my sense of conventional (inner or outer) agency ebbs. To a degree, my definition of agency still resides in the conventional realm. If I tried to unravel this mystery, I could easily turn to despair and fatalism. As my world shrinks, I recall the vast spaciousness of mind, allow the boundaries of ego to expand and loosen, reconsidering influences steering life far beyond any imagined boundaries I might normally contemplate. I puzzle over whether and how the entire course of life has prepared me for its closing chapters. Or whether, more likely, there is no such thing as preparation, only incrementally deepening encounters with the reality of our material limitations. Clearly, there are still revelations to be had. That, revelation, if I could name a clear intention governing all of it, is what it shall be for me.
Upon arriving in Durham in October 2019, I was pressed to make my housing choices quickly, taking my health into consideration. I chose easy, low maintenance, self-contained and accessible. Any possibility of participating in building much resilience into my community or immediate surroundings was marginalized. Taking a wider view, making a commitment to a slower, smaller lifestyle requires opening to revelation from sources not previously considered. I have found these in familiar sources as well as in new voices now propagating via online communities connecting in ways we might not have explored if Covid had not come along.
We are entering territory never previously occupied by humans—of multiple catastrophic events (Covid, climate change and Trump) arresting, rupturing and reversing the entire course of human progress, stopping us in our tracks—like a massive volcano erupting and darkening the global sky, like Nuclear Winter. This is the precipice of Peak Humanity. In some ways we’re already on the downside, heading south. The possibility of arresting the inertia of the Industrial Growth Machine is a small sliver of light barely escaping the massive black hole of Business-As-Usual.
There’s further revelation—and recovery—in realizing the depth and nature of our entanglements with the natural world and each other. We are arrested by boundaries suddenly becoming much softer than we normally realize. They are mutable and transient, more like filters, permeable and highly specific, both protective and yet facilitating communication. Less foreboding. COVID is a messenger of our porosity, a call to examine our intimate relations with the micro-biome, with ecologies interrupted, sundered and thrown into chaos.
In this respect, COVID is also more of a revelation than any previous fugitive organism leaping across the boundaries of its normal habitat because of its deadly nature and global impact. It’s bringing us crashing back to earth from our drunken binge of extraction, acquisition and destruction. Investors and futurists may call it a Black Swan, but it’s more than that. It’s the latest event piercing the myth of separation. A more significant event propagating greater collapse-awareness could not have been engineered by any deliberate effort. We are now glimpsing a version of the future and being clearly shown what measures will be necessary to respond to similar events in addition to whatever the climate has in store for us.
To enter any recovery, all of these revelations must be digested. Also revealed are our capacities of trust, compassion, courage and a new purpose. It’s time to recover, dust off and refurbish these exiled capacities to embody our reliance on each other, to remember we do not exist outside of relationship. Nothing is itself, by itself. As Zach Bush mentioned in a recent interview, COVID has awakened and spurred us to move from an adrenaline society to an oxytocin society, restoring the inner landscape, awakening to reciprocity. This is what we are finding in the streets, online, in wider collaborative initiatives. Every awakening is a recovery, stimulating a desire for more.