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

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Series: Pine Tree reflected in Wild Goose Pond, 4/13/11

Pine Tree Reflection #1: water slightly ruffled by the breeze 
Pine Tree Reflection #2: Bored photographer drops rock into the water...
Pine Tree Reflection #3: Distortions as the ripples start to subside

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Freeing ourselves from the illusion of separateness...

Photo of two Blue Herons building nest taken in Epsom, NH,  4/8/11 
"Freeing ourselves from the illusion of separateness 
allows us to live in natural freedom."*

* Quote by Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness 
Boston: Shambhala, 1995, page 1

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mental and Political Delusion

Photo taken at rally in Concord, 3/31/11
Photo take at rally in Concord, 3/31/11
(A version of the following essay was published yesterday in the Concord Monitor.

Code Blue

A team of doctors is called in for an emergency intervention. The patient is a middle aged female from an affluent family. Except for a long battle with Anorexia Nervosa, she is in excellent health.  However, her condition has recently taken a turn for the worse and without a successful intervention, she will have to be hospitalized. And that would be bad news because the long-term mortality of such patients is over 10%.

Anorexia Nervosa is a baffling disorder that is difficult to comprehend in rational terms. The official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) provides a succinct summary of its most salient characteristics:

The essential features of Anorexia Nervosa are that the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight, and exhibits a significant disturbance in the perception of her size (she perceives herself as grossly fat when, in fact, she is but skin and bones).

Usually weight loss is accomplished primarily through reduction in total food intake but the individual often begins excluding foods they perceive to be high calorie and end up with a very restricted diet consisting of only a few foods.

Worse yet, the individual’s intense fear of gaining weight is not alleviated by losing weight. In fact, concern about weight gain often increases even as actual weight continues to decrease.

Obsessive-compulsive features are often prominent. Most individuals with Anorexia Nervosa are so preoccupied with thoughts about eating that they hoard recipes and food.

Other features sometimes associated with Anorexia nervosa include a strong need to control one’s environment, inflexible thinking, and limited social spontaneity.

The prognosis of the patient in question is poor because, unfortunately, she exhibits acute and severe symptoms in all realms of the disorder.  But you haven’t heard the worst of it yet: this isn’t a simple intervention against a single individual but involves an entire state. The patient I am describing is New Hampshire herself.   All of Her. Or should I say, what is left of her?

Think about it. All one has to do is substitute the word tax for food and the analogy fits perfectly. By restricting her intake of money (taxes) and focusing only on cutting what some say is "fat" in the budget, Miss New Hampshire is starving herself. She is becoming anorexic.

Her very restricted diet consists primarily of property taxes which provides over 60% of her caloric intake (as opposed to 30% in most states) which is clearly insufficient to maintain her health while, at the same time, unfairly burdening working and poor folks.

And even though Miss New Hampshire is one of the richest states in the union with one of the lowest per capita tax rates, she – with classic anorexic delusional fervor – refuses all high caloric foods (like broad-based taxes) which would restore her health while spreading the burden to include the affluent so they could pay their fair share.

Furthermore, even though governor Lynch has already submitted a draconian budget with big-time dieting, Miss New Hampshire, – like the true anorexic she is – rather than being placated, is now even more obsessed about the fear of gaining weight when, in fact, the opposite is true.

Stranger yet, a CAT scan of Miss New Hampshire’s brain reveals a strange anomaly: a majority of her brain has turned red, aggravating her already existing Anorexia Nervosa characteristics of needing to control her environment without listening to input from others, inflexible thinking, and limited social spontaneity.

We are reaching a point of no return.

Miss New Hampshire may need to be hospitalized because she is becoming a danger to herself: if she follows through with her crash diet she will threaten the most vulnerable parts of her body: the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill and children.

At the same time, Her refusal to eat threatens to mutate her DNA, destroying essential qualities we need for future generations to thrive: critical benchmarks like good education for all children, no matter where they live, and a safe and secure workforce with guaranteed rights to participate in decision making at the work place.

Like an Anorexic person crumbling up her grocery list and refusing to go to the store, New Hampshire is slashing the safety net we all need to protect us when things go wrong.

Who would have guessed that Anorexia Nervosa is rapidly becoming the new New Hampshire Advantage: Live free or starve.