Reconciliation carries an implication of justice, a balancing of accounts. In this case it’s an honest discovery of others’ suffering while realizing our own mortality, complicity and limitations. Reconciliation is a great humbling because intimacy with suffering is also a coming to terms with one’s own death. Most of the time we operate as if we cannot permit the intrusion of death into our view or conduct in life. Denying, misunderstanding or misrepresenting life or death to oneself at some point becomes another miscarriage of justice. This is happening at a cultural level and is an integral part of why we have gone so wrong on our environment.
I seek balance by looking at my assumptions and beliefs, whatever unconsciously corrals, misdirects and exhausts me of wildness, causes me to lose contact with the inexplicable essence of life, the spontaneity and unity of everything and especially my capacity for stillness. Narrow assumptions establish imbalance. They arise from a resistance to breakdown, an illusion of stability and a compulsion to preserve that illusion. In modern culture, instability is regarded as failure; yet ironically, that very stability is itself a distortion of reality. I have set limits on the degree, pace and character of change, all of which may interfere with or rob me of the benefit of failure, vision, connection or satisfaction. It is by failure that I discover balance. No imbalance, no homeostasis; only a brittle, narrow comprehension of complexity.
For more than 18 months I’ve been engaged in a close encounter with a physiological disorder, a rare condition, which coincidentally, like climate change, is 100% fatal if left untreated. It arises in the deepest realms of my anatomy, where life itself is produced in its most elemental form. This non-malignant dysfunction is instability personified, inexplicable to the layman, buried in background assumptions about how life is supported. And though it can be understood and explained in modern medical terminology, it cannot be adequately addressed according to these limited terms. They are just concepts, equally applicable to your car or your computer. It has emerged as my personal monster. It cannot be smothered by knowledge, technicalities or reason. There is no certainty or way of turning it into a monument sitting on a shelf. It’s an outlier at the frontier of medicine. It’s marvelous in that respect, transformative, daunting, life threatening and mysterious. Reductionist framing can’t possibly tell the full story.
Likewise, the marvel of climate change can be explained in the same reductionist terms, which don’t—and can’t—plumb the depths of the behavioral dysfunctions, the flawed outlook, the mechanisms of denial at the heart of such a condition, except perhaps by applying the analogy of autoimmunity: we are attacking ourselves, making a seemingly inexorable series of self-destructive decisions. Or worse, life is threatening itself with extinction, promising to change, failing to change, repeating the cycle, carrying immense guilt and then sloughing it off by dissociating. These are the behaviors of an addict. Not all of humanity is addicted, but the addicted are leading the rest of us into the abyss.
The term ‘climate’ should be applied to the context of all life including the social, not solely to atmospheric/oceanic conditions or the many thousands of biological effects. The climate of earth is deteriorating, but this is so in every sense of the term, not merely the weather. If we traced the acceleration of the global warming effect, the loss of ice, the acidifying oceans, the pending collapse of the food chain, the Sixth Great Extinction, all are paralleled by the massive concentration of wealth at the top, the degradation of civil discourse, the corruption of democratic norms, the influence of money in politics, pollution on an unprecedented scale, feudalization of the economy and the degradation of all forms of capital. The atmosphere is poisoned. None of us can breathe. Indeed, deep in the center of the earth economy, the engine of true vitality is being silenced. If we addressed the social and economic context of earth adequately, emissions would likely fall greatly, whereas focusing on driving down emissions alone is clearly not working fast enough.
I’m not an addict, though I surely am complicit. I could (by some sideways logic) relate to COVID-19 as a random invader, an alien agent, a force to be reflexively resisted as if it has no intelligence. We can track its adaptive capacities, disassemble it and understand its transport and replication systems. It has no mind, yet it has intelligence.
Beyond all that, I regard my personal disorder as an expression of the consciousness I name as myself. Which is to say it did not come from nowhere. I cannot extract myself from my environment or, as a Buddhist might say, extract myself from my karma, my spiritual continuum. There are known environmental (karmic?) factors linked to this disorder and perhaps unknown factors as well. I can’t be positive it’s unrelated to one of these. But regardless, it now functions as a self-generating disorder, an error in genetic logic. And since our entanglement with the environment is total, how can I ignore the possibility that not only was an environmental factor involved in my contract with this condition, but that I was complicit by contributing to the very creation of that factor.
The dysfunction at the heart of this matter may be considered a corruption of purpose, an aberration, a crossing of elementary signals at an intra-cellular or genetic level. My immune system has turned against me, becoming a termite of my own construction, undermining the foundation of my life. Termites seek life or sustenance without consideration for any other life form or for the integrity of the host. They live as if there’s an endless supply of their prime resource. Does that sound a little too much like the human presence on this planet?
There is no such thing as a termite regulating its appetites to ensure the sustainability of its host. Such an invader would be called a parasite. Given a choice, I would rather be a parasite than a termite. Unlike the virus, the guest in my body is not some alien presence. And my encounter with it is not accidental. It is Being delivering a message to this being. I did not ‘catch’ it at the grocery store. Although, considering the massive overuse of fertilizers, food additives, preservatives, considering nearly everything in most grocery stores is either genetically modified or sprayed by carcinogens, is full of either simple sugar or modified protein, maybe the grocery store has finally caught up with me.
If I were to fully regard this disturbance as an emanation of self rather than as Other, I could regard it as a disturbance in my energy body, a gradual and unconscious—or worse–a careless failure to attend to my personal integrity. Current scientific knowledge may explain some of the mechanisms, but it cannot explain how it came to be and the prevailing treatments are not guaranteed to reverse it.
I have undergone the standard protocols. But again, this doesn’t come close to addressing its true nature. It is buried and then covered over, like ripping out offending weeds in a garden, but not quite extracting the roots, followed by planting new seeds and expecting proper germination. And later, if and when the condition again crawls out of its confinement, we have other measures at the ready to suppress it again. I submitted to a second round of the treatment protocol because blood markers clearly indicated a regression. I gamed out the consequences of failure, the probabilities for dancing again toward the edge of viability, a subtraction from previous estimates of my remaining life expectancy, the likelihood of obscure drugs being successful, the extent of interventions necessary to sustain life and the possibility of my body rejecting those interventions, all the way to the ultimate conditions of my demise.
As I delve deeply into the energetic realm, the interactive and potential counter-intentions reflected in successive or persistent manifestations, I am mindful of the different realms of knowledge expressed as its tenacity and my responses to it, continuing to be a drag on my wellbeing. I am reminded of the declarations I made at the time of my original diagnosis, the doorways of consciousness it opened, the fresh awareness, even agency relative to the quiet and not-so-quiet suffering around me every day, the purity of intention necessary to meet this disorder, to re-focus and get on with my life: the continuous inquiry required to unearth what Being is attempting to deliver to me or elicit from me.
I even sensed one of those imperatives was, at least partially, and improbably, a consuming attention to personal happiness altering processes at the heart of this condition, deep in my bones. Indeed, an imperfect affair of the heart. I’m not fully clear whether the inner messaging I’m crafting is in opposition to this condition or the result of a direct encounter with it. Am I fighting it or becoming friends with myself? Am I reflexively opposing it or becoming more acquainted with its nature? Is this merely the only way I can digest the discord all around me in the world? Have I unwittingly invited this? Most likely, all of the above are true to a degree, as merely approaching the object of inquiry, whether as self or as Other, inevitably changes our view of it. In other words, there’s no such thing as objectivity.
Some of this reflective process is itself a symptom of the human disease, our belief in intellectual primacy, human centrality, the inviolability of science, an infatuation with our reflective capacities, all exercises assuming there is objectivity. In the ancient world and now as we reactivate and interpret that wisdom, it is said that every culture, to accompany the thinkers and doers, must have its mentors and guides, the ones we call dreamers and mystics, the keepers of gnosis, retainers of the collective raison d’etre, the arc of tribal history. I envision myself as a product of both, perhaps a flawed hybrid, perhaps entirely presumptuous. But nonetheless, pressing on to my own version of reconciliation.