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Las Vegas Welcome Sign – Nevada – USA
Photo Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

This is the third in the series of my reflections on the “shifts of being” proposed by Jem Bendell in Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos (UK/USA 2021).

#1: Reflections on the Nature of Being
#2: Reflections on Entitlement

Jem Bendell uses the word “surety” to describe the threefold human assumption that we can be certain of reality, that it is good to be certain, and that there is a universal standard through which we can all agree what reality is and how to know it (Bendell, p. 127). For centuries now, humankind have used the rational scientific method, free from individual subjective bias, to determine and expand our knowledge of the nature of reality. We have made enormous strides in such fields as medicine and engineering.

Those who hold fast only to reality derived from the rational scientific method disagree with the subjective bias of faith-based religious belief systems. The gods, prophets, and saints who respond to our pleas for help are not real, they argue. They are only a figment of our imagination to alleviate our pain and bring certainty to our lives. They also reject individual spiritual experiences as an integral part of our reality as human beings.  

Human nature itself has also come under the microscope. Are humankind essentially good or bad? The human capacity for both heroism and barbarism is evident across time and space. No people, no society, no country is exempt. We are complex beings with limited senses and cognitive abilities.

I share Bendell’s view that our many “delusions of surety” arise from an “aversion to fluidity.” A word or words used to describe our conception of a reality somehow becomes the truth. Rather than deal with the complexity of our reality, we hold onto the stories we tell ourselves about our reality. I have also succumbed to this behavior. Add anxiety to the mix and we cling even more to our world view, ignoring what is happening around us: record-breaking heat waves, icecap/glacier melt, drought, wildfires, storms, and floods.

Long-term projections of climate-change scientific models are already upon us. To avoid facing the reality of our climate emergency, we clamor for better computer-based climate models, more studies, more conclusive data. We find escape in conspiracy theories, Christian nationalism, religious institutions, warfare, and more. Here in the USA, we have even created an alternative reality based on alternative facts.

My belief in a Supreme Being or Force, present within me, has helped me to understand and navigate the world and find my place within it. Am I deluded? Maybe. Nevertheless, my faith in things seen and beyond human perception offers me a sense of surety in the uncertainties and vicissitudes of life over which I have no control. In the face of adversity and loss, I draw on this force within me to keep moving forward.

I am no delusion, Child of Men. It is the Mighty Colorado River who speaks. For more than a billion years, I have traversed and carved out this vast land on my long journey from the Rocky Mountains to the Sea of Cortez. I know every cranny of this arid land. Long before your first primitive ancestors appeared on Mother Earth, I have provided for fish of all kinds and welcomed all manner of creatures that roam my banks.

Since the day that men harnessed my waters to grow their cities and feed their peoples, my story became entwined with yours. It seems like a time beyond time that I once mingled with the salty waters of the Great Sea. Even the Sky God withholds his bountiful snow and rain to swell my flow. Yet, the ever-growing needs of men know no limit.

Take heed, Child of Men. Your people need a new story of reality. Without my life-giving waters, your great cities cannot survive on this vast, arid land.

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