What comes to your mind when you read this title? Without trying to guess what I plan to write about here, when you hear a friend or someone telling you those words, what do they refer to? Or when you listen to the little voice inside you, perhaps….?
Yes, I will go into my focus in a moment, but I wanted to pause and invite you to contemplate, just briefly, how we all have some things we’d rather not face, rather not pay attention to, and yet we know we should. They are emotionally laden things, I bet. When we decide to ignore, set aside, pretend something is not there – it’s also for a good reason: to avoid controversy or confrontation, to keep the peace with others, to avoid the uncertainty of what to do, or how to deal with the particular issue. Our ego likes the illusion of stability, let things stay as they are, don’t rock the boat.
Now time for the cartoon that inspired me today.
Thinking back, as I was developing my ecoliteracy and researching what sustainability meant, I felt distressed by the realisation of all the wrongs that had to be addressed, and felt scared anticipating the impacts that were awaiting us – the results of decades of unsustainable behaviours. As in the cartoon, a part of me said “I shouldn’t create panic!”, while another part felt I couldn’t just be silent and watch. I didn’t want to be the doomsday messenger, and I moderated my tone, my words, and with whom I would share my concerns or my knowledge. I worked hard to find a way to convey urgency, and hope at the same time.
This was not so far back in time – ten or fifteen years, but it feels that we are living in another age altogether. The icebergs that I anticipated and saw in our path, are already surrounding us and damaging our “safe” ship. The fires are starker, the flooding is worse, the migrations are more painful, the loss of property, land, community are devastating and for all to see. With it, the awakening is also more sudden and widespread. Life is presenting us with a reality that we can no longer push aside. Four hundred years of looking the other way to “forget” who conquered whom and in what ways. Fifty years ignoring the ‘silent spring” as our pesticides began to exterminate insects and entire ecosystems. Thirty years neglecting the fact that infinite growth on a finite planet is a delusion. Twenty years supporting as consumers the brands that are replacing ancient rainforest, the lungs of our planet, with miles of commercial palm oil plantations.
Awareness can come in different ways. We may learn of something, and sterilise it from any emotional tones, keeping it rational and intellectual – and less painful, of course. I will call this the robotic understanding. Then we have the awareness that pervades our whole being: it is embodied, coloured by feelings of many kind. We empathise with the suffering or the reality of the other, we sense our interconnectedness, and we expand our self as we become part of a larger whole. We feel more deeply human, and passionate about acting. We look for how we can do our part with what we know, with our skills and talents, with the one thing that we all have the same: our time.
Social media and technology is the platform that is bringing us images from around the world, inviting our attention and our hearts to listen. What type of awareness do you have, and do you promote in others, in your students and community? Robotic or human?