In a world that thinks of ‘a long time’ as the length of a TV commercial break, ‘the future’ tends to be next week (or, maybe, next month…or in election years, November.) This makes it hard to be intensely concerned about anything with an impact we may not live to see. ‘Deep’ is not very deep, if you catch my drift.
I am borrowing the title of this post from Curt Stager, whose book, Deep Future, is actually about the long long long arc of climate change. (If you are interested in a really far away future, the book is a challengingly dense read, but a perspective sorely missing from previous discussions.) Please note that this post is not about climate change, but Stager’s title nudged me to nuance some of my emotional distress about the socio-econo-political conversations that have been unfolding over the past almost 30 years; in fact (not, as it turns out, by coincidence) from around the time of the first climate change conference in Geneva in1988 — the vast majority of which have had almost nothing on the surface to do with climate change. By this point in this election cycle, these conversations have now reached a lower low point than I could have possibly imagined.
Perhaps calling them ‘conversations’ is giving the exchanges more credit than they deserve. They have actually been closer to the level of sandbox name-calling, and closer to the kind of behavior that would earn a lengthy time out in any nursery school. But, whatever…
I have been wondering what would be happening in the debates if the questions addressed to the candidates partook of the old Native adage that we must consider the implications of our choices to the seventh generation (which is only 140 years give or take a decade). In other words, what would happen if we even thought as far ahead as a modestly near future? the future that our great-great grandchildren will be experiencing?
No, we cannot predict with any certainty what amazing inventions might come along, what unexpected wisdom might blossom in the human race, even what we might discover about our innate physical and mental capacities in a decade or two or five. But we can certainly ask if what we are doing, saying, thinking, and proposing right now is going to inspire and upbuild our love, grace, compassion, justice, mercy, and hope or whether it is going to further fracture a global society by demonizing our neighbor, excluding the stranger, subjugating the poor, imprisoning or silencing new ideas, destroying connections, and unraveling accords of peace.
And I hope without being dismissed as an alarmist, I can say that I am finding perilously little of what is happening in these United States inspiring and upbuilding and the vast majority of it frightening enough that I want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head for the foreseeable future (meaning the rest of my lifetime).
The man who is currently leading the pack to become the GOP candidate has been waging a campaign to ratchet fear to levels not seen since the Cold War. He is the obvious end result of a fractured party that has made the Big Lie and obstructionism its platform, and those of us who are not registered Republicans could sit back and watch it all unfold in the hopes that the Democrats will ‘win’ in November. Except there is a pretty serious question about what this country will win if we continue down this road at all. At the moment, I don’t think any of us are looking at a ‘win.’
There is a deep future to be considered here and any hope of a deep future with a human population requires us all to realize that we either find a win-win or the entire earth will surely lose.
Whether we are Millennials or Baby Boomers; followers of a religious path or not; of mixed race or ‘pure bred’; cisgender, transgender, LGBQ, or heterosexual – in any of the many combinations possible; in the top 1% economically or the bottom 1%; physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually abled or challenged – in any of the infinite number of combinations of those qualities…don’t matter. We are in this together.
It is time we thought and talked about our deep future. Together.
What do we want? What do we really want? If we knew we would be reincarnated 100, 200, 500 years from now – what kind of a world would we want to be living in?
How many walls do we want to find between countries (or states, territories, cities, towns)? Did we learn anything at all from the now vanished Berlin Wall, or the checkpoints between Israel and the Palestinian territories, or the Great Wall of China? Do we really want to erect walls between Texas and Mexico? Vermont and Canada? Reconstruct Hadrian’s Wall between England and Scotland? How many walls? How many checkpoints? How small do we want to slice and dice our landscape?
How many enemies do we want to declare? How many wars on what? Do we want to find that the whole world has become individual bunkers? Do we really want to have chosen permanent self-imprisonment to protect us from the Other? And what happens to the mutually created and sustained infrastructure of civilization? I don’t know about you, but I (personally) cannot build or maintain an electric power plant or a highway, much less a hospital or an airport.
How far backwards do we want to go in medicine (which becomes mighty primitive in a bunker), science, technology, invention, art, literature, entertainment? How much isolation do we want to accept in our fearful quest for safety?
There is more to life than my individual scramble up some ladder of ‘success’ or ‘safety’ or ‘self-actualization’. There is more to a life of joy than exacting revenge on those who have attained a bigger share of the good things in life (whatever those are) than I have.
Is this really the best we can do? Is this really the future we want to leave to the seventh generation? the deep future we want to envision? If not, it is time for us to say a firm and unequivocal, ‘No’ to the deliberate rending of our common tapestry of existence. This may mean protest and civil disobedience. This is not something to be left exclusively to the young and idealistic as if energy is all that matters. It is something which those who are in the middle or last chapters of life are called to model on behalf of the common good.
Yes, I am speaking to the young, of course. But I am speaking also (maybe particularly) to my peers: It is time to step into the role of wise elders and to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed to defang hatred and prejudice, and to inspire inclusion, rich diversity, hope, and peace.
Let it be so.
Text © 2016, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2014, 2015, Immram Chara, LLC
The first photo is the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney; the second is my fiber art icon, Maize Mother: Woman of Abundance; the third is a heart-shaped stone from the Brough of Birsay (also on Orkney). Any of my photos are available as cards or prints as a special order at my Etsy shop. [Use the custom order button on the left of the home page.]