I think we need to see things differently, and I wrote about it in my book, Love is Green: compassion as responsibility in the ecological emergency (Vernon Press). Love is green might sound a bit "twee" but in fact, loving is tough, requires honesty and vulnerability. We can see ourselves in the context of three relationships, though they're all aspects of the same relationship, they're all one. They're the relationship we have with ourselves, that we have with other people and that we have, in Abrams' phrase, with the more-than-human-world. This links back to the old idea that we need to attune to compassion, to love and kindness, in how we relate to ourselves. Small enough, but it's just a riff on Confucius (and Dōgen Zenji): if we have love and therefore peace, and a sense of acceptance, in how we view ourselves, we can come to other relationships with more empathy, more tolerance and understanding. We therefore have better relationships with others, and that, in turn, makes us feel better about ourselves, and happier. And just as important is the relationship we have with the more-than-human-world, because that, too, is where and what we are, our context, the systems within which we're enmeshed, to use Tim Morton's phrase, are us, and we are them. They are all one. We can make small changes, and we can mobilise, we can form communities, we can discuss, we can think critically, but cordially, realising that we all rise or fall together. There is nothing outside us. We are it and it is us. I think this may look like an ineffectual response to some who want to externalise and technologise the problem, or evil, or actions against us. Do we have control over what is going on? In a sense, not at all. We are enmeshed in an ocean of cause and effect, action and reaction. But in a sense, we have control because we have this extraordinary (and perhaps chance) capacity for reflection, for realisation, for realising what is happening, as it is happening. When we do this, when we take this mental step back, what happens is that we see all that we are enmeshed in, and that, I argue, elicits compassion as a rational response. What other response can you make when you see yourself as a creature struggling to survive amidst the slings and arrows of outrageous actions and reactions, the context we're in being dependent on things like genetic heritage, country of birth, and so on. Things over which we have absolutely no control. We need to release ourselves from shame and blame and embrace all within this perspective of compassion that can then allow options to arise that otherwise remain latent, hidden beneath the noise of fear and triggered hatred, or anxiety, or other reactive states that close off options. Questions, please!
Published on 27 August 2019