The simple and obvious understanding that shock is an integral part of our human experience goes back deep into our history. The above title comes from the ancient Chinese Book of Changes.
Every culture, and every person knows shock intimately. The interesting thing about shock, whether from within or without, is that in many cases it can be foreseen, if there is thoughtful insight and understanding – if clear heads prevail. Unfortunately, clear minds are hard to find in Americas leadership these days, or in the world at large.
My intention here is not to unravel the political insanity that has led to our present viral debacle, others will do that better than I can. My intention is to investigate our collective relationship to Reality itself, which is the natural world. If our dominating attitude continues much longer, we can expect more global shock in our future. I connect our present situation to our Western civilization preference for abstraction and subjective idealization, rather than the hard facts on the ground. We’re dreamers, right? In other words, we are lost in our heads, floating above the Earth. This frees us from any responsibility for our relationship to the natural world in which we inhere.
If our reality is virtual, as it seems to be these days, then we have only eyes in the back of our heads like the ancient god whose name I can’t recall just now (I don’t Google). We stumble blindly into the future, completely unaware of consequence. Our Western worldview is not grounded in the sacred Reality of the Earth as other cultures have been and are still. For us it’s just another commodity to be consumed. Got Lithium?
Reality itself is not subjective, nor is it ideological in Itself. It just is! Only in the mind of humanity is it divided out of its Oneness. There is, ultimately, only One thing going on, even if it appears as a chaos of Being. We call that One thing Life. Unfortunately for us, we are not having it more abundantly these days, nor will we in the future if we don’t renew our deep and inherently intertwined relationship with the natural world. In my mind, I see it as our Sacred duty.
I’m 74 now, a lifelong asthmatic. I’m a sitting duck for tiny RNA gizmos like COVID, but my old Zen bones are fine with that. I’ve beaten the odds. These days, sequestered at home, I can sympathize with the poet Goethe: “I thank god that I am not young in so thoroughly finished a world.” Of course the World is still here hundreds of years later, and Life will continue on, though possibly without many humans. The critters at the top of the heap are sure to go when everything that supports them collapses.
Maybe we should all go look for Galt’s Gulch. (See Atlas Shrugged.) I guess it’s here in Colorado somewhere. We can hole up there with the elite until the chaos passes – inhabit our dreamworld to the bitter end – never have to look Reality in the eye ever again.
Or maybe it’s time for some rapture. We’ll get out of Dodge altogether. Or, if that’s too much, we’ll move to Mars. Sweet escape. Sweet dream. That’s America. It’s written in our script, and apparently we are unable to rewrite even one line of our tragic folly.
Chip Schoefter writes from Montezuma County, Colo.