Since early 2022, I have posted several times about the disturbing matter of the likely collapse of the world order in which we now live. Many of you are probably tired of hearing/thinking about that. So, here I am focusing on enjoying the present as well as extending the future of our civilization.
We humans are prone to embrace extremes. There are many people who focus so much on the present that there is but scant consideration given to future perils. Of course, many such people are so busy with work and family there is little time to think beyond the press of daily affairs.
On the other hand, others think/worry so much about the future in light of the current ecological predicament, their present happiness is stifled. This is especially true for those who realize that TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) may soon become a reality.
Eco-anxiety is a current psychological problem for many, and especially for many younger people—and I encourage you to read this Sept. 16 article posted in the New York Times, which Thinking Friend Anton Jacobs sent me last week.
Is it possible, though, to be keenly aware of the likelihood of TEOTWAWKI in the near future and still live with joy in the present? I think so.
As in many other situations, we must seek to be firmly established in a position between the poles—in a radiant center, if you will. At the very least, we need to learn how to “toggle” between the opposites.
How can we live with enjoyment of the present while being aware of the collapse that lies ahead in the not-too-distant future?
I asked Bard (Google’s AI chatbot) for suggestions about how to live joyfully in light of the current ecological predicament.
I fully agreed with the beginning of their response: “The ecological predicament is a serious one, and it is important to be honest about the challenges we face. However, it is also important to find ways to live joyfully in the present moment.”
Indeed, that’s what we must seek to do: both to be honest in assessing the world’s ecological challenges and also to learn how to live now with a sense of joy.
Bard’s suggestions regarding how to do the latter were not bad. They included “spend time in nature,” “connect with loved ones,” “be grateful,” and “give back to others.”
(They also suggested, “do things that you enjoy,” but it didn’t seem very intelligent for AI to say the way to live joyfully in the present is to do things that you enjoy.)
Enjoying the present largely depends on not allowing the fears of the future to dominate our thinking. Rather, we must be fully present in the present for much of the time.
Knowing that industrial civilization will at some point collapse—and sooner than most people are willing to consider probable—doesn’t mean we can’t live with enjoyment in the present. We individuals, especially we older adults, know that death is coming, but we still can experience much joy now.*
But it is imperative that as we enjoy the present we don’t jeopardize the future by damaging the environment. Or, more positively, our goal should be living joyfully in the present and also doing all we can to extend the future for the coming generation(s).
While TEOTWAWKI is most likely to happen sooner than any of us want to think, human action now can push that collapse further into the future. Twenty years from now is far better than ten years, and collapse in 40 years is much to be preferred over 20 years.
What can we do to extend the future while enjoying the present? Here, very briefly, are three important things we can do in this regard:
1) Seek increasingly to practice simple living.**
2) Continue to develop good environmental practices and to encourage friends and acquaintances to do the same.
3) Work actively for the election of Senators and Representatives who have a good understanding of the current ecological predicament and who will work to enact public policies that will, indeed, help to extend the future.
* I have already dealt with this matter to some extent in “Memento Mori,” my 1/28/23 blog post, see here, and I encourage you to read that post (again).
** A helpful book in this regard is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living (2000). This book is now out of print, but several used copies (reasonably priced) are available at Abe Books. I also encourage you to read “The Shakertown Pledge: Nine Ways to Make a Difference,” my 5/5/11 article on the GoodFaithMedia website (here).