Today feels like the beginning of the end of everything, just like it did yesterday and the day before that. Every day I wake up and am overcome with the feeling that human beings have reached the end of their evolution and have begun a massive devolution back into a primordial sludge that will (hopefully) yield something better. Then I have to get my kid up for school, make breakfast, drink coffee and realize that Trump is not a grotesque fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft but the leader of my country. I fantasize about drowning myself in my pot of coffee.
I know a lot of people relate to this feeling of desolation, that there’s no fixing what’s broke, and that there’s no way to hold back the tide of bigotry and ignorance that have such a powerful hold on so many people across the world. All around me people are having the same angry desperate conversations with each other about how we’re all too small to change the tide of hatred, violence, and environmental destruction happening all around us. How can any of us make a difference? How can we fight Monsanto/Trump/True /Evil?
I believe we must start everything within ourselves. Anything we want to accomplish outside of us must happen first inside our own bodies, minds, and spirits. I am useless to others when I’m useless to myself. Self care is the very first thing all of us must tend to if we want to light up the world with change. For me this means I’ve had to completely detach myself from all sources of news, cook more nourishing food for myself and my family, and seek out the companionship (in person or online, makes little difference) of people who, for whatever reason, seem to always take the time to let me know I matter and am loved. I’ve been spending more time working on my potions and getting out in the garden.
What do you need to do to nourish your body, mind, and spirit? What do you need to do in order to get the extra support you need right now when everything feels like a damp shadow is living in your bones? Do the things that work for you and do them now. There’s so much we can all do to keep progress marching forward, to stop the course of environmental pollution, and to keep the lights lit in the world, but we can’t do it from our blanket forts. We can’t do it when we’re in the middle of a downward spiral. So take the time you need to refresh yourself, to recalibrate yourself, and to re-light your own pilot. I promise the despots, bigots, and smog will still be there when you’re feeling strong enough to jump back into the fray. And if you yourself are fighting strong but someone you care about is floundering under the weight of current events, please stop and give them a hand. Because the next thing we all need to work on is taking care of each other.
Reciprocity Is Survival
Human survival has always depended on reciprocity. Even before we settled down with the exciting discovery of agriculture, we depended on each other to eat, find shelter, and fight off larger animals. A lone human is a very fragile being. We have tricked ourselves into believing we don’t need each other and that we can each survive without anyone else’s help. We’ve built an infrastructure around ourselves (civilization) that allows many of us quite a bit of independence. We can go a long time without anyone else’s direct assistance or company. But if you truly think you don’t need anyone else then you’ll have to take all your clothes off, leave your house or apartment behind, get rid of all your tools and accouterments to modern living that other people invented and made, and live with nothing.
Even then your chances of survival now are greater than they were at the beginning of human evolution because you benefit from the shared wisdom of a billion humans who came before you and died discovering that amanita mushrooms are not one of the amusing mushrooms so that you can wisely avoid them. You benefit from all the medicinal knowledge that was discovered by others and shared with you so that you can heal your cuts and bruises. Your survival depends on other human beings no matter how independent and skilled you are. Even money is a system of reciprocity. Money is merely a medium through which we exchange services and products between us. Before we had money, we exchanged actual services and products between ourselves that we needed to survive but couldn’t provide for ourselves.
When communities go through terrible calamities such as natural disasters and wars, and elections of megalomaniacs, the way they get through it all to the other side is by helping each other into boats and out of harm’s way. So my answer to the question “how do we get through these dark times?” is to start with kindness. First to yourself, and then to the people you know and care about, and then outwards to people you don’t know who need it too. When you see someone’s house burning, stop and ask them what you can do to help. Putting yourself out there definitely makes you vulnerable, but you have to ask yourself if you’d want strangers walking by your burning house without stopping to find out if how they can help while your house burns.
Don’t stop with humans. Offer that same generosity and kindness to the animals, wildlife, and nature all around you. Revive a neglected garden, spread wildflower seeds in empty city lots to provide more pollen and hiding places for insects. Volunteer at a wildlife center that rehabilitates injured wild animals. Volunteer to help clean up birds soiled by oil spills. Pick trash up, put bird feeders out (especially in winter), adopt an abandoned cat or dog. Every single act of generosity and care you put out there in the world matters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that little things like picking up a piece of trash don’t matter. It was merely a little act of thoughtlessness that put that piece of trash on the ground in the first place but there are so many people being thoughtless in this tiny way every day that there are more pieces of trash along the highway than there are wildflowers, so pick up that piece of trash and you balance something out in the world. You erase the thoughtlessness of someone else’s with a thoughtfulness of your own your action.
I’m aware that picking up trash from the street isn’t going to stop Trump from being president of the United States and breaking the world. I realize that giving shelter to abandoned animals isn’t going to keep the pipeline from being built further down the river. When people are asking “what can we do to change the course our country/world is on?” what they want is revolution sized action, something to immediately abate the rising panic in their chests. But you have to also recognize that the little choices we make every day DO matter or you’ll never be able to make the big choices that will change the world on a large scale, the hard choices, the sometimes dangerous ones.
As above, so below.
The revolution starts with the minutiae. The revolution starts with you.
Beyond self care and outward generosity there’s so much more.
Protesting remains one of the most important tools humans have for voicing their disenfranchisement. Whether sanctioned by a constitution or punishable by death, there are few things more powerful than a mass of human beings standing together for a single goal. Don’t discount it just because you went to one protest that didn’t change the fabric of the universe. We don’t live in a magical world, but we do live in a predictable one. Protests generally require perseverance and tenacity to be effective. You’ve got to be willing to go for the long game, to stake out your square foot of turf for as long as possible and take the rubber bullets and the pepper spray. Protesting is serious, protesting done with peace and conviction of spirit can, and has, changed the world. So take on the issue that scares you the most, that you most desperately want to have a hand in changing and take to the streets.
There are a million small things we can all do that will add up to huge change.
Start a Seed Library
The most vital component to human survival at this point are seed banks that preserve the biodiversity of food crops that can sustain human life. Are you sick with anxiety about the damage companies like Monsanto are doing to crop diversity around the world? The best thing you can do as an individual is start a seed library. I have thought about saving seeds for years and felt intimidated by the problem of cross pollination in small gardens. Seed saving seemed fraught with insurmountable difficulties until I set myself free this year and realized that even if I only grew one variety of lettuce this year so that I could save the seeds with confidence that they’d grow true to seed, it would be more than I did last year.
If every single one of us who gardens were to save the seeds of one variety of vegetable or fruit every year we could cover the world in food. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only seed saving that matters is by people with extensive gardens and scientific degrees, we all have power here. For the first time this year I saved three kinds of seeds; purslane, red orache, and a perennial pepper variety called Aji Crystal.
Vote With Your Wallet
Every day you support other people, companies, and organizations by giving them your money. I know someone who supported same sex marriage (and was gay themselves) but continued to eat at Chik-Fil-A knowing that the COO of the company, Dan Cathy, was speaking out against it and giving financial support to organizations considered hateful to the LGBTQ community. Their excuse was that “The food just tastes so good I can’t help it”. But consider this: after a huge outcry and active boycotting of the franchise by supporters of same sex marriage and the LGBTQ community, as well as other companies cutting ties with them over this issue, Chick-fil-A stopped financial support of organizations considered to be discriminatory against gay people. I don’t honestly believe that the company COO has changed his views on anything and I’ll never step foot in one of their trash-pits, but that company has a lot of money and through public outcry and boycotting, they are giving a lot less of it to organizations known to support conversion therapy. That’s what power your dollar has.
So if you want to wield more power to change the world, you already have it in your hands, you just might need to use it more critically. What companies do you shop from? What organizations do you support? What stores or farmers do you buy your food from? What financial institutions do you allow to handle your money? Find out what political candidates they’ve openly supported, if any. Find out what “charitable” organizations they give their money to because they got their money from consumers like you and me. Dig deep, share your information. The less you shop and eat at big chain stores and corporations the easier it is to find out if they care about and support the same things you do. You may not have a lot of money to spend, you may be struggling to get by, but don’t let that shake your activism. Every dollar you spend is making a social and political statement whether you want it to or not. Every dollar you spend can be supporting organizations that care about the earth or are callously destroying it one dollar at a time. It’s your choice and mine, every single day.
Take comfort, the world will go on without us.
I woke up again this morning feeling like we’ve reached the End of All Things. But even if this turns out to be true, take heart! This planet has gone through so much change long before we evolved onto the scene. Millions of animals and insects have come and gone leaving nothing but a collection of bones and impressions in earth’s crust to let us know they were ever here. I bet when the dinosaurs were all dying off they felt the same way some of us humans do right now. They had NO idea that their deaths would fuel human invention and population bursts that stretched the earth’s resources and resulted in massive pollution and trashed eco-systems millions of miles wide. There’s been an ice age that changed the climate of the whole planet for a good long time and killed off a lot of living beings in the process. Remember how one time there was a plague that wiped out two thirds of the European population? But then some people lived on and continued to be shitheads? Remember when we had two “World” wars and all those old people shook their heads and predicted the end of civilization as they knew it? Were they wrong? No, they weren’t. Yet humans kept multiplying and building and destroying. We exploded nuclear bombs (by “we” I’m obviously speaking of my own country since we’re the only ones to use them against others so far, and yes, I find that incredibly shameful) and here we are now, with one of the dumbest men on earth in a position to unleash more nuclear bombs into the world. Here we are .
I don’t honestly care that much about humans as a race, I know the earth will heal itself and re-invent itself once we’re gone and I take great comfort from that. But I DO care about individual humans, I can’t bear to see others in pain. I DO care about all the other beings on earth who’ve had to struggle to survive around us and in spite of us. I DO care about the trees, the ocean, the soil, and the tiny psilocybins covering forest floors and rotting wood. I care desperately for earthworms, abandoned pets, wild violets, and the sourgrass that I loved to chew on as a child that’s growing in my garden right now. I think you care about a lot of these things too, and maybe you also care about the survival of the human race, and that’s why we have to nurse ourselves through the shock and horror of current events and then get back out there and fight. I don’t know if humans are facing the end of things or not, but last night I took on my fifteenth feral foster kitten for the year and I’ll be damned if I give up making the world a better place for abandoned cats and kittens like him.