The end of the world as we know it - Page 6

Pondering the alarmist, the mystical, the way-out-there ... and the surprisingly hopeful sides of Dec. 21, 2012

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"There is a strange parallel with what the ancient Maya foresaw": author John Major Jenkins

Yet they also think it's a fallacy to assume capitalism will collapse under its own weight or that people will suddenly — on Dec. 21 or at any other single moment — decide to support drastic reductions in our carbon emissions. These changes require the long, difficult work of political organizing — which has been underway for a long time — whereas Lilley called catastrophism "the result of political despair and lack of faith in our ability to take mass radical action."

It's tempting to believe that capitalism is one crisis away from collapse, or that people will be ripe for revolution as economic conditions inevitably get worse, but Lilley said that history proves otherwise. "Capitalism renews itself through crisis," she said, whether it was the collapse of the banking system in 2008 or weathering the anti-globalization and Occupy Wall Street protests.

Sounding the alarm that capitalism and climate change will devastate communities doesn't motivate people to action.

"It focuses on fear as a motivating force, but I think it really backfires on the left," Lilley said. "It's really immobilizes people...It's paralyzing and deeply problematic."

In fact, she said, "It's important that we don't succumb to what's been called the left's Rapture."

DEATH AND REBIRTH

So what if the sky doesn't fall Dec. 21 — and solutions don't fall from the sky either? Are we are just going to die?

Yes, we are, at least in old forms, a process that can be cause for celebration and empowerment.

"Really, what's happening is a psychological death, an identity death of what it means to be human on the planet," Marshalla said.

He compared it to the five stages of grief identified by author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then finally acceptance. Marshalla thinks humans are in the depression stage, verging on accepting that our old way of life is dying.

Part of that acceptance involves embracing new self-conceptions. When humans developed the prefrontal lobe in our brains, it allowed us to not only climb to the top of the food chain, but to achieve unprecedented control over the natural world.

But at this point, we've become too smart for our good, rationalizing behavior that our heart knows is out of balance, causing us to forget essential truths that we once knew, such as our power to create our reality and the humility to live in harmony with the natural world.

We learn apathy and competitiveness the same way we can learn empowerment and cooperation. "The goal is to bring on that peaceful, loving state of mind where we see all of us as equal," Marshalla said, noting that it doesn't really matter whether that's achieved through traditional religion, meditation, political organizing, or belief in ancient prophecies and energies showering down from the galactic center.

"It's less about being right than finding any way to lift us up, so whatever thoughts take us there," he said. "It's whatever causes us to realize that shift is upon us."

Whether the universe and mythology have anything to do with it, the hold they have on human imagination, belief, and intention is still a powerful force — and maybe it can create self-fulfilling prophecies that a new age of global consciousness and cooperation is dawning.

"That's the best thing the Dec. 21 date can be, a ritual of acknowledging that we're in the midst of a fundamental transformation," Brezsny said. "The activists believe this may be a good moment, a good excuse to have a transformative ritual and to take advantage of that. We need transformative rituals."