I was recently introduced to the Miracle Question by my wife, a social worker who has used it to help people transcend hopelessness in their lives. A substantial part of my writing has unwittingly followed its example as I’ve dealt with the growing potential for humanity’s extinction and the guilt associated with helping drive other species there first. Definitions and simulations of an “ideal world;” fictional versions of what they might look like and feel like by characters who care; and poetry describing efforts by heroic “death stoppers” have resulted from creative problem-solving with both analytical and artistic dimensions.
In my latest experience, self-care has required a setting and enforcement of boundaries, practical and emotional, that enable functioning in the face of persistent news of growing breakdown in society and the natural infrastructure that it depends upon. I examined the relationships between what I thought and how I felt from the perspective of cognitive behavioral therapy, coupled with an honest appraisal of my responsibility for conditions I automatically chose to feel guilty about. I finally found a job to recoup financial losses during my self-imposed hiatus that had unfortunately coincided with the onset of the COVID pandemic and the predations of a much more irresponsible mob.
Understanding how easy it is for me to expect and therefore detect the existence of catastrophic failure modes in every system around me, including myself, I have allowed myself to celebrate resilience and learn to seek it out effectively as I have its opposite. This is a work in progress, as I fight fear that it too may be doomed to failure.
Recently I turned to an approach that strikes a middle ground and has worked briefly in the past, sometimes as a seed for creative insight. I searched for simple overarching variables that could define a better state in the experiences at hand. During a walk at a nearby reservoir I instead seized on a simple value statement based on what I have already discovered: everything comes down to how well we live and how long we live. I explored one aspect of this statement in a video I made during that walk. The three variables I identified form the basis of my historically derived model of human experience; and they can be appreciated at all scales, including what is seen and felt on a morning stroll in a mixed setting of people, birds, plants, and artifacts.
Since then, I have mentally and emotionally processed daily experiences within this context, easily expanding my awareness to the possible configurations of all variables based on which we choose to care about in the actions that we take. This view helps, like a map, to define and plan how to achieve a set of experiences that is “better” than what (or where) they are now. Creativity replaces reactive feelings with a process for turning the perception of miracles into lived experience.