A Discerning Piece of Mike's Mind...
By request, my column this month is a portion of my sermon from April 18th
:…Jem Bendell advocates for what he calls Deep Adaptation, capital "A", and he lays out four principles as a framework that everyone can begin talking about, developing, and doing right now. The four principles are resilience, relinquishment, restoration, and reconciliation.
Resilience for Bendell is a deeper concept than the typical notion of bouncing back from adversity – it’s about intentional discernment and cultivation of capacities that will serve us going forward. Capacities like love, generosity, sharing resources, building community, developing alternate economies, and the basic survival skills of making things, fixing things, growing food, purifying water, and so on. Cultivating these capacities, not just as individuals, but as communities. Resilience.
Second is Relinquishment. Letting go. The opposite of cultivating. Letting go of capacities, attitudes, and behaviors that may have served us in the past, but will no longer do so – in fact, might make things worse. On a concrete level, buildings along coastlines, on flood plains, on hillsides made of mud. Houses with thousands of square feet. Products made by child or slave labor. Trips, vehicles, even pumpkin spice lattes that are unnecessary. Access to foods from halfway across the planet or out of season locally. Get used to the idea of no more bananas here in Colorado, peaches only July through September. On a deeper level, relinquishing the cultural assumption that you are the center of the universe.
Third is Restoration, rediscovering attitudes and approaches to our lives that have been largely, or wholly, left by the wayside in our fossil-fuel-saturated, growth-based society. Waking with the sun, sleeping with its setting. Moving away from a linear economy of take and use, win or lose, to a more circular economy that values reducing, reusing, and recycling everything it is possible to reduce, reuse, or recycle. Not valuing things, products, or services designed to be disposable, single use, or planned obsolescence.
Fourth, maybe the most spiritual of the four principles, reconciliation asks, “What could I make peace with to lessen suffering?” What can I make peace with, that will lessen suffering? Reconciliation is an invitation to make peace within ourselves and with others - in our personal lives and in our cultural circumstances. To practice reconciliation is to take healing seriously; healing ourselves and our own wounds, healing our relationships, healing systemic racism, healing the violence of poverty, calling on whatever divine source in our lives calls to us.
Reconciliation as a guiding principle is essential, because without it, we risk tearing each other apart when things get tough.
The difficulty of Bendell’s vision is accepting, facing, internalizing, very painful truths about where humanity and the planet are headed. The beauty of Bendell’s vision is that these four principles are available right now, no waiting required, are life-giving no matter what happens.
In other words, if Bendell is right, adopting the principles of resilience, relinquishment, restoration, and reconciliation will help to mitigate the suffering. And if he’s wrong, those same principles will make us better people, more connected, more aware, more whole.
He’s not saying we abandon all the work being done on sustainable energy, agriculture, green new deals, carbon collection and so on. He’s saying that personally and collectively, we are not helpless, we are not powerless, and we are not bystanders. This is our lives, our children’s lives, and their children’s lives, and we can engage this out of love.