I used to lie as often as I could on the ground beneath the reeling night sky, on snow, on muskeg, on beach logs—what astonishing extravagance! What infinite mystery! All those singing, pulsing stars, that unfathomable, irresistible moon, the Northern Lights swirling like crazy rivers of electric light. I thought we all had all the time in the world, that I was as infinite as my ability to perceive and to imagine and to love.
Humans have been around for a long time, a couple million years at least, maybe as many as seven million. I love being human, and I would love for us to go on for a very long time to come. I would like us to become all I know we are capable of being.
When I thought we had all the time in the world, I enjoyed the little things more, like the small and infinitely repeatable satisfactions of housework. I wrote an exuberant poem in my twenties called “Zen and the Art of Dancing with My Dirty Dishes.”
I still enjoy the everyday accomplishments of small and vital things. But as William Stafford writes, the darkness around us is deep. It is everywhere, and pressing. I see it in the eyes of parents trying to explain lock-down drills and species extinction to their young children, and in the eyes of rushing, well-dressed professionals at the grocery store. At the park yesterday, I passed a young homeless man sleeping in a huddle, chained to his bike, his begging sign saying he would allow you to abuse him in exchange for coins.
If you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you let go of today, and what would you do? Would you vacuum under the couch? Would you bother to take out the recycling? Join an eco-justice group? Probably not. But if you knew we a year, what would you do? A decade, fifty years? How much time do we need to think we have before we wake up and fight for a transformed life?
My youngest son is having a difficult time finding joy in everyday life, in the housekeeping he is so good at. He said to me over lunch, a tear rolling down his cheek: “Me and my friends feel like it is the end of the world.” Judging from the faces of most people around me, he is not alone.
I think he is right. We are living in an end time. We are part of something that needs to die. We must give up our attachment to comfort and dominance and greed.
For most of our evolution, we have gotten it right, we have lived in harmony with earth. We think of animals as innocent and as whole. We never think of them as “fallen,” sinful, or wanton destroyers of the environment. We are still animals, still deeply innocent and good. It is time to awaken. What needs to end is not us, but patriarchy. Let us get back to singing with the whirling sky.