How do we live our lives and days towards a hopeful future, acknowledging how little time we might have left?
This week’s question is from me.
It’s about climate extinction.
How do we live our lives and days towards a hopeful future, acknowledging that span of time is unlikely?
How do we see the work that need to be done as part of living fully, defining the urgency, instead of giving into it?
Someone posted on Twitter a few months ago “the best organizing, the best plans the best work is done with patience and care, but the fact remains that we are in the most urgent period of time — less than a few years, in order to stop climate extinction.
How do you deal with this tension, between urgency and patience?
How does anyone deal with it, the ultimate dichotomy in life?
When I think about how to create a hopeful future, the tension between imagining a hopeful future and the likelihood of having a hopeful future that lasts until 2050, for most of the people on the planet…
I don’t usually have a lot to say.
But when I think about “living life in a matter of days,”
Things become a little bit clearer.
You know who talks about this a lot?
Sorry. Here’s the deal. Everyone I could think of when I’ve tried to answer this question, every single time I’ve tried to answer it, both for myself and this column: they’re all dudes.
They’re not just dudes.
They’re like… “Dudes rock” dudes, you know what I mean? (If you don’t, there’s a description in the link.)
So that’s the premise of today’s column.
Putting all the “dudes rock” dudes in one column, to see if collectively they can answer the question I struggle with the most: how do we live in the face of climate extinction?
Here we go.
In whom the Bell tolls, Hemingway talks about living life in a matter of days.
Living your entire life in a matter of days.
If Hemingway’s a little much for you, the most dudes rock dude of all time, there are other options.
Dostoyevsky said something similar when he was about to be executed in prison.
The seconds before the firing squad was supposed to shoot him seemed like an eternity.
He stared at the blades of grass for what seemed to him like years.
Then there’s Michael Cunningham’s book
turned movie The Hours, half older Queer polyamory slice of life drama, half terrible Nicole Kidman performance for what she still won an Oscar.
(Fictional Virginia Woolf you guys, she can do anything.)
“The hours start coming and they don’t stop coming,” wrote Michael Cunningham. “hit the ground running. Didn’t make sense not to live for fun — your brain get smart but your head gets dumb.”
Michael Cunningham didn’t say that, that’s Smash Mouth.
(Zoe made that joke once and I’ve never been able to stop thinking about it.)
Cunningham says that we are all alive for moments of beauty, moments we think of as “the beginning of happiness” that are actually… the totality of happiness.
Then we live through the rest of these moments whether we like it or not.
David Kessler in his book “Finding Meaning” talks about being alive, choosing to be alive, as the final step of grief.
He says that it’s the one that got left out of Kubler- Ross’s work.
Kessler’s a pretty self compassion, touchy-feely believe in others kind of guy: he’s a social worker, it’s a book about grief. This towards the lesser end of the “dudes rock “spectrum.
Except for one thing.
Here’s how this pretty social work he touchy-feely guy responds to people he works with when they said “I’ll try,” re: being alive.
It doesn’t work like that, he says in the book. “It never works like that. “There is no try.”
“When it comes to being alive, you wake every morning up every morning and you decide to be alive, or you don’t.”
I like this choice.
What all these dudes say, taken collectively, at least for me, is one of the only things that resolves the tension between the need for patience and the need for urgency.
It’s the only answer I can think of.
You can measure time in years towards climate extinction, or you can measure it in the hours, you’re alive, the seconds that you’ve been staring at a blade of grass.
As Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, Cunningham say:
Time grows and shrinks and expands and contracts in impermeable and nonlinear ways.
Then Kessler’s question takes time out of the equation altogether.
Measure time in quality, not quantity.
Then choose to be alive for the duration of the time you have.
Or, as Smash Mouth said: it doesn’t make sense not to live for fun.
Originally published at https://notesonfeednet.substack.com.