Greeting the Tiger.
I got into a patch of despair again this morning. As usual, it was triggered off by reading the news. This time it was a report about plans to spend millions of pounds on hugely enlarging Stansted airport and making it even bigger than Heathrow.
The report said that the Department of Transport expects the total number of passengers using UK airports to rise from 228 million per year to 465 million. This of course is totally incompatible with the UK Government’s plans to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. However the Department for Transport says that although domestic aviation emissions are included within the carbon reduction targets, international aviation emissions are not. This enables the Government to allow the growth of flying unchecked while still claiming to be cutting the UK's carbon output. Talk about hypocrisy!!
Then I read about how a huge oil company (Exxon) had paid a million and a half dollars trying to bribe scientists to undermine the most recent, objective and pretty well definitive report on climate change.
I went for my morning walk with these things chasing each other around in my mind. After half a mile or so or inward musing and fuming, I looked up and became fully aware of the beauty around me – the green fields, the emerging snowdrops, the swelling buds on the trees, the birds …
Suddenly I found myself weeping, sobbing from sadness and despair over what greedy, selfish humans are doing to our beautiful Earth and how powerless I feel to change things. Despair washed over me like a tidal wave.
For a few minutes I stopped, my hands on the friendly bark of my favourite tree, listening for advice (that tree frequently gives me handy hints about how to cope with whatever is bothering me). I didn’t hear anything today. So I walked on. But a little way further down the road I found myself mentally stepping slightly aside from the feeling of despair and just simply looking at it, without judgement. I said "Hello despair."
It’s funny, but whenever I can do this – not just with despair but with any feeling at all – something always seems to shift. It’s like that old piece of advice that I have heard many times about turning to face the tiger that is chasing you and calmly greeting it.
It’s not that I finished my walk with any better idea about how to solve the world’s problems. But the powerlessness was gone, replaced by my usual feeling that by doing whatever I can to ‘be the change I want to see happen in the world’ I am playing a useful part, even if it's a very small one.
After all, I am not just walking round on the surface of a planet, I am an intrinsic part of the fabric of this planet. A tiny fragment. The fragment cannot know the fate of the whole. All it can do is play its part as well as it possibly can and trust the process.
I felt as though I had, once again, faced despair and moved through it. I walked home singing. And I noticed that there was blue sky in the west as the clouds gradually rolled back.
(Note: If you wish to join the campaign to stop the Stansted airport expansion please contact Stop Stansted Expansion.)