No, what I need to do is grieve. Specifically, I need help with grieving. When I read about the Coast, I notice that I can look at maps, I can follow the videos about corporate deceptions and censorship... but what I cannot bear are the stories about the animals. I can't look at the pictures, I can't hear the stories. I can't take it in. But I need to, because I am a part of the culture that has been so profligate in the uses of oil. How much plastic crap have I bought over the years? Why am I still bringing my produce home in plastic bags? I drive a car. I have driven a car since I was twenty-one. I can't pretend innocence. I need to be able to look honestly and fully at the horrors that are occurring as a result of a lifestyle in which I have fully participated. I need to be able to face, shame and guilt notwithstanding, the facts about the billions of forms of life that are dying and will continue to die as a result of my generation.
I need to grieve. That is the first step. I remember that, after she wrote her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe was constantly confronted and asked "But what can I, as an individual, do?" She would answer, "You can make sure you feel right." That was a brilliant answer. Far more brilliant than "call you Senator." And far more difficult.
Stowe knew that the facts of human captivity, abduction, enslavement were overwhelming. Most white people retreated to some form of belief that somehow the suffering and horror was different for the captives than it would have been for themselves. They dissociated into economic models to prove that nothing could be done. They donated to an abolitionist group, and let that be the limit of it. To "feel right" was going to seriously impact their quality of life. To be aware, in an ongoing context, of the vast empire of human suffering that underlay their lifestyle was going to compel them in some small way to share the pain.
The most radical action I can do right now is feel what my species have done, with my knowledge and participation, to the Gulf Coast and its lives. And it is going to cost me. I can feel it. Otherwise, why am I shutting down over the information about the suffering wildlife. My life is going to change, when I can get to the full and appropriate extent of the grief.
Grieving is powerful. As an activist, I remember how governments have tried to control the funerals of dissidents, outlawing displays of grief. The Catholic Church in Ireland banned keening on several occasions. Keening was an expression of great lamentation... and it was traditionally done by the women. In fact, some of them would keen professionally. Keening was this kind of other-worldly wailing, a vocal vomiting of grief. I remember trying it once, and I was shocked by the sound of it, but also by the power. It reaches way down into the gut. No wonder it was banned. When you cannot express grief, the feeling of it becomes stifled. And stifled grief is not good.
I remember stifling a huge loss for ten years. It came out sideways in rage, and what couldn't come out as rage, roiled around inside me, contributing to an autoimmune disorder that sidelined me for ten years. When I remember this, I think culturally, what will we do if we cannot face the magnitude of this loss collectively? Will we ramp up our distractions, which are already ubiquitous? No doubt we'll consume. Bigger, better, faster. And what about rage, which is just about the only emotion big enough to trump grief? I think we're already seeing that. Blame is a terrific way to divert grief.
In fact, people will do almost anything to avoid grief. It's crazy. But we fear grief so much we will ruin our lives rather than go through a patch of grief that might last a month or a year. I am not sure why we are all so terrified of grief. The tragedy, the loss, has already occurred. But accepting loss is just something we humans really, truly do not want to do unless we absolutely have to.
I work a 12-Step recovery program. In fact, I owe my life to it. Those steps have helped me walk through grief over and over. Show up, pay attention, tell the truth, let go of results. So that's how I'm going to do this Gulf thing:
1) Show up. I'm going to the gathering. I'm following the news. I'm trying to face the wildlife thing. Not there yet, but I know I need to.
2) Pay attention. Trying to, like I said.
3) Tell the truth. Truth is, I'm not there yet. I want to forget, ignore. I would like to scapegoat and blame. I need to change. I want to live my amends.
4) Let go of results. If I can "feel right" about this situation, I believe that my life could change in radical ways. I can't let fear of that keep me from showing up, paying attention, and telling the truth. And that is where a spiritual component comes in for me. Hard to let go, maybe even impossible, if there is no trust.
Well... this is sounding like a sermon. Maybe it is. Yo, Deb Randall... This is the final day of the 5-Day Blog-off. I did it! Thank you! You got me launched... Sister!