Social Distancing

change

This year we’ve stumbled into a yawning abyss called society. There are approaching eight billion of us here on Earth, in various stages of individualisation. Departure. Uprooting. Alienation. Social distancing.

It’s partially a cultural issue and partly to do with urbanisation. Urbanisation is the largest movement of people in the world today. All the world’s population growth is in cities – rural population is declining, paradoxically creating more space for nature. Stranger still, one of the biggest pandemics of today is loneliness.

Yet we’re suddenly facing each other. Saturn and Jupiter are passing into Aquarius, the sign of society, membership, belonging, ideas, plans, principles and ‘how things ought to be’. When Pluto moves into Aquarius in 2024-5 for eighteen years until 2043, well, we enter a social process. Since 2008 we’ve been in a systemic process, and what matters next is people. Last time Pluto was in Aquarius, we had the French Revolution.

Some people give up on humanity, dedicating themselves to the natural environment, or wishing they could or would do so. But if we people don’t change, environmental issues won’t get resolved. We’re transitioning from exploiters to guardians of nature. To do that, we need also to transition from exploiters to guardians of our fellow humans. The main variable is the destruction we permit ourselves to go through to get there. Humanity’s crimes against itself rest on omission and commission.

Uranus and Neptune went through Aquarius in 1996-2003 and 1998-2011 respectively. That took us through globalisation and the social impacts of the economic crisis, which began with food riots, through to the Arab Revolutions – and it didn’t stop there.

No politics or religion were involved in the Arab revolutions: young, marginalised people just wanted to get a life. This matter is still pending. The current frontline is Sudan, with Iraq and Lebanon close behind. And Hong Kong, and Chile, and the emergent ramifications of Covid.

Many issues are pending and our planet has grown anxious. Angst about anything and everything. Partially this is psychological, a winding up of tightening hearts and minds, and partially it is circumstantial, since the world is getting crazier, more complex, polarised and dangerous.

We’re facing up to each other. My freedoms aren’t your freedoms, those people over there aren’t like us, and yet we’re all in the same crowd, utterly dependent on each other.

The world is cleaving into thoughtful and inconsiderate people, empathics and libertarians, public and individual priorities, matters of control, influence and freedom, with surprisingly large sub-surface reservoirs of social schism lurking underneath. “Who’s going to die first?”, “Who can I blame?”, “Who’s going to get the last loaf of bread?”, “How much do I care?”.

Not that anyone really knows what’s going on, and that’s a key part of the training. We’re out of our depth. This is bigger than we can see.

It’s not exactly a disaster. Change always looks like a disaster when we’re plummeting into it. Then it becomes crisis, and then transition, then a stunned quietness, then relief, revival and a new reality. It’s a question of the extent of pain and loss we humans must go through to get there, but get there we shall, by fair means or foul.

What’s wrong is that some people bear this burden of change far more than others – this is a fundamental issue of principle, of sharing. You can’t have privilege and deprivation when, like it or not, you all sit in the same boat.

It’s also about inner resilience – the capacity to make something good out of a bad situation. And social resilience – the capacity to change our social and community ways to meet whatever life throws at us, and regardless of whatever went on before. How to make life as easy as possible in the circumstances we get. How to feed and look after each other, and how to organise that.

It’s a big shock. Things have been going the other way in recent decades – or was it centuries? Humanity is meeting itself. This is the planetarisation of consciousness, the deeper aspect of globalisation. The bit we’ve stumbled upon is the horrifying realisation that we’re all so profoundly different. Yet, just somehow, we’re all part of a human family. And we’re in danger of making a mess of it.

Some of us run forward to change things while we have the chance, and some run back to safe territory to try to keep things the same – and there’s a bit of both in all of us. The bit of ourselves that we don’t like, we blame on others. If we are to survive, the twain must meet. We must get along with people we disagree with. But wait, they’ve got kids and grannies too – they’re just like us.

This is what’s emerging in the collective psyche, and it’s the big theme for the coming years. Is the system here to serve the people, or are the people here to serve the system? And what tribe do you belong to?

Until recently we were focused on climate change and a plethora of issues that all confusingly melted into a soup of horror – sub-surface political angst.

And now, this, this thing that we all wish we could get control of and cannot. How much it’s a virus and how much it’s a miasm, an epidemic of the psyche, is open to question.

If we dig a level deeper, we’re faced with a test of faith. Not my faith or your faith, but faith.

When the chips are down, how much are we prepared to sacrifice ourselves for what we believe to be good and right? Or is it safer to withhold, let others take the strain and see what happens?

There’s some good news too. But that awaits another day.

With love, Palden.

And if you want a bit more, try this.

Coming up for air

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I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My cousin Faith visited recently, bless her, pointing out how my life has become one of super-concentrated uncertainty. It’s funny, when you’re caught up in the intricacies and subjectivities of your own life-bubble, how a simple observation like that really helps see things more clearly.

I’m on cycle five of a planned six cycles of chemo and steroids and am expected to plateau at a stable level when all the intense treatments I’ve been having end in April. My readings are still improving.

At the three-weekly meeting with the haematological specialist, Deborah, I asked whether there would be follow-up drugs and she said No, none at all. That was a surprise, but it now frees me up to design my own myeloma self-management regime, so it feels like a release. But into what? Swimming in a sea of uncertainty, hazard and possibility.

It’s a challenge to maintain a good state of being and spirits. There will be periodic blood checks to make sure my myeloma levels haven’t risen and, if they do, I’ll go back on chemo and steroids if necessary and if it feels right. I hope to delay that through good self-management – and we’ll see how that pans out in real life.

Bone marrow cancer doesn’t go away – you just get minimisation. Myeloma or a related issue will eventually do me in. If I’m one of those unfortunates to catch coronavirus and kick the bucket, then there will be work to do Upstairs with others who die, who are perhaps struggling, unready for death-transition – helping them get their relationship with their soul sorted out. So all is not lost.

But then, every one of us gets done in somehow, sooner or later. So, when Life does you in, do it well! It’s one of the great breakthrough opportunities Life gives us. Screw the workshops, trainings and books – this is for real and it comes for free.

I’ve treated this bone marrow cancer as a spiritual challenge, but it’s very much a human one too. I’ve been digging around in all the fears I seem to have, and they’ve been digging me out too – there will be more.

Mercifully, I don’t get depressed. When I was young I had terrible dark depressions until I realised, during an inner journey, that there’s always a lump of gold down there in the dark depths. I met the dragon guarding the treasure, knowing it would annihilate me if I were afraid. Yet somehow my depressions had made me more fearless, making me give up on many customary defences and attachments since they seemed to do no good. Suddenly I saw depression as an asset. Since then, things have been different: depressions have transformed into times of interiority where I go quiet – unsociable and shut off to some – and it’s often a creativity-cooking period. A time for meta-processing, preparing the ground for breakthrough.

This chemo-induced tunnel I’ve been drifting through recently has been weird and difficult. I would have been depressed if I were inclined that way. Fatigue, spaced-outness, a kind of dementia, feeling I was getting nowhere, feeling of lack of progress and perspective… but the end is now coming into sight. When this intense phase of chemo ends in April or May I shall move back down to Cornwall.

And start again. Again. Much of my preceding life has been zeroed, and now I need to find a new level that works, for whatever time I have left. A life-redesign.

Guess, what, after that down period, my body has made a breakthrough. I can now stand unsupported for a longer time and walk short distances. It’s like going back to toddlerhood – the moment when you start standing up. It’s not a gradual process – it’s a sudden overnight activation of circuitry that allows you to do all the necessaries to make you stand and walk. It’s suddenly there, as if you’d always been doing it.

Talking of uncertainty, I’ve been thrown into it and now I’m watching the world getting pushed that way too. Despite the best efforts of those addicted to the status quo and striving to preserve it, things are slipping out of control, and this is symbolised by the coronavirus outbreak. We’re helpless whatever we throw at it, in the hands of fate. We actually need this – collectively at least. Blessings to those individuals, particularly doctors, nurses and helpers, who pass away – they make this sacrifice for us all, though it is meaningful only if we actually change and learn lessons.

We need this loss of control. There’s too much feigned certainty in our world and it’s a defence mechanism, a wall of groupthink denial. It needs to melt and break up faster than the icecaps of the Arctic and Antarctic. We need to lose our fear: and the fear epidemic is growing larger than the coronaviral epidemic. Fear, guilt and shame: in these three big blockers of global progress, the personal and the collective interlock through groupthink.

But we humans… we have a determined need to stage a “Final Clearance Sale – Everything Must Go!” orgy. It’s a perverse unconscious wish for what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha, truth force, the power of consequence, of inevitably, unavoidably changing facts. Something to stop us in our tracks, giving us an epiphany opportunity. To get through the 21st Century, we need this to go viral. It needs to rock the hearts and souls of billions, at the same time and with one underlying, shared thought and priority. That’s how the world will change.

Some of us have worked with this question for decades and we haven’t yet pulled it off. How it will happen has, in the last decade, looked more difficult than it did in, say, the late 1960s or around 1989-93. Another window opens in the later 2020s, driven largely by a younger generation – whom my generation would be well advised either to assist or to get out of the way of. We oldies have to get used to less comfort. We don’t actually need chocolate and holidays in Tenerife to be happy.

The astrological conditions of the late 2020 (a mutual sextile of Uranus in Gemini, Neptune in Aries and Pluto in Aquarius) could be given the description ‘florescence‘, a flowering of ideas whose time has really come and an overdue rising to the surface of what was underneath. The past suddenly becomes visibly obsolete. This could go either way – toward social control or mass-empowerment – but there’s a window of opening soon.

It’s getting rehearsed right now with coronavirus: the issue here is firm, appropriate, good governance and leadership under conditions of duress, and the key issue is public trust, discipline and intelligent behaviour. Accountability applies in every direction – we must give leaders the power they need while we, the human crowd, retain the power to determine key issues. But we must do it wisely, pulling power back also from extremists, spoilers, corrupters, fighters and advantage-takers. Public wisdom is the big question.

It’s rather like that toddler standing up for the first time, as if it were a habit that always had been there. It will be like that. We saw it in the Velvet and the Arab revolutions – remarkable acts of crowd bravery, discipline and good behaviour. It was damaged and corrupted only by the tear gas and bullets of the authorities – and this can be stopped only when satyagraha, the truth-force of what is really happening, overwhelms the habit of repression.

Dare I say a politically unwelcome truth, we have a well-habitualised addiction to being repressed – the threat of loss of this addiction gives us our fear, the fear of being unable to pay our bills and so being exiled from normality and security, all alone, shunned, helpless and wrong, a sinner who failed.

It’s in those darkest times that the buildup of truth-force happens – and that’s the meaning of our time. The Trumps, the conservatives, the warmongers, the toxic males and rampant capitalists have won. But they haven’t. They stand on precarious ground. It’s in the balance, right now. Something is building up.

When I was young, I made a vow that I’d do my best to help bring the world to an irreversible tipping-point of change in my lifetime – only then would I feel ‘mission accomplished’ and the release it brings. Since around 2000, growing older and seeing how the world wasn’t really, fully changing, I let go of this, transferring my efforts to work that might bear fruit posthumously.

But while I’ve recently been facing cancer a glimmer of hope has revived in my heart. It gives reason to stay alive. I want to see it and contribute to it. An ageing old crock of a dissident can do it just as well as a youngster. Come brothers and sisters throughout the land, the times they are a-changing.

An old friend and soul-sister, Sian, is taking me home to Cornwall next weekend for nine days, on a reality-testing mission to see how well I cope on the farm. Lynne can have a break from me. Sian and I have worked together for over 20 years in a tight group called the Flying Squad, doing ‘world work’ – consciousness work and group process to work with the underlying issues behind world events. We’ve been through a lot together, and her offer to take me home and through a reality-initiation is a magic initiative.

That’s what happens next. In gradual jumps, I’m coming back to life, returning from the bardo.

Thank you all so much, who have sent me healing and good vibes to help me on my way. I really appreciate that. Thanks also to Tomten the cat, who has slept dedicatedly on my bed, at times lying on my most painful parts and acting as an amazing pain reliever. Thanks to the amazing nurses and doctors in Torbay – remarkable people working within a very complex and rather screwed up health system.

Above all, thanks to Lynne, who has busted a gut for me, borne a heavy load and worn herself out looking after me. That’s amazing. She has been a star. Something like that can never be repaid. There’s an enormous life-lesson in that, for both of us.

With love, Paldywan.