Cognitive Dissonance

Are we hospice workers to a dying world or midwives to a new one?” from Village Surrey blog

Enlightenment is a destructive process. It
has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the
crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing
through the facade of pretence. It’s the
complete eradication of everything we
imagined to be true

There are themes that follow us as for days and weeks, like orphan ghosts seeking liberation.

In a few circles I move, people have been talking about the cognitive dissonance created by acceptance of the reality and monstrosity of our predicaments (climate change, resources depletion, pollution, social/political/financial dysfunction, etc.), or as they have been called “the perfect storm”, while engaging in the more optimistic response of social/environmental activism, Transition and Permaculture, to name a few.

Not only us, the millions of grassroots and unknown, faceless humans engaged with everyday tasks are “living” cognitive dissonance every day, but also well-known authors and activist leaders such as Naomi Klein, Charles Eisenstein and Bill McKibben, to name a few, are showing signs of carrying the same burden: knowing that things are worse (no better), that the powerful seem to be stubborn and “winning”, but still, we can’t give up, because accepting the surreal notion that we (and many other species along with us) may go extinct in only a few decades is voting for a mass suicide.

In his recent post “By their fruits ye shall know them”, Charles Eisenstein makes a case for proactively “stepping outside” the mainstream worldview, and invite alternative and holistic approaches that may be “beyond cognitively knowing”: we “know”, by reviewing all the data and evidence, that we are rapidly leading towards collapse, even more, the collapse, paraphrasing William Gibson,  is already here, just not evenly distributed. However, we also “know” there may be a way out, even if it is a slight chance to get away with a different outcome for (at least) a few…

But I would argue that choosing cognitive dissonance is an ethical choice: those of us engaged in projects and activism also “know” that we cannot give up: for giving up would be accelerating collapse, making it uglier than it already is. We also know something else: that nothing is certain, that nobody has “the truth” and that Nature bats last. Because of this, we don’t really know whether all is already lost, we don’t know how much time we have left and we don’t know if one of those “alternatives” Eisenstein calls us to explore, may be the key to a different outcome.

Cognitive dissonance is in all of us: we all know we are mortal beings; however, we still fall in love, plant gardens, fight for causes we believe in, have babies and overall behave as if life was forever. We don’t stop living when we learn we have a terminal disease: au contraire, we tend to live to the fullest.

Some people call this delusion, but I call it compassion and humility. Compassion, because judging invokes privilege; humility because we just don’t know…

Walking through life with the real possibility of NTHE doesn’t paralyze me: finally seeing the code of the Matrix behind the holograms frees me to start looking into what we really are, allows me to choose whether I want to be an hospice worker for a dying world or a doula helping a new one to be born…or both.


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