Cry of the Wild, We are the Ones We’ve been Waiting For

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships? Are you in right relation?

Where is your water? Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community. Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

–The Elders Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation
Leonardo DiCaprio’s The11th Hour is an unflinching cautionary tale about our growing environmental crisis. The film speaks volumes about our disconnection from nature and the resulting tendency to exploit our physical landscape. Rather than seeing our soil, water, food, and energy sources as vital, living components of the greater web of life, we see them as assets to be mined, pumped, harvested and sold. This physical disconnect, especially in our urban and industrial settings, contributes to the radical dysfunction we display toward our habitat and home.

The 11th Hour paints the distressing picture of a house on fire. Yet, despite the film’s compelling depiction of the urgency and magnitude of the crisis, I left the San Francisco premier wondering if we weren’t missing a key aspect of human psychology in the equation.

As we race to throw water on the burning building (a vitally urgent and necessary act), let’s also contemplate the pyromaniacs who set the house on fire in the first place — us.
Reflection and Action

Our wisdom traditions teach that the physical world is an expression of our individual and collective consciousness, “As the inner, so is the outer.” The devastating symptoms of the impending ecological crisis, the gruesome expressions in our physical environment, are direct reflections of our collective inner landscape.

Perhaps if we understood the deeper workings of the human psyche, we might have insight into the root cause of the crisis we face…and a better sense of the path out.

I spoke with environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author, Pawl Hawken, to explore this topic. “The world is a reflection of who we are,” commented Hawken, “but I’ve always felt this alone is a cop out. If someone’s hurting, you help them. Peace is an ‘inside job’, but the act of helping changes who we are inside.”

So inner reflection and external action go hand-in-hand. But who among us is doing the inner reflection? What can we do to address the up-close-and-personal aspect of our shared crisis?

The following is a prescription to consider:

1) Get Physically Connected

“Whether it’s trees, landmarks, soil, water, blue skies, or the weather itself. We are losing our places,” says Hawken.

Our loss of connection with nature not only reflects a fundamental aspect of our crisis, but, ironically, simultaneously diminishes our capacity to solve it. It is imperative to get physically connected again. We need to spend more time outside — going into our yards, our parks, our forests and walking consciously on the earth. As we make contact with nature, we can acknowledge our need for stability, sustenance and nutrients. As we breathe the air, acknowledge our reliance on each breath that follows. As we put flowers in our homes, acknowledge the fundamental human need for beauty. When our lives are barren of these most fundamental connections to our earth, then our hearts will be barren of empathy and our minds barren of options.
2) Feel the Grief of Being Implicated

No matter what we’re doing individually to help the environment, it is not enough. Sit with this for a few moments. Take in this truth — be fully implicated for everything you’ve done to contribute to this terrible crisis and everything you haven’t done to fix it. Don’t move, don’t act, don’t think. Just feel the truth of it. Heartbreaking and overwhelming? Yes, but do it anyway. Don’t skip this step.

“Individuals come to points in their lives when they become depressed or down. Those are the teachable moments,” says Hawken. “The transformative moments are not the peak experiences, the joy, the getting the gold medal. The transformative moments are reflective.”

Let’s use our depression as a teacher.

The unconscious desire to avoid personal implication keeps us ineffective and in denial. We don’t like feeling the heartbreak of personal responsibility, but this same heartbreak can be incredibly powerful if we face it consciously. It brings a tenderness that can lead to a spontaneous upwelling of new insight, new possibility. From the ground of an open heart arises the wisdom of the ages, something beyond the individual self that holds the collective in its care. Many Native American elders speak of making decisions on behalf of seven generations of unborn children. When we cultivate an open heart we also cultivate the courage to hold the interest of greater whole within it.
3) Jettison Despair

Being accountable for our past is one thing, despairing over the future is another. Biologist Rene Dubois once said, “Despair is a sin.” Despair is a common fear response that moves us back into denial and inaction.

“In despair, we help no one. We fix nothing. We aid nothing. We nurture nothing,” says Hawken. “It’s too late for heroes and it’s time for humans. What we need is to be more human, more humane — first to ourselves, then to each other, then outward. That involves listening, compassion, kindness, generosity, humility.”

Despair constricts the heart and makes us feel powerless. Don’t be tricked into giving away your power that easily. We have a full range of available choices and actions in this crisis. “The world has precipitated this situation — the teaching is before us. The gift is that we are being asked to change who we are.”
4) Peer into the Mirror

We can’t remain who we are. Something must change, and that something is us.

“In order to solve this problem, everybody has to walk through the looking glass sooner or later…and it’s not a pleasant experience,” says Hawken. “We are in a linear ‘Take-Make-Waste’ civilization that is destroying its habitat. All of us are responsible.”

So how do we pass through the portal? Once we’ve acknowledged our culpability, we can start to investigate our own interior, especially the parts we have carefully denied. If our planet is a mirror, then it is reflecting internal states of fear, greed, exploitation, waste, manipulation, violence, callousness. Look closely — where do those qualities exist in you? Be honest. Once we recognize the earth’s wounds as our own, we can start the process of healing.

This exploration into the shadow is a necessary exercise that requires courage. Without it, we will continue to expend effort treating the ghastly superficial symptoms but missing the deeper deadly infection. We will scramble madly to throw water on the burning building while the pyromaniacs (us) simultaneously set new rooms ablaze. “The 11th Hour is a shadow film,” claims Hawkens. “Once you own your shadow, you become whole.”
5) Declare Your Vision for the Future

Once we embrace the whole, we can see with greater clarity how the quality of our consciousness determines the quality of our world and our future.

Our fear and aggression has been a powerful shadow force, but our hopes and desires are an even greater creative force. We have the power to move beyond our fears by exposing the unexpressed desires that underlie them. Through declaring our hopes and desires, we can create a new vision for the future.

As The 11th Hour suggests, we have a stunning opportunity (and obligation) to completely re-conceive virtually every human system. We each have a piece of the overall puzzle — our job is to discover our piece and live it. “If your idea of being alive is to be full of ease, comfort and illusion, it’s probably not a good time for you,” says Hawken. “If your idea of being alive is to take part in conceiving a whole new future, this is a stunning time to be alive.”
6) Tend to the Details

Of course, a brilliant vision is only meaningful if put into practice. So, tend to the details of your piece of the puzzle. If you are a business person, set a timeline for zero-waste or carbon-neutral. If you are a commuter, go hybrid or use public transportation. If you are a parent, adopt the earth into your family and let your children know it. Just as you would tend to the details of your own child’s health and well-being (hygiene, education, nutrition, etc.), tend to the details of your earth’s health (power-saving light bulbs, recycling, involvement in remedying local injustices, etc.). Once you’ve taken the first steps, take the next steps, and then the next.

“On the tactical side, the technological solutions are here,” says Hawken. “I’m not saying that stunning new things aren’t being invented all the time, but that’s not the obstacle. The obstacle, of course, is ourselves.”
Perhaps this should be the theme of the next movie? “It should be called Solutions,” says Hawken. “It’s about who we are, what we’re doing, and the extraordinary possibility in all this.”

The Hopi Elders might have it right. In the 11th Hour, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.


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