The Great Unknowable

We have to get lost. This means that things aren’t going to happen as we expect, as they should. We’re going to get other stuff instead. We’re going to go out of our depth.

Kilgooth Ust (in English, Cape Cornwall)

The bigger implications of the Covid outbreak are now beginning to unfold. As I mentioned a few months ago, this isn’t about Covid – it’s a deeper and bigger change. Covid was the catalyst, bringing a cascade of events to force a change in the human psyche, globally. Covid itself will be forgotten, in time – it was just the trigger.

In a sense, this qualifies as a classic case of ‘divine intervention’. Imagine you’re an archangel, trying to help the people of planet Earth with their self-created problem. Previous attempts to trigger fundamental change – say, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the horrors of Syria – have not worked sufficiently. The challenge therefore is to create a trigger situation where it hits home hard enough to upend and shake out the foregoing human mindset that creates the problem, but not so hard that it knocks people back fundamentally, rendering them incapable of change, because they’re suffering, struggling and dying too much.

Et voila. It took the form of Covid 19 – a brilliant creation, sophisticated enough to outfox the brainiest of people and the most controlling of authoritarians and bureaucrats. It creates enough damage to rock things, but not enough (yet) to fundamentally disable us.

Carn Les Boel

There’s something much deeper going on than this – it’s a reality-reconfiguration. It’s so fundamental that even those of us with the loosest, widest, deepest thinking are rather lost. Yes, lost. Thoroughly disoriented.

A sure sign of this is the way that we’re all trying to map a certain vision onto the future, to restore something of the way things were before. For some people it’s all about where and when to go on holiday, and for others it’s all about who controls the world, and why, and what we ought to do about it. But the problem is that reality has shifted more than that. Even the most visionary, progressive ideas use assumptions and concepts from the past. We don’t really know what has shifted, or how exactly it happened. It’s just that we’re waking up in the morning suddenly realising that things already look very different. We’re rather lost, and getting more lost.

I’m one of the more visionary types around here. I’m well-versed in history and geopolitics, I’ve been on this path since the Sixties and have had time to think things through, I’m articulate, brainy and, guess what, to be entirely honest, I don’t have answers. Here’s the rub: anyone who proposes that they do have answers doesn’t really have them – they are projecting onto the future a framework, an understanding, that seeks to restore the past. I’d put myself amongst them: I too am doing this, in my way.

There are a lot of experts and pundits out there, advocating explanations, and recently we’ve entered a new phase in the battle of ideas and viewpoints and it’s very complicated and shifting. No one really knows what to think any more, so some of us suspend judgement or cop out, while others grasp on to sure-fire analyses of what’s happening and what happens next, megaphoning them at everyone else. As if reality is created through majoritarian agreement. No, it isn’t. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Especially now.

Treryn Dinas

This gets problematic, because it’s not just a simple question of right and wrong. Take conspiracy theories, a classic example of reality-projection, born out of a need to control the uncontrollable and to see the world as Big Brother’s plaything – a father complex. Well, problem is, much of the analysis that constructs this mindset is ill-interpreted and ill-founded, but there is also a lot of truth in it and some conspiratorialists are pointing at something really important. Unfortunately, their insights are obscured by a lot of loud noise, sensationalism, sales, over-analysis, misjudgement and right-wing politics. So, including in the world of smoke and mirrors, we’re lost.

Guess what, the great manipulators – those much-vaunted Illuminati, Trilaterals, Bilderbergers and Reptilians – are lost too, and we don’t have just one Big Brother – we’re also witnessing a war of the titans at the top of society. Eitherwhichway, this is an example of how it’s working at present – we’re obsessed with grasping at explanations, whether scientific, ethnic, religious or conspiratorial, or anything, as long as it sounds good and makes us feel safe.

Everything, somehow, is partially true, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are obsolete concepts. There is no right or wrong: there are simply outcomes. This is one of the operational rules of the 21st Century.

Now this gets interesting. A few years ago I wrote a report about the world in 2050. I sought to map out the issues and the scope of the complete planetary problem. I did quite a good job, as it goes, given the size and scope of the situation. It was reasonably clear what needed to be done – the social, ecological and other mega-issues we all know so well by now. But how to fit them all together and how to get there was the big issue, and today we’re faced with an enormous dysjunction.

Problem is, there’s the goal. That’s one thing. Then there’s where we stand today. That’s another. The two neither match nor connect. Given where we stand today and what we’re doing, we won’t reach the goal. Yes, we’re making big changes, but electric cars are not enough. It’s our inner grasp of things that needs to change. We’re faced with cosmological change. But we’re still in a phase of trying to restore the past. This includes the visionaries, the progressives, the leading-edge people – it doesn’t only concern those un-wokes who are perceived by progressives as needing to get real and catch up.

Gurnard’s Head

To get from here to there, which we cannot do with our existing sense of reality, that reality has to get shaken out in such a way that we get totally lost and disoriented. So that our fixities and structures get shaken out, on all levels. This would be a crisis and a catastrophe in one sense – a serious global mental health and organisational challenge – but the idea here is that it’s a way in which we might avoid actual, total catastrophe – such as the still-unresolved possibility of blowing up the world with nukes, or a systems breakdown or climate event so large that the majority of humans suffer and die horribly.

We have to get lost. This means that things aren’t going to happen as we expect, as they should. We’re going to get other stuff instead. We’re going to go out of our depth. It started happening last year, when we suddenly fell over a cliff we didn’t quite know was there, and we still haven’t grasped how high the cliff is. This falling sensation applies to every single one of us.

We’re falling, tipping over an edge, not sure what we’re falling into, but we’ve already lost balance. Arguably, this tipping phase began around 2008-2012, but it cracked and went critical in 2020, and now we’re on a slippery slope.

I don’t know what happens next, but here’s a key clue. We have a vastness of issues to sort out, and it all hangs around society, social choices, social justice, social power and societal healing. If these are not progressed in the next few decades, we will not handle the climatic, ecological, biosecurity, geopolitical and other issues before us. It all hangs around collective willingness, consensus, belief, consent, acceptance and cooperation. Human community. This has been put before us during the Covid crisis and this is what stands before us now.

But it isn’t about persuasion, leadership and followership, and it isn’t about recreating and replicating the past. Then comes the question: well, what should we believe? There’s an answer to this, quite well summed up by a chunk of wisdom from our old friend Jesus: by their works shall you know them.

Pendeen Watch

In other words, look at the people who are doing things. And help them. I keep quoting a Xhosa saying: listen more closely to things than to people. Don’t give so much attention to ideas, beliefs and viewpoints. Try to do today whatever is best in this situation, as it stands, using your instincts, acting creatively and moving things forward from here, in big and little ways. Because this is about spreading our wings and learning to fly. Birds don’t see the air that supports them when they fly – they feel it and sense it. They fly by trusting in the air. That’s the way to go, and there’s much more to go.

But don’t just believe me because (I hope) I sound convincing. People like me, the ones pumping ideas into the collective psyche, are part of the problem. Ideas are a problem. That’s not an anti-intellectual rant: it’s just that, the way our ideas are configured, they’ve become a problem. We do need to use our heads, but differently.

Here’s a tip: get more happy and okay about not knowing what the fuck is going on. You’re unlikely to find out.

Bosigran Castle

So, if you were an archangel, seeking to effect a Great Reset even on those who believe they are doing the resetting and in control of the process, you’d spin everyone round and cause them to get thoroughly lost. So that the cards get reshuffled quicker. So that solutions can come without having to drag through a lengthy processes of change and resistance to change. So that the constraints of the past can be freed, and the assets of the past can more truly be harvested – the brilliant, amazing aspects of human history, genius and hard work that have also characterised our current civilisation. So that we actually survive, without excessive, irreparable damage done.

Here at my place, there has just been a lovely fly-past of five hooting geese. They’re off to spend the day at the pools just by Tregeseal stone circle, two miles away.

With love. All is well.

Palden

Helping

This isn’t really a question of politics or ideology any more. The word ‘crisis’ comes from ancient Greek. It means a situation prompting us to distinguish, choose and decide.

Lynne and I went adventuring, visiting a 2,000 year old iron age settlement here in West Penwith. What I love about these places is that it’s possible to get a feeling of the lives of people who once lived there, long ago – of grandparents sitting by the fire, children playing, grown-ups coming and going, busying themselves with tasks and chores.

This settlement, Goldherring, had a workplace feeling: it looked as if many of the buildings were functional workshops and stores while only some seemed to be residential.

There was a chill, rather cutting springtime wind, even in the milky sunshine, so we squatted down in the sheltered remains of a roofless iron age building, erected about a hundred generations past. Out came the tea flask and biscuits – necessary ingredients in antiquarian investigations – and we sat there chatting about life two millennia ago and life as it is now.

Goldherring was occupied in three or so phases in the late iron age, the Roman period and early medieval times. Apparently the first lot came from abroad, since items from Brittany were found in the lower archaeological layers. Later on the place seems to have been a forge, the home and workplace of a specialist craftsman. The Romans didn’t have a great impact down here, since they never invaded Cornwall – stopping at Exeter – though they influenced the place, rather like USA or China influence us now, here in Europe.

Like many people I’ve been quite shut away and mostly alone for what seems like a very long time, so when Lynne comes to stay it’s A Big Event, and when she leaves there’s rather a large gap. We aren’t unused to it: over the last five years we’ve had a hundred-ish long weekends together and we’ve developed strategies for dealing with it, but there’s still a gap, and sometimes it yawns vulnerably.

Sometimes it gets tested too. During the first lockdown in 2020 Lynne couldn’t visit for quite a while. It activated that ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ experience you can sometimes get when you’re a human on a planet, locked into time, geography and circumstance. This might happen again too, now. Covid has hit Lynne’s business (she’s mainly an astrologer), she’s been bumping along fending off the wolves from the door, and now her car has suddenly failed its MOT test, needing big repairs or replacement. And Covid has drained her money-pot. Uh-oh, looks like we might miss some weekends!

This is a small, personal part of an incremental, degenerative social and economic hollowing out, as the cascading impacts of Covid work their way through. We look a little too closely at the pandemic to see clearly what’s going on. In the end, the pandemic will be forgotten – it was a catalyst of a bigger process of change – and what the longterm future will reveal is that in 2020 we crossed a tipping point – though really this tilting of history started perhaps in 2008-12. Or around 1989-93. Or perhaps around 1965-70.

It concerns the scaling down of an overinflated economy running on coffee, cocaine, excess and shady dealings, the power of people to have agency and influence in that economy, the hearts and minds of crowds and publics worldwide, the willingness and consent of society to go through changes we know to be urgent and necessary, and the relationship between the world’s ecosystems and human behaviour. Big questions – quite bottomless societal, environmental and psycho-spiritual questions. We’ve gone too far, something fundamental needs to change, and there’s something very factual about that.

This isn’t really a question of politics or ideology any more. The word crisis comes from ancient Greek. It means a situation prompting us to distinguish, choose and decide. We spend a lot of our lives engaging in avoidance strategies, and of course crises are uncomfortable, threatening, often painful and cruelly indiscriminate. They present truth and facts, whether or not we like it – there’s no stopping an earthquake, hurricane or an advancing army. But a crisis is also an opportunity, an integral part of the pattern of change. There can be unpremeditated, instinct-led possibilities available, and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get a tragedy, sometimes a miracle. For better or worse, crises tend to force and resolve multiple issues at the same time. Crunch, bang, that’s it.

I personally am not in an immediate crisis right now – I’m kinda chugging along – though I’m in an ongoing one as a cancer patient. Since I was diagnosed in Nov 2019 I’ve had three crunchy crises and others will follow, and one will cut me down one day. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that my own problems are bigger than other people’s, since they involve confronting death and quite high levels of difficulty and pain. Yet, looking at Lynne and the bill-paying concerns and daily-life complications she’s labouring through, I find myself wondering what’s genuinely harder – a long, hard grind like hers or a red-flashing-lights crisis like I sometimes get?

Two thousand years ago in Goldherring they didn’t have money worries – they didn’t have money! They bartered, gifted and negotiated, and a large part of that negotiation was with nature itself. A bad harvest or a cold winter made a big difference. An Atlantic gale could rip the thatch off your roundhut roof, at the wrong season for replacing it. They faced the tough realities of living on Earth, just like we do.

But they didn’t live in our particular kind of civilisation, with its copious discontents and MOT tests. Living in their own culture and just outside the big-booted Roman empire will have had its own issues, but perhaps those issues were a little more real than ours. Not least because, in our day, simulated realities seem to be replacing manifest reality: belief seems to be overriding what’s standing in front of us. This isn’t new in human history, but the scale of it is new. There are more souls alive today than ever before, experiencing that simulation and, unfortunately, believing that it’s reality.

Philosopher Teilhard de Chardin invented the idea of the noosphere (pronounced no-osphere), the constructed world of human belief – what we think is going on. It becomes a self-programming mega-algorithm that then defines our collective reality as we perceive it. Early in prehistory the ecosphere largely conditioned people’s beliefs and behaviours, and human history since then has been one long story of the development of an ascendant cultural consensus, the noosphere. It has replicated to a point where, in our globalised, urban-industrial-digital society, it shouts louder than the ecosphere, especially to city-dwellers, who also tend to make the decisions on everyone’s behalf.

Nowadays, if the ecospheric world impacts on the noospheric world, we dynamite and bulldoze it, setting scientists, doctors, engineers and politicians on it to chase it away. But the noosphere increasingly resembles a house of cards, resting on shaky dependencies and rising so high that its foundations have cracked, and the ecosphere is impinging on us anyway.

The pennyworts were poking up into the sun and a buzzard wheeled overhead as Lynne and I sat there, huddling together in the iron age with our tea and Nairn’s biscuits, reflecting on life. For the plain fact is, while Lynne is scraping along to pay the bills and my pension is modest, as inhabitants of the rich world we are still in the top 25% of wealthy people. For many people worldwide, Covid means not illness but hunger, and many of these people – farmers, favelistas, enterepreneurs, employees – were doing alright enough before Covid came along.

Yet within our own sphere of reality, each of us has our problems. Some are really dire (think of many Syrians or Yemenis, or of people keeling over with Covid in Brazil) while many people are confronting ‘grindstone mentality’, the uncomfortable feeling that we’re not doing enough to solve our problems and we must do more, setting aside our main priorities to do so – yet again. Then we worry about our ‘mental health’ when many of us, and society as a whole, are having a spiritual crisis. WTF are we here for, and is this the world we really want?

I’m psychologically quite self-sufficient but Lynne nevertheless makes a big difference in my life. She’s one of those who is willing to prioritise things that aren’t in her immediate self-interest, doing so with a lot of love and care – not only for me but for lots of people. And for the plants and microbes in her garden.

It rests on this kind of person to save the world: this has been demonstrated during the Covid crisis. It has been a case of ‘amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic’. Society has leaned heavily on dedicated people who have an altruistic bent and the skills of service. It has leaned especially on non-professionals acting out of goodwill, service and commitment – in the rich world social care and healthcare have been over-professionalised, while family and community support systems have been asphyxiated by ‘progress’ and the busyness of a demanding modern life. Lynne is one of those non-professionals, a quiet supertrooper. Though some professionals have done a heroic job too: I’ve seen this with the doctors and nurses I’ve met, and through the eyes of my son, who’s in the air ambulance business.

It’s also a joy, as a disabled cancer patient, to get up in the morning, light the stove and bring Lynne tea in bed. For in truth there is no such thing as helping: it’s an energy-exchange. Lynne brings so much goodness into my life yet mercifully she seems to feel that it’s reciprocated.

By healing we become healed. By giving what we can, even when we have limited possibilities, we do receive. It is possible for a whole economy to work like this – and I’ve seen such principles at work in Palestine, where officially there is high unemployment and a lot of destitution yet everyone is busy and more or less catered for, even under the duress of living under longterm military occupation. Sometimes, when we need help, the best thing to do is to help someone else. Help the world.

One awkward question we need to face in the coming time concerns social roles and their tendency to get fixed: whether we’re a net helper or a net recipient, male or female, black or white, progressive or resister, we mustn’t get too attached to any positions in the spectrum. Because help and support flow around society in the most miraculous and amazing of ways. If we permit it. For this to work, everyone, no matter how helpless or seemingly useless, has something to give and we need to give it. Withholding our humanity and creativity holds the world back.

Over the last month I’ve been chugging away at completing a five year research project. It’s something I can give to the world, in my reduced capacity. Its value will be appreciated only by a small number of people, but it contributes to society’s cultural capital and it’s a contribution I can make. I’ve just finished it. It’s an online map and database of the thousands of prehistoric sites in Cornwall, providing online resources for use in researching prehistoric sites and their meaning and purpose. It’s here: Map of the Prehistoric Sites of Cornwall.

If you’d like to sample some music I’m enjoying right now, try this – Trance Frendz.

All is as well as can be. Beeee goooood. Lots of love from me. Thanks for reading.

Palden

Eclipse of the Soul

I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream.

Eclipse of the Moon in Bethlehem, Palestine, during the 2011 Arab revolutions of 2011

It’s strange. Everyone is busy angsting about Covid and here am I, as usual focused on something else entirely – in this case, right now, cancer. Or, more precisely, chemotherapy. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the last week. Dragging myself around, feeling the gravitational weight of living on a dense-gravitational planet, holding up my weak back and gasping at shooting pains in my bones, feeling a deep tiredness with life, a tiredness with its daily routines, with yet another breakfast, yet another day. OMG, not again.

Thoughout life I’ve always sought to light up the lives of others around me, with varying degrees of success, sometimes getting confused with the dark shadows in my heart, always picking myself up for another round, another try, another angle… and sometimes, burned out, drooping and flopping into life’s mudbath, the slough of despond, to go down, down into the murky depths of human struggle, the jihad, the holy war of inner conflict, the war with the axis of evil in the human heart… and for what?

Lying in bed in the semi-delerium of chemotherapeutic drudgery, with the BBC World Service bringing the heroic crowds of Yangon, Minsk, Santiago and all stops to Hong Kong to my bedside, ringing around in my night-bedarkened cranium… lying there hearing the complaints of my fellow countrypeople over the time spent queueing to get inoculated against a virus that is too intelligent, too agile to tamp down so that we can all return to normal, return to a comfortable purgatory, a purgatory that all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence…

The normality of democratic freedom, a freedom to choose our own washing powder to dissolve the persistent criminal stains of omission, commission and perpetration that permit us our apparent freedom. A freedom to supply munitions for the bombing of faraway Yemenis so that we can pump up the employment statistics, share values and the great god GDP, just because those Yemenis are less than us, somehow less deserving of the certified serving of chocolate and tax bills that make up our cherished freedom.

I had an extended moment of revelation. One of those moments when you see something you’ve long been perfectly aware of but didn’t really dare to look at. I saw how lonely I’d been throughout my life. I was born in 1950 in a baby-boom maternity home that was about to close – the last baby to be born there. All the staff was there, watching. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be born, to start that long trajectory of landing procedures leading into the tangly web of life and its involvements.

Up in heaven I had known I could do it, but now I was not so sure. There were all these people waiting to celebrate my birth, not because it was me but because I was the last, the last before they all got transferred somewhere else or had to find new jobs. It was the back end of a tragic baby boom when our parents tried so hard to replace the devastation of war with new hope and a constant stream of dirty nappies (diapers). Someone probably had some postwar rationing-busting plonk and munchies for that moment and they celebrated the last baby while I lay there wondering what was to happen next.

Yet I grew up into a teenager who looked at my dad, who had fought in Egypt for our freedom and lost a leg in the process, telling him we weren’t free. We were living in a totalitarian society where, at least for us but not for the Commies over there or for the starving children in Africa, our chains had been coated with carrots and cream. My parents thought something was wrong with me – after all, if I listened to that raucous, long-haired noise of 1960s pop music there must be something wrong. No, Commies weren’t like us, and any sympathy felt for them just showed what betrayal and subversion these youngsters were capable of – perhaps they were enemies in our midst, traitors to the cause, undermining freedom when, really, they ought to be grateful and get a proper job.

Like many in my time and like so many right now, I was struggling for truth. Now, half a century later, here am I, churning in bed with a war in my heart, struggling to plumb the depths of truth. Oh why, oh why do we fail to see? We’d prefer to destroy our planetary nest than to do without the security of chocolate, tax-bills and easy answers – it’s safer, it’s normal. If some dictator, some oligarchy, turns down the screws on another few million people, well, that’s life, and it all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds, shillings and pence.

Yes, struggling in a war against cancer that is being fought in the muddy battlefield of my being, in midst of that soup of fears, doubts and shadows that make me human. In that moment of seeing it became so clear how I had created this aloneness pattern myself: my pattern, my incrementally-repeated choice. In the pursuit of my percieved calling, my struggle to help humanity and shift society’s tiller in a new direction, I had walked away from so many. I had shrugged shoulders, let go and moved on. They had paid their price and I had paid mine. I’d shared so much redemptive love, care and awakening with so many people yet, in another way, I’d engaged in a life of struggle to reach across the light-years of distance, to try to reach to another human star-soul in the vastness.

Here I was, an ageing man churning in bed, wading through his demons, missing loved ones near and far, blessed with a seeing, a revelation of fact-sodden truth, a statement of futility, an audit of the enormity of the task of generating light in the muddy morass of earthly life. It’s a light that struggles even now to illuminate the stone walls of that prison of the soul that is me.

Before you rush to assure me it’s alright, send me reiki and pray for me to ‘get better’ – whatever that really is – and before you lapse into the belief that I’m indulging in negativity, please stop. Please sit and look at the phantasmagorical disaster-zone of your heart: sit with it. It’s there, it’s uncomfortable, yet here lies a key, a lost chord, a lump of gold sitting between the dragon’s paws. It invites you take a deep breath, let go of fear and pick up your birthright. It’s lonely and dark down there, but here lies the key.

Today I go into Treliske hospital for another round of pumping up with drugs. As a denizen of a rich country I am privileged to receive this, as if it’s a birthright. The Dara is already giving me the shits and the Dex is dragging me into a place where nightmares transmogrify into explosions of light and back again with bewildering rapidity. This treatment feels foreign to me, but these are times where my own vision of reality fails to accord with that which apparently is believed by the majority. What’s important to me in my own manner of perceiving is not what’s important to the medical system I have resorted – it doesn’t understand it. But this is the dilemma of being on Earth – no, of being in this civilisation at this time on Earth. We all share it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place – all of us. Serving our time. Doing what we feel is best yet making a pig’s ear of it, drowning in the disappointing pointlessness of constructed belief.

But this grinding action, this grating and milling, it generates light. Awakening before dawn, before the crows did their morningtime auditory armada of swoopy crawing in the dawny gloaming out over the farm where I live, and my demons were irking me. But now dawn has come and the sun is up, shining through the big windows of my hovelly palace – it’s called The Lookout because that’s what you do here, look out. The demons are scarpering in the dawning light. Vacating space until they can come again on another haunting mission. Perhaps it all was a nightmare. Or perhaps it’s the truth of my being. At this moment I cannot judge.

But when I was sitting there shivering, having just lit the woodstove, listening to a robin on the dog-rose outside, perkily tweeting hello, I realised, well, better to grind this stuff now than to leave it until the moment of my deathly transitioning. Better to grow while I can, to see clearly without the grey-tinted glasses of daily routine – the one that looks at the clock, telling me to get ready to be picked up for the journey to the cancer unit at Treliske. Yes, it’s now time to get normalised, to keep to the timetable no matter what. Get plugged back in to the matrix. Get ready. Take your pills. Do the business. Be responsible.

For those of you who are familiar with that quackish charlatanry called astrology, you’ve just read an unpremeditated description of a transit called Neptune opposition Saturn. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, well, that was your choice, and that’s okay too – we all have to live with the consequences of our choices, with the particular way we arrange the furniture and wall-hangings in the prison-cell of our souls. We all share this dilemma.

Paradoxically, nearly eight billion people are alive today yet we all face an aloneness that has never in human history been achieved before. We all have our demons, believing they’re unique to us without realising that they are but minuscule variants of the demons we all share – demons to which we give power, with which we’re fully capable of polluting and destroying our planetary home. For the demons out there are demons within us and the redemption of both go hand in hand.

It’s okay, really. Everything is okay in the end, and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Some people tell me they’re so sorry I have cancer, but I find myself wondering why truly they feel this, or whether I should be sorry for them instead. It doesn’t matter. In the end it’s all an enormous phantasmagorical Youtube video, an epic production of illusions showing in five dimensions on the custom-made cinema-screen of our psyches. Who needs a subsription to Netflix when we have this? It’s free and it’s right here, with no need for shipping in from China.

Ee, there’s now’t so strange as folk. God must be amazed at us, at the imaginings that we in our billions can cook up. It must be distressing for him to see how we blame the Chinese for what they’re doing to the Uighurs when it is we ourselves who are doing it whenever we buy yet another packaged product in our supermarkets. Or perhaps he laughs when he sees us languishing in our beliefs, including those that construct him into a God that, as John Lennon in one of his own moments of despair, identified as a concept by which we measure our pain.

Now it’s time to put the kettle on, shower my creaky body, dress up in my togs and get my ass to Treliske, for another round of the never-ending Youtube movie that is life. Chemotherapy, sometimes a high, sometimes a low, provided for free on ‘our NHS’ so that we can spend a little more time on Earth struggling with that darkness and light. Is this the life we came for?

Don’t fall for the idea that I’m suffering more than you. This is the life. This is the playground in which we are playing it out. Here’s the ketchup to squirt over it. And there’s the kettle, ready to disgorge its contents into my teapot. Here we are. The oldies amongst us will remember this, from the back of the Whole Earth Catalog: we can’t get it together – it is together. Perfectly together. This is where we stand. All will be well. But to reach that point of calm certainty in your heart, it’s necessary to dig down in the deeps, make love with those demons and live to see another day.

Now for the next bit. Peace, sisters and brothers. Palden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUSaO07ThmY

The picture above is of a lunar eclipse over Bethlehem, Palestine, in 2011 at the time of the Arab revolutions. The Youtube video is a song by Roger Waters called Perfect Sense, from his 1990s album Amused to Death.

Ruminating on the 2020s

Padjelanta national park, Sapmi - Swedish Lappland
Padjelanta national park, Sapmi – Swedish Lappland

I’ve had good news. I talked on the phone to the haematologist at Treliske hospital in Truro (about 40 miles away) and she seems pleased with my results. Although the readings from blood tests are slowly rising – this is to be expected, but I could be worse than I am – the PET scan I had a couple of weeks ago, to see whether any further damage was being done, turned out well. So I do not need to go back on chemo right now. I’m glad, because I’m tired of getting poleaxed by medication and fatigue. I need to revive before the next round.

But that’s not what I want to write about.

As promised, here are my thoughts on the next ten years or so. There’s a combination of a historian, futurologist, astrologer and seasoned observer coming through here, and long hours in bed have meant a lot of time to ruminate on these things.

I think the 2020s are going to be both difficult and more encouraging than the 2010s. Covid is the beginning of a process, and there are more storms to come – that’s the difficult bit. It’s going to be an uphill grind. Or a different kind of grind than the one we had before.

Looking more longterm, this process started around 2008-12, when the overall balance of global trends tipped critically, and it has been ramping up over the last ten years: the world crisis is no longer a thing of the future but it’s now present and here, in all departments of life and coming at us in waves. We have entered the inevitable period of price-paying for the profligate lives we’ve led in the rich countries and the destructive aspects of the world system we’ve created. Some of us saw this coming way back in the 1960s, but the majority didn’t agree or want to look.

During the 2010s we needed to be given gritty, distressing challenges to get us engaged, to grind us down and prepare us for what happens next. It was in many ways a dispiriting decade, but a lot of good things bubbled underneath. Many revolutions failed, but many people were changed by them. Covid is in a way a climax of that phase and the beginning of the next one. It’s a punctuation point.

The issue is this: since the world has delayed action on necessary human and planetary issues, there’s a lot of catch-up to do, and a lot of damage has been done. We’ve lost fifty years, and things can’t wait. Events are taking over. This is no lnger a matter of opinion.

There’s a long way to go before we find the full range of solutions – it will take the whole 21st Century. To progress, we need to be accelerated into a process of change that will take us out of our comfort zones and confront us with hard facts. Humanity needs to get itself mobilised. Now it’s a time of consequences, imperatives and seeking solutions.

Though a few might think it’s the only option, an all-out catastrophe would not help. Catastrophes hurt, disable, stun and set people back, and they are not the best recipe for change. We need to make big choices and get behind them – even if we’re arm-twisted by events to do so. What’s needed is a deepening series of crises that tip us incrementally into change-processes, forcing us over a succession of thresholds and pushing us to get really real about our situation and its many details, nuances and implications.

It’s especially about human society. Without substantial changes in our group psychology and behaviour, we will not get through the century intact. This concerns cooperation and sharing, and it brings up collective emotional issues about identity, power, who decides, and how much we really care about nature and human nature. It concerns Us and Them.

So people across the world are variously cleaving into progressives and resisters, new tribes and old tribes, and this is the new politics. Ultimately, humanity has to realise it is one tribe, but this will come clear only when Ronald Reagan’s late-1980s Reykjavik Proposition comes true: humanity will unite when it realises it is not alone. But without humanity cooperating as one planetary race, there will be insufficient resolution of environmental issues, tech hazards and the wide range of potentially fatal issues that face us now.

So we’re being accelerated, and it is reasonable to expect further crises ahead, and particularly multiple crises happening at once, or cascading crises with proliferating implications – as Covid is with the social and economic issues it has precipitated. The urge to restore normality is an unconscious reaction to this acceleration, part of the process of letting go of the past. Normality will not be restored, no matter how many dollars and scientists you throw at it. But there are still options. It’s just that the new normal is going to keep changing.

The 2020s are likely to be very different from the 2010s. The shit will increasingly hit the fan. But something else has been bubbling up underneath to meet this and change the equation: a growing surge of new ideas, perspectives, attitudinal changes, technological advances and challenging situations that nevertheless prompt progress and positive developments – as in ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.

Astrologically, an interesting and rare configuration is approaching in the later 2020s for which my best description is ‘cultural florescence under duress’. This will not be easy because we’ll be battling with more crises. But the difference is that the tide will be flowing more strongly then, and this loosens things up. It allows creativity, innovation, new ways of seeing things and new reality-configurations. There is likely to be a battle of ideas, perspectives and loosening positions, and a generational change in which Millennials will be coming to power (and my own generation will be dying off).

One of the big questions will be, do the people exist for the system or does the system exist for the people? Questions of systemic control, the rights of the individual, the needs of the collective and the balance of the three.

This will not be the old workers-and-capitalists battles of the 20th Century: it will be between progressive people and ideas at all levels of society, and resisters, some of them indisposed to change, some victims of change, some of them vested interests, and many who are older, marginalised and disoriented. These too need to be considered, because this isn’t any more about my side or your side of the argument, it’s about the complete outcome of all arguments, for all people and in all areas of life.

So we have come to a need to rehumanise society. Another issue concerns social willingness to cooperate. If change is imposed, and if governments and those at the top of society fail to act in people’s overall benefit and society fails to come together to cooperate, then resistance, exceptionalism and non-cooperation will ensue, complicating things terribly – this issue has been tested in the Covid crisis.

So we’re likely to get an escalation of both problems and solutions, and we’ll be challenged to see when solutions are actually solutions. If we judge events on the basis of past norms, there will be a plethora of problems, but if we judge them on the basis of the possibilities they offer, they become a solution. Much hangs on this. In the Covid crisis, from which everyone is so anxious to escape, we have been given multiple solutions but we fail to see them – we choose to focus on the problem side, on what’s being lost. And yes, things are hard.

This year we have wobbled over a tipping point, toward rehumanising society and making the world more fit to live in. Millions of people are thinking deeply about their lives and about life itself. The rich world is at last starting to become aware of its consumption patterns, which need to reduce radically. And the developing world needs to find new ways of developing from those that have existed before.

Then there’s ‘mental health’, a term based on the presumption that conventional normality is good health. Chaos has broken out in people’s lives, and for many people it’s really hard work. Many, including me, have also had to face being very alone. But calling it a ‘mental health crisis’ avoids the main point.

We’re in a rather necessary spiritual crisis, affecting everyone in varying degrees and ways. For some, this has been really tough – the bottom has dropped out of their universe and many people are flailing. It’s all about facing our demons and fears and, as individuals, communities and societies, we all need to face them. Old values, expectations, judgements and preferences are becoming obsolete, and there’s a lot of grasping at straws, blame and escapology going on. This is a transitional inner growth crisis for many, a time of what disaster professionals call ‘epistemic insecurity’ – confusion over what and who to believe.

In the later 2020s, specifically around 2024-2028, we’re coming into an avalanche period, a torrent of events and issues – but I don’t think it will be as blocked and struggly as the 2010s were. There will be pain and also increasing relief – relief arising from a cumulative adjustment to and acceptance of what’s happening. But the pain often comes first and the relief tends to follow. We’re in the pain bit for now.

Conservative forces from the top to the bottom of society are beginning to realise that things are changing anyway – and this applies also to that part of ourselves that prefers our comfortable routines, habits and security. The part that wants to be the exception. The part that says, ‘I’m up for change as long as it doesn’t affect me’.

There’s a rule in geology: the erosive power of a river increases as the square of its volume. That is, when volume of flow increases three times, erosive power increases nine times. That’s what we’ll see in the 2020s: the erosive power of events. The flow and volume of change is increasing, and it’s eroding anything that gets in the way. Whether we like it or not, it’s coming at us.

But the good news is that a flood also clears out the channels and generates energy. The challenge for us all, for individuals, communities and nations, is to get used to living and operating in a far more tumultuous and challenging world.

What is the gift in that? It will make it easier to face the 2030s and 2040s. Because things are not going to slow down.

But there’s an extra issue here. Whenever the world fully accepts change, things will progress faster but it will still take time. Forests take half a century to grow. People need time to adjust and sort things out. Innovations need trialling. Cities take years to redesign. Soil takes time to reconstitute. This means that, even when the big decisions have been made, it will take decades to find out whether it will actually work. By the 2040s this could raise world neurosis levels to a peak – or it could bring a new kind of sanity. This is new territory – we’ve never done this before and we don’t know what will happen. So the decades following 2030ish could be a nail-biting period.

To put a time-perspective on all this, the two big dates of the 21st century are these: 2048 and 2065. The changes we’re in now are operating in a time-frame from 2012 to 2048ish. I won’t go into that now (my book Power Points in Time tells all), but it’s worth flagging up here.

The 2020s are part of the run-up to 2048 – astrologically a Uranus opposition Pluto. The conjunction, the beginning of the cycle, was in 1965-66, and the square, the growth-crisis, was in 2012ish. So 2048 is the climax of all that started in the 1960s. The 1960s were a time of dawning awareness that all was not well on our planet, and that we faced daunting times. Times that we now are in.

2065 I would call the beginning of the start of the future. The time of nail-biting might well be over, and we’ll know the facts of our situation – the crunch-time is likely to have been around 2048, followed by a rather shell-shocked post-crisis period following it, dealing with pressing realities and taking stock. By 2065 I would imagine that, whatever the state of the world, we’ll have a clearer sense of what comes next. It’s a Neptune square Pluto, the crunchpoint of a cycle starting in 1892.

So Covid has upset the apple-cart. The starting gun has been fired. And, to be honest, even though things are hard, do you really want normality restored? Do you really want to go back to the way things were before? It’s strange to say this, but in some respects, since cancer took over my life a year ago, it’s been coming clear that it’s the best thing that could happen to me. But I do also choose to see it that way – not just in my head but in my bones.

Well, that’s what I think anyway. Whether my prognoses resemble the reality to be, we shall see. None of us can presume to know the big answer. That’s quite amazing, really.

Some links:
www.possibilities2050.org – my free online report on the state of the world in 2050 (not astrological) – free online
https://www.penwithpress.co.uk/product/power-points-in-time/ – my book Power Points in Time, and how time passes
http://www.palden.co.uk/living/lit16-makinghistory.html – if you’re interested in astrological cycles in the 19th and 20th Centuries – free online
http://www.palden.co.uk/ephem/The Historical Ephemeris, for serious astrology and history wonks – free online