COP26 #13

I was talking to a friend about how we do not notice change happening all around us, as if we are pre-programmed to assume stasis, even though our whole lives have been subject to continual change. We do not have to ponder long to consider how the world has changed in our own lifetimes. I am 54 years old, so was born before the internet, before mobile phones, before global warming was first widely identified (we commonly mention the first 1971 climate change conference) and before ABBA even.

I say this as we all have to live with the ever present reality of impending ecological disaster brought about by global warming. It can be overwelming and almost impossible to imagine both the scale of what is coming and how we might change the arc of recent history. Yet change IS possible. The pandemic should have made this clearer than ever.

If we add just a few generations into our change concept, then the human impact on the world around us becomes impossible to ignore. Rather than reading this as a death spiral down towards destruction, we have to remind ourselves that what is made by human hands can also be unmade, reshaped and reformed.

St Brigid’s well, Lough Derg, Donegal.

I am also still constantly wondering what it means to live a good life in our changing context, because personal change requires some level of aspiration. What models of goodness still apply? What do we aim ourselves towards and measure ourselves by?

The old religious ideas of goodness seem mostly irrelevent, with their emphasis on personal salvation from (mostly) sexual sin, rewarded only in the next life. I would suggest however that these models of goodness were always at best a contextualised, partial reading of the texts that they trumpeted so freely. Other kinds of goodness were ALWAYS there, but we have to reclaim them, place them front and centre and then allow them to reclaim us.

In many ways, this is what this blog is all about. I do not say this because I can claim any personal victory or success over my own demons, but rather because the journey has to start from where we are.

Today, on the teetering edge of the COP, I offer you this thought. What if goodness might require a letting go of old binary/dualistic ideas of good and bad – seductive and ego-satisfying as they always are – and deliberately moving towards ideas of deep connection, non-violence and partnership with the world and with each other. In the words of the book ‘against such there is no law’.

More than this we have to consider how this might change and challenge our attitudes. I would suggest it might be important to look in these directions;

resilience in place of growth

collaboration in place of consumption

co-operation in place of competition

wisdom in place of progress

balance in place of addiction

moderation in place of excess

vision in place of convenience

accountability in place of disregard

self-giving love in place of self-centered fear

Spiritual rather than material satisfaction

(Adapted from CAC post)

This is just idealistic nonsense, right? Well, perhaps, but remember that change is shaped not just by power and progress, but also by the cultural context. The industrial revolution was almost entirely protestant Christian. It is time to move beyond this towards a new vision of goodness. We do not have to look far, but we have to look hard.

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