“The Utopia is a vision of the rational form of society, and it is best seen,
not as an end, but as an informing principle.” – Northrop Frye. (1)
It Goes That Way
Everybody’s pushed and pulled. Our circumstances bring us down or give us hope. Whether we bob and weave like a boxer or curl up in a corner or blend our coping strategies, our actions never remove us from the incalculably complex—and still largely unknown—forces swirling around and within us.
That’s the way it goes. Vulnerability is always part of existence. What’s different now is our part in the way things are going.
The belief that cosmic forces must always flow toward balance has underpinned the most fruitful philosophical and religious thinking. Presidents, queens and dictators are subject to the yin and yang of the universe (to use one fruitful model of this balancing act); the oppressed of this wicked wonderful world are inspired by poet-prophets like Bob Marley, who sang, “from the darkness there must come out the light.” For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s Third Law).
Every age thinks its circumstances are novel. Ours has an uniquely strong case for thinking so because modern science has declared this to be a new epoch, the Anthropocene, which is unique for being shaped by only one species—us. Our actions thus invite a similarly unique opposite set of reactions, as yet undetermined.
What form might nature’s balancing take if our species remains in “the trough of the wave”—our yin ways, our willful ignorance? Our power will diminish because it is disengaged from the inevitable surge of the life force from which we’ve divorced ourselves. The dark shadows of our own creation will make way for the surprises of a new dawn on a new world in which we’re powerless, if we survive at all.
Sorry for the glum scenario. It’s just logic talking. Look on the bright side! If wisdom prevails and our species embraces the humble view that we need to go with the flow of nature and abandon our vain attempts at control, the new dawn might just have a little corner for us.
Our part in “bringing out the light”—our yang side—is becoming clearer as the need for it grows. Guess who’s gonna get us there?
Everybody is, especially those at the bottom of the current order, because they have the numbers and the motivation. Those of us with the luxury of time and freedom to meditate on the big picture may take a Zen-like attitude of serene indifference or be on fire with the zeal of the newly minted activist. We may conclude that we can positively affect each other’s actions and beliefs through persuasion, friend by friend, client by client, neighbour by neighbour.
The chances are good that we’ll surprise each other. There’s no up side in believing that we’re doomed, that humanity’s flaws as the perpetrators of epochal change are too entrenched—that we’re fundamentally evil creatures, a virus on Earth.
The new human city pulls with healing and mutual support as a key to growth. We cannot say where our efforts (enlightened or benighted) may lead—who’d want that!? But harmony with the life force is part of our vitality. Awareness of vulnerability informs our sense of community, motivates our collaborations and makes us curious.
We look for the light and try to keep our part in the way it goes.