Sunday, November 5, 2017

Beyond the Rabbit Hole

For weeks I have been fighting episodes of physical pain and depression triggered by what I've come to call "going down the Rabbit Hole." Direct experience or news leads to a cascade of thoughts about its meaning at all scales, accompanied by a mix of anger, helplessness, and despair that cannot be expressed productively to effectively delay, stop, or escape the destruction of many lives in the near future. Since I built my entire value system on the avoidance of extinction, its failure is my failure, and what feels like a profound depletion of the value of my own life – especially since I continue to contribute to the source of that failure in the way I live, a hypocrite to the last.

Seeing over a decade of predictions coming true provides no solace, and no useful guidance about what to do next. I had focused most of my energy trying to understand it and figure out how to stop it, while sharing the results of that search with as much passion and reason as I could muster. What was a tiny amount of remaining hope a year ago was dashed by the election of leaders whose words and actions strongly support just the opposite: growth at any cost, including the extermination of humanity – except for them and their families – as well as any other species that get in their way.

Attempts to focus onto doing and celebrating as much good as possible – like a dying patient working though his bucket list – have been overwhelmed by the torrent of news about far too many others doing just the opposite. I fall easily back into troubleshooting mode, and from there back into the Rabbit Hole.

As I write, there has just been another horrific mass shooting, beckoning for me to learn who and what was responsible. I am drawn to watch a crazy routine of identifying short-term answers that won't yield any lasting effects, because such acts are a symptom of something that resides in all of us, something we fear addressing more than the consequences of not doing so: the capacity to objectify other people to the point where their lives mean nothing relative to our own. Such reflection is just a taste of what it's like to go down the Rabbit Hole, which as part of a vast network of tunnel-like understanding connecting many experiences, is the same as the network itself.

Intellectually, I know that to get beyond the Rabbit Hole, to get beyond the pain it triggers and the death it represents, a new set of experiences must be discovered, described, and felt at a deep, visceral level – made as real as what they will ultimately replace. To draw on another metaphor, we must think and live "outside the box." In whatever time I have left, I'll try doing so, because the pain is becoming too much to bear.