“We’re fucked,
and we choose life.”

This phrase describes a beautiful connection I had today while working in the kitchen with my friend Marie, an inspiring woman I met at the permaculture course I took two years ago. She looked at me in the eye at one point as we were talking about climate change, food systems, peak oil, and a myriad of other harsh realities and simply said, “We’re fucked.”

I was taken aback at the statement, largely because Marie has worked closely with the church for most of her life and, well, in the evangelical churches in which I grew up We Never Cussed, and especially didn’t say Fuck. I take it as a strong statement coming from Marie, so when she said it a second time while we were making ginger beer I looked at her and said, “You’re really facing these issues, aren’t you? And living in the face of them, at that.” Marie then looked up from grinding the ginger and said, “Yes, isn’t that the choice we all sit with – to be faced with death every moment of our lives and to choose life. It’s always the choice in front of us.” She resolutely returned to the ginger and the loud churning of the coffee grinder filled the kitchen. It felt like an epic moment as I was sent into my own silence pondering the immensity of that statement.

Marie and her husband, Lyle, have been working very hard in the two years since our course to transform their house and heavily wooded 7 acres just outside of town. Marie’s been tending gardens, planting (and propagating) fruit trees, and even bought a set of solar panels for their roof with her life’s savings! Lyle’s built an extended green house on their house out of recycled wood from their deck and a pond with an herb spiral, and has plans to build a bigger pond, ferro-cement water tank, and a cob cabin for guests. Marie and I spent the afternoon making sauerkraut, ginger beer, and laundry detergent and we also saved heirloom tomato seeds. Next week we’ll work on more indoor projects and start building the tank or working on the pond, if the weather permits.

Doing this kind of work in a community or family setting is very empowering. From experience, advice, and a felt sense I know that tackling enormous political, social or environmental dis-eases alone is damn near impossible. It requires a deep wellspring of staying power to stand against (and this is not a one-timer, really the phrase “stand again and again” is more appropriate) all of the stresses of a perpetually ill society, and this is not even taking into consideration one’s own inner strongholds and woundings that have the capacity to stall right action.

It’s also easy to get stuck alone in one-side-picture-thinking (We’re fucked!) and stop there. Joanna Macy speaks powerfully to this in her books and workshops geared toward transforming despair by perceiving our interconnectedness with all of life. In an interview with personaltransformation.com she is quoted as saying, “People fear that if they let despair in, they’ll be paralyzed because they are just one person. Paradoxically, by allowing ourselves to feel our pain for the world, we open ourselves up to the web of life, and we realize that we’re not alone. I think it’s a cardinal mistake to try to act alone. The myth of the rugged individual, riding as the Lone Ranger to save our society, is a sure recipe for going crazy.” And later, “Group work is most effective because we are conditioned to think that despair is a personal problem that we must handle alone. A group experience restores a deep faith in life.”

In my experience, even freeing oneself to talk about these feelings, however depressing, with friends, family, co-workers, etc can bring about powerful bonding experiences that are essential for working together toward enlivening action. As I told Marie today, “I think it’s important that we allow ourselves to complain about the way things are.” In fact, I think a certain measure of complaining is healthy. It frees up energy that would otherwise find a home in the body and helps us work the issues out instead of bottling them up or repressing them (where they don’t go away, but actually gain force -as I’ve learned in Gestalt Therapist Training, “What you resist will persist!”). The important part is to complain and act. Ignore-ance doesn’t make problems go away. “We’re fucked, and we choose life.”

Together. Every day. Starting with simple actions around the home and within immediate community.