Podcast 10/21/19 When our stories collide
Intro: My apologies for the extended break between podcasts but I’ve been pondering a new format as I attempt to expand the reach of this series. I do this because if I’m not engaging people in this process of figuring out how best to respond to the Climate Crisis then it’s simply a waste of our God given talents at a time when the need for our effective participation has never been greater.
So, beginning with this podcast episode “Sustaining Creation Now!” will change to a much shorter time length and a much more focused engagement with you.
Each episode going forward will contain a story focusing on 1 element of the news and then an outright challenge for you to engage in the solution. If I’m successful in my efforts to concentrate the message into a tightly packed episode then the sub-title of this new format will “10 with Terry” as a reminder to us all that it’s a changed format.
Ready set & here we go.
Story: When Our Stories Collide
The background for today’s podcast is 2 different & yet related news items:
• Daily now, 16-year climate activist Greta Thunberg is being subject to vicious verbal attacks both in the media and at her demonstrations mostly by white males both young & old. This news item particularly raises my concern level for our society because I’ve granddaughters at that age and picturing them on the receiving end of such verbal abuse turns my stomach and increases my blood pressure.
• Recent reports of protest actions by a group known as the Extinction Rebellion movement include large numbers being arrested amid intensifying police response and that also individual participants are physically assaulted as well. They are being assaulted by other people frustrated with the disruptions to their daily routines caused by these protests in their communities.
Recently I was giving a public workshop hosted by 4 churches on the 3 urgent tasks for people of faith to undertake in response to the climate crisis. The tasks being to:
1. Confront our society with the reality of the Climate Crisis
2. Guide our society through the grief that results from understanding this new reality
3. Connect our society to hope so that rather than staying mired in the depression of grief, they will be inspired to take positive action in response to the Climate Crisis.
This is an involved workshop, some 3 hours long, and the first session focused on understanding the reality of the Climate Crisis is longer than the other two. Consequently, by the end of session 1, participants have viewed a couple hundred slides along with hearing my detailed comments. They really need a break, not just to meet physical body needs but also to relieve their overloaded cognitive functions with the common response of “Oh My God, I did not realize it was this bad!”
During this first break a gentleman sitting in the front row doesn’t go anywhere but immediately attempts to engage me in an argument. It’s readily apparent, that he doesn’t need a break because he hasn’t listened to anything I’ve said other than to grab a couple comments to pull out of context and then to attempt to use them to win an argument with me over the non-reality of the Climate Crisis. After all, as he tells me, “It’s all just an elaborate hoax, don’t you know”.
This gentleman was a Climate Denier. His purpose of coming to my workshop was not to participate but to show me the errors of my way. It’s not the first time this has happened in one of my presentations and in truth I should have been expecting a denier to show up since there was a local newspaper article on this workshop published in advance.
When you advertise a Climate Crisis presentation, the deniers come out of the woodwork. Some are paid actors, but most are simply zealot’s intent on preserving their current way of life at any costs. This is done with similar motivations as those actions being taken in the news items I referred to at the start of this podcast.
The gentleman tried several of the typical denier arguments on me, but they don’t go anywhere because as I tell him, I’m too old to waste any time or energy arguing the physical laws of the universe. The physical laws of the universe are not subject to debate, they don’t need our approval or change because of our disapproval they simply are what they are. If you trap more energy because we’ve polluted the atmosphere then you heat up the earth and bad things happen, end of story.
Failing this attempt, he then tried to challenge my terminology as being slanderous to good people who disagree with me. Specifically, his objection was to my use of the term: “Climate Denier”. He said that people take offense because it means I’m comparing them as being like people who are “Holocaust Deniers”.
I told him that I understand his concern but as terrible an event as the Holocaust was, and it was indeed horrendous, but the innocent victims of the Climate Crisis is going to vastly exceed the Holocaust by several orders of magnitude if we continue on our current path. So, my use of the term “Climate Denier” is in fact my considered opinion and I will not cease to use it.
In the history of human civilization, we have frequently denied the reality of our causing the suffering of others and it isn’t until we recognize it and own it that we begin to change. So, I will continue to embrace the use of this terminology even if it causes discomfort or embarrassment to some individuals.
The gentleman then left the workshop not staying for parts 2 & 3 as he didn’t really want to ponder any new reality. I suspect so also did the critics of Greta Thunberg and the assaulters of the Extinction Rebellion protestor.
I’ve been pondering these escalating clashes and conflicts as to what might be the root cause and I’m more & more convinced it resides in an inherent conflict between our core stories.
For you see, I believe that our lives are grounded in stories.
Some stories are large & some small.
Some arise from our particular families, neighborhoods and cultures.
Some stories are superficial to our lives and some are embedded so deep as to inform & guide the core of our being whether we are conscious of them or not.
One of my favorite writers is Rebecca Solnit and in her book: The Far Away Nearby, she describes the power of stories:
We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment
We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or be blind.
Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning.
The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then to become the storyteller.
I have reached the conclusion that our stories collide whenever my understanding of how human society should conduct itself threatens your understanding.
With our current focus on hyper individualism as a core value in our society then the outcome of this story collision is conflict. It might begin as simple criticism or dismissal of ideas; it can grow to include verbal abuse and alienation but there’s also the very real potential for it to escalate to outright violence if an individual or group feels threatened as a result of this conflict.
I’ve been pondering these clashes and conflicts as to what is the root cause and I’m more & more convinced it lies in the significant perceived conflict between the polar extremes of “community Vs individualism” as grounded in our core stories.
How big is the conflict over the Climate Crisis? The closest historical conflict of this magnitude is the dispute over whether people of color are fully human which can even be found in our constitution’s original language assigning a 3/5’s value to some people. This of course led to a civil war plus other great evils and is still an issue largely unresolved to this day.
What might change this conflict over the Climate Crisis? Engagement & respect of the other.
How do we get there? Now that’s the critical question of this age and it’s terribly important that we find a way forward soon as possible as people are already dying from the Climate Crisis and it’s only going to get worse the longer, we delay.
We will spend the next several podcasts exploring elements of this conflict of values between “rights of the community” and the “rights of the individual”. But my time constraint for this podcast has already been exceeded so let’s wrap up with a bit of wisdom and an action for you to take in advance of the next session of “When Our Stories Collide”.
Jimmy Carter-I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
The Talmud – You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.
Action: In next several podcasts of the “When Our Stories Collide” series, we will explore topics of:
• Hyper Individualism
• Freedom Vs Responsibility
• $$$= Free Speech
• Corporations = people
We’ll also explore some potential pathways to engagement and mutual respect of each other as we seek solutions to the Climate Crisis.
• Building community even if you are an introvert
• Fighting your own blindness
• Listening to understand instead of hearing to argue
In anticipation, as you go about your daily routines over the next week, think about to what extent you participate in community.
Has that changed over the years? In what direction?
Towards more participation or towards more isolation?
Is this a concern to you?