Cross Cultural Christian theologian Raimon Panikkar makes what seems like an important point in dealing with complexity and in producing peace.
He suggests that people conditioned by Modern Life, or Western consciousness or culture, can run away from both reality and wider eco-systems in order to live and participate in their societies. These societies are hostile to ecologies and to humans because they seem to seek complete domination and control over the ‘world and events’, rather than accept the dynamics of ‘world and events’ and work with them. People in these societies seek security through that sense of domination, and through the assurance that any disruption of required order will be temporary.
Climate turmoil is particularly threatening because it undermines that sense of domination and the sense of security which has grown around the idea of controlling the world. It clearly states we do not have control, and that the control we do have is going to lead to disaster. Hence, what I’ve called the Existential Crisis of Climate Change.
Complexity thinking is also a challenge, as recognising the real complexity of social and ecological systems also threatens that sense of security and control, as we can then perceive that our best-intentioned, and most understood, actions are likely to provoke unintended consequences.
If we place ourselves in a continual rush, without regard to likely futures, and the trajectories from the past, it becomes easier to suppress the trauma provoked by awareness of climate failure and complexity, and to carry on destroying the world without facing deliberation or awareness. Society helps generate that rush through work, and distracts us from anything ongoingly important by daily scandal, or the emergency of the moment – often without putting the emergency into historical context, so it is just another overwhelming event (hopefully happening to others). This does not produce peace. Indeed this society apparently requires upset and strife.
Panikkar’s solution is simple, but perhaps difficult to practice, and resembles what I understand of Daddiri.
Panikkar emphasises the importance slowing down, and of cultivating a receptive attitude, rather than a dominating attitude, when working with life and complexity – and everything is complex.
Receptive in this case means accepting what is happening and allowing the dynamics of what is happening to be present, while:
- Not attempting complete control over, or complete security in, the situation.
- Not running away; because accepting does not make things worse, it only increases awareness of how bad things are, and allows us to face the fears undermining us,
- Not trying to change what is there immediately – giving it, and yourself, space to be,
- Suspending attempts at total understanding, as they are not possible,
- Being ok with normal ignorance, but learning what you can,
- Not isolating the present completely from previous experiences, but not dominating it with previous experiences, it is both unique and continuous with other experiences.
His idea is to start with maximal awareness of what is – including perhaps awareness of death – and then to proceed gently without force, and with flow, while still being receptive to events as they occur whether expected or not.
This process encourages us to retain our memories and experience, while giving us context for understanding, and making change. In this way we can acknowledge and mourn our losses (anticipated or otherwise), honour the value of what is lost, or may be lost, and bring what might be the future into our present consideration.