Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ecocide: The End of Eden

The End of Eden: © Jean Stimmell 2011
Premonitions, Visions, and Insanity

Soon after the Gulf War back in 1992, I wrote a piece for the Concord Monitor before I knew what the word tsunami meant. Here’s an excerpt:
“I have a reoccurring dream. I’m at the ocean, walking down the beach. But something is wrong: it’s deathly still. Then I realize that there is no waves cascading against the shore…Instead, the waves just keep receding, sucked out further and further until they disappear…leaving a barren mud flat as far as the eye can see.”
“I continue walking down the beach, the warm sand sifting between my toes. Even without the ocean saves, it’s a beguiling evening, sensual and balmy with a stunning sunset. It’s so beautiful, I start to cry because I know it can’t last. It’s only the calm before the storm. Far out at sea, in my mind’s eye, I can clearly see all the little waves that should be lapping up against the shore, being sucked, one after another, into the leading edge of a ferocious storm headed this way.”
“My dream symbolizes my apprehensions about the future…I watch in horror as my country continues to unravel–along with the rest of the world. Old ties and allegiances are withering, replaced by social turmoil, despair, and unrest.”
Two decades later, my dream seems almost like a premonition: the world has suffered through two catastrophically devastating tsunamis while my country continues to unravel, becoming even more polarized and stalemated, while sliding further down the slippery slope toward continual war.
Now, after a long respite, I’ve started having new dreams and visions, this time about blood.
The reoccurring nightmare is about a beautiful woman, sleeping peacefully in pristine wildness, being brutalized by a faceless intruder wielding a meat cleaver.  Then, last weekend, as I walked up the curved red stairs approaching the Portsmouth Museum of Art, they turned into a river of blood.
Carl Jung had similar dreams about waves and blood in 1913, just before the outbreak of World War I. He had what he called reoccurring visions of disaster: “I saw the mighty yellow waves, the floating rubble of civilization, and the drowned bodies of uncounted thousands. Then the whole sea turned to blood.”
Jung initially questioned his sanity: “I asked myself whether these visions pointed to a revolution, but could not really imagine anything of the sort. And so I drew the conclusion that they had to do with myself, and decided that I was menaced by a psychosis. The idea of war did not occur to me at all.”
Soon after, when World War I struck out of nowhere with unimaginable bloodshed – over 22 million lost their lives – Jung no longer questioned his sanity. Instead, he now saw his dreams and visions as a premonition of war.
I don’t question my sanity either. I just happen to feel that the world is a much more mysterious place than modernity makes it out to be with it’s ridiculous worldview that we are all independent, autonomous pawns in a cosmic video game called free market capitalism where we can only win by ruthlessly competing against each other.
Instead I believe we are all connected in wondrous ways: Jung called our common connection the collective unconsciousness; Emile Durkheim called it social consciousness; neurologists call it mirror cells; Buddhist’s call it Indra’s Net.
Rather than developing a psychosis, as Jung feared, I believe my unconscious is tapping into a wondrous array of connections to forces bigger than I am. But opposed to Jung, I don’t believe my new premonitions are primarily about war, even though conflicts are raging around the globe with 67 countries currently at war or near war.
My sense is that these wars aren’t the cause of my new premonitions but a symptom of something bigger than even humanity’s collective consciousness. Now my premonitions are coming from Mother Earth herself.
Ecopsychologists have found evidence that, over and above our social consciousness, humans have a strong instinct, bonding us viscerally and emotionally to the natural world.
In the 1970s, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis came up with the ultimate hypothesis of why we are connected: the Gaia Hypothesis. Scientists were able to find empirical evidence to support this theory and in 2001 the European Geophysical Union of scientists issued the following statement: “The Earth System (Gaia) behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological and human components.”
Research has shown that Earth is such a well-integrated, self-regulating system that many now consider Earth to be alive: a real living being. A branch of psychology, Ecopsychology, has sprung up which specializes in studying the profound relationship between humans and nature.
Ecopsychologists would not be surprised by my premonitions. They believe that we are now, consciously or not, all suffering from experiencing the brutal destruction of Earth and that at some level, we are all grieving this loss.
If the Earth is a living, breathing super-organism of which we’re all just an infinitesimal small but important part, why wouldn’t we feel Her pain?  And we do! It is a proven fact. Our emotional and mental health has suffered,  particularly since the dawn of the industrial revolution, getting progressively worse in lockstep with the ever-increasing pace of environmental destruction, resulting in increasing alienation, depression, and mental illness of all kinds. It’s becoming epidemic.  One out of four Americans is now diagnosed as mentally ill.
Like the inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we no longer have the luxury to waste away in the day room of the insane asylum, dutifully taking our meds. It is time to throw a chair through the window and revolt.  If we act quickly and decisively, there may still be time to save our home—and ourselves.

Click below to see other of my blog entries on climate change: 
How to Have Hope in an Era Between No Longer and Not Yet
Back to the Future
In the Bible, God takes credit for the Great Flood
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