Global crisis – the view from Naramata
by Stan Hirst
Naramata Centre – a green, leafy place on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, British Columbia. For more than 60 years it has been a haven for learning, spiritual nurture and renewal. Over the course of a July week, with the outdoor temperature easily leaping over 30oC, a group of us sought out a quiet, shady spot and gathered in a circle to have a conversation about the world and our place in it. We were mainly elders hailing from B.C. and Alberta, some from Saskatchewan and Ontario and one all the way from California.
Earlier in the day a small group of dedicated organizers had spoken to us, sung to us and exhorted us to take on the task of healing our afflicted planet. They regaled us with images and headlines of global climate change, vanishing species and troubled times. In grand biblical fashion they marched us around a hall where 12 gates had been set up, these made not from ancient stone but from board and paper on which we could scribble our concerns, thoughts and intentions. The gates were labelled Education, Politics, Alternative Economy, Waste, Energy, Neighbourhood, Earthly Kinship, Travel, Spirituality, Food, Water and Stuff.
And then we were sent off to form the conversation circle to express our own views and thoughts on the global crisis. No debates, no critiques, no defences needed against opposing views. We could say whatever we wanted. The outflowing comments were every bit as diverse as the underlying issues and concerns, but gradually some patterns started to emerge. With a little sifting, grouping and clarification we started coming up with some core thoughts and concerns which I share here.
Our view of the global scene:
– it’s not a black and white world, and we often seem paralyzed by the complexity of the gray distinctions;
– what’s happening in our familiar little piece of the globe keeps us from seeing the big picture clearly;
– sometimes what’s happening nationally and globally is so big it paralyzes us.
The global crisis is leading to personal conflict:
– growing awareness of the issues produces a sense of inner conflict;
– we feel conflicted by our lifestyles and the footprint of our well-intentioned activities, e.g. the carbon footprint of travel to reach transforming places;
– and yet, inner conflict can be good when it leads to growth and action;
– we will have to be willing to risk being in conflict about things that matter deeply to us.
– it takes courage to be distressed;
– there is spirituality in all peoples and in Creation.
– we are developing an encouraging level of consciousness;
– when the knowing/awareness moves from our heads to our hearts, it transforms us;
– we benefit from stopping and witnessing ourselves.
We noted that:
– change is inevitable;
– little things make a difference (one starling in a murmuration?);
– we live in a society that encourages polarization of views and attitudes;
– we tend to hold individual positions rather than search for common interests.
We enquired amongst ourselves as to what skills would be good in dealing with the situation?
– the skill to understand how the issue affects all parties;
– the skill to develop consensus (getting to that place where everyone involved can say, “I can live with that”);
– the skill to move the discussion from something based on individual position to one of common interest;
– the skill to deepen our spiritual practices
– the skill to understand what it means that everything is connected (a gentle spider-web?)
– the skill to hold an awareness of hope, energy, and spirit.
There was nothing particularly unique about our conversation under the green canopies of Naramata this past summer day. Thousands of discussions and conversations just like it go on every day across the land. But that’s the point. If more and more elders sit and talk the situation over with intention and spirit, then more and more will contribute to the great pool of realization as to where we are, where we’re going, and what we need to do personally to move to something better.
[with thanks to Tim Scorer for keeping the notes on which this report is based]