“Facing the paradoxes and ambiguities enmeshed with the COVID-19 pandemic, David Abram finds beauty in the midst of shuddering terror. As we’re isolated in this uncertain time, he writes, we can turn to the more-than-human world to empower our empathy for each other.
“Right now, the earthly community of life—the more-than-human collective—is getting a chance to catch its breath without the weight of our incessant industry on its chest. The terrifying nightmare barreling through human society in these weeks has forced the gears of the megamachine (all the complex churning of commerce, all this steadily speeding up “progress”) to grind to a halt—and so, as you’ve likely noticed, the land itself is stirring and starting to stretch its limbs, long-forgotten sensory organs beginning to sip the air and sample the water, grasses and needles drinking in sky without the intermediating sting of a chemical haze.
“LUMINOUS BEAUTY IN the midst of shuddering terror. Interpersonal solidarity—layer upon tearful layer of empathy for one another—in the midst of enforced solitude and loneliness. The paradoxical, ambiguous nature of this moment is so confounding, so bewildering! I mean, how excellent that our arrogant species receives this collective slap-in-the-face reality check, waking us two-leggeds up to the simple truth that we are not at all in control, have never really been in control, that we live at the behest of powers—of a complex interplay of powers—far beyond our ability to fully fathom, to predict, or to steer. What hubris to have imagined we could do whatever we want with this exquisitely interwoven wonder of a world! And yet how awful that this lesson must come at the expense of so many unsuspecting human lives, so many innocent souls now shivering with fever and fright as they struggle to draw breath.
“Much that influences the future shape of our societies will ride on how we emerge from this crisis—assuming we do emerge—how we transition out of the strangely suspended dreamscape in which we suddenly find ourselves adrift. Governments and their administrative agencies will play their roles as best they can, each trying to claw or engineer its way back into the daylit realm. But the textures and tastes that eventually come to predominate, the rhythms of community in our bioregion, the generosity and convivial ethos of the larger body politic—or the robotic and bureaucratic rigidity of that body politic—will to a large extent be determined by the choices each of us makes in this cocoon-like, shape-shifting moment. The future will be sculpted, that is, by the elemental friendships and alliances that we choose to sustain us, by our full-bodied capacity for earthly compassion and dark wonder, by our ability to listen, attentive and at ease, within the forest of our unknowing.”
Read the full story by David Abram, PhD, is a cultural ecologist and philosopher….