All Roads Lead to Love

“There’s no way I can say the words more plainly
There’s no one left to point at anymore
It’s you and me and we must make the choice now
And not destroy the life we’re living for.”

-Peter Yarrow, Greenwood, 1972

I was going to title this piece, “Our Final Exam,” until I realized it isn’t true. This isn’t our final exam. It’s a big test. That’s for sure. But it’s not the final one. There will be more to come. It’s just the biggest one we’ve ever had, so far. And, if we pay attention to the hard lessons of COVID-19 and learn from our collective crisis, we are more likely to pass the many tests that we (and especially our children and grandchildren), will face in the years and decades to come as our climate continues to destabilize.

Life Lessons

From 2009 to 2016, I posted over 2200 essays on my Climate of Change blog at our local paper’s website. I published approximately one 800-word column a day for seven years; nearly two-million words. My message then is the same one I deliver today. Our choices matter. Whether it is COVID-19 or the climate crisis, our collective understanding and behavior will determine our future. We can trust science and value the preservation of life above all else or we can deny science and value short-term economic gain for the privileged few. We are free to choose and each of us is responsible.

As an English professor at Shasta College and a fearless fighter for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice, the late Pamela Spoto was singularly responsible for numerous educational programs and panels held at the college for students and the public over many years. At one of those events focusing on how the media covered (or failed to cover) the science of human-caused climate change, panel members were in general agreement that we were facing a future where societies would eventually collapse if we failed to adequately address the climate crisis. As the event was nearing its end and we were responding to audience questions, someone asked what individuals might do to prepare for what was coming.

Besides the obvious solutions like pulling out of the stock market (which I did in 2006), growing our own food, reducing our carbon footprint and electing enlightened leaders, I heard myself offering a bit of surprising advice, even to me. I said, “Get yourself together spiritually.”

What Gives Me Hope

Long before Pamela Spoto and Doug Bennett died, a small group of us would gather at the home that Pamela shared with her partner, Jim Collins, several times a year for a decade or so to participate in what we called “the Think Tank.” These were potluck dinners in which we shared food, drink and loving fellowship and “passed the elephant,” once we were done eating. A small elephant statue served as a kind of “talking stick” that we passed around the table as we took turns sharing our thoughts about the state of the world and what we might do locally to help one another and our community to survive and thrive in the face of the collapse we all knew was coming.

We knew this day would come, and we discussed it on a regular basis. We often felt deep despair. It was not unusual that it fell on someone to maintain optimism and hope in the midst of the collective grief that we all felt. A few times, that was me, but not always.

We didn’t know it would happen exactly this way. Some did, of course. We were all warned that a pandemic was coming. Our focus was usually on the climate crisis and how systemic deficiencies built into our political structures would eventually lead to the collapse of the economy and would threaten the ability of societies to maintain cohesion and social order. That is still coming, but the pandemic offers us a rare gift; an opportunity to see how vital it is to trust science, truth and one another and work together to create a world that works for all of us, not just the rich and powerful. Our hope can be found within each of us and the unbreakable bonds that we form with one another as we commit our hearts and minds to our common destiny and purpose.

Who Can We Trust?

One of the claims that conservative talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh is famous for is something he called The Four Corners of Deceit” which he identified as “government, academia, science, and the media.” In other words, we cannot trust what these institutions tell us because they are proven liars.

He said “corruption…exists between government and academia and science and the media. Science has been corrupted. We know the media has been corrupted for a long time. Academia has been corrupted. None of what they do is real. It’s all lies!”

One of the most popular conservative thinkers in America wanted his listeners to clearly understand that truth can only be found among those who think like him and that “everything” else is a lie.

He said, “We live in two universes. One universe is a lie. One universe is an entire lie. Everything run, dominated, and controlled by the left here and around the world is a lie. The other universe is where we are, and that’s where reality reigns supreme and we deal with it. And seldom do these two universes ever overlap.”

David Roberts wrote, “In Limbaugh’s view, the core institutions and norms of American democracy have been irredeemably corrupted by an alien enemy. Their claims to transpartisan authority — authority that applies equally to all political factions and parties — are fraudulent. There are no transpartisan authorities; there is only zero-sum competition between tribes, the left and right. Two universes.”

When I was writing for my Climate of Change blog, I learned early on that the climate science deniers that regularly trolled my column and disputed everything I wrote were not interested in scientific truth. Like Limbaugh, they were interested in maintaining a rigid perspective that did not require empirical investigation or factual evidence. All that mattered to them was that their side or “tribe” was right and deserved to win or succeed and the other side was wrong and required to fail or lose. As Roberts wrote, “One obvious implication of this view is that only one’s own tribe can be trusted. (Who wants to trust a ‘universe of lies’?)”

Roberts continued, “Over time, this leads to what you might call tribal epistemology: Information is evaluated based not on conformity to common standards of evidence or correspondence to a common understanding of the world, but on whether it supports the tribe’s values and goals and is vouchsafed by tribal leaders. ‘Good for our side’ and ‘true’ begin to blur into one.”

See What Is Real

The danger, of course, in framing existential threats like the coronavirus pandemic or the climate crisis from a tribal perspective is that we will fail to agree on what is true and real. And if we cannot agree on our shared problems, we will never agree on solutions. Tribalism may win elections, drive up ratings and boost profits for polluters but eventually it will doom civilization as we have known it. Look around. The signs of disintegration are everywhere.

I have long maintained that our biggest challenge in the modern world is that we can no longer agree on what is real. How can we possibly cope with COVID-19 and the numerous challenges we are facing with the climate crisis while we disparage and demean one another and the institutions that we must turn to in a crisis for truth and guidance?

When I advised the audience at Shasta College to get themselves together spiritually in order to cope with what’s coming, I meant something very specific. What I was saying then is what I’m saying now. We are much more than liberals or conservatives or Democrats or Republicans. We are much more than how we define ourselves or differentiate ourselves from one another. We are much more than the clubs or tribes that we belong to or the clubs or tribes we look upon with disdain.

When any human being anywhere on the planet sits in silence for even a few minutes, and takes a break from being someone and instead rests in simply being, they will discover and connect with the same “self” as any other person. My “I am” is the same as your “I am.” Awareness is awareness, whether it happens to reside in you or me or someone else. It is the same consciousness. The words you choose to add after you say or think “I am,” supports the illusion of a separate self but those words do not represent anything real, substantial or true. Adyashanti said, “When you touch into the One within you, you’ve touched into the One within all things. It’s the same infinity.”

If we hope to come out of this virus crisis with the wisdom that is necessary to gird, strengthen and deepen us for the new, harsh and hostile world we’ve created, we need much more than our social, sexual, cultural, political, national or economic identities. These are not who we really and deeply are. They are merely the convenient and necessary masks and costumes that we all need to function in this material world. We are much more than the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. We are much more than our money and our stuff; all the things we’ve collected that we thought would give us security and peace. They will fail us. They are not reliable. They will not last. Something deeper is needed.

It is time to wake up to who we truly are and why we are here.

Most of us identify with our thoughts, but as Eckhart Tolle and other spiritual teachers tell us, we are much more. He writes, “In you, as in each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness.”

He continues, “Finding that dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made ‘little me’ is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and lasting inner peace cannot come into your life except through that unconditioned dimension of consciousness.”

When we see our thoughts as just words that may or may not be true, not as rules, commands or threats, we can defuse from them. When we observe and notice what is happening in and around us from a place of nonjudgmental awareness, we do not identify with the thinking mind. This is what I mean as “seeing what is real.”

At any given moment, we can choose to be present and connect with our sensory experience as we remember to be here now. While we can’t change what is happening in the world and the fact a deadly, invisible virus has already killed over 165,000 people, we are in control of how we attend to this information and what we choose to do about it. When we are willing to accept our thoughts and feelings, regardless of what they are, we can allow and open up to our experience as it is, not as we would have it.

We are all suffering. I cannot imagine anyone who isn’t. The loss of normality and the rapidity of social change is at best disturbing and unsettling, and for many, is truly terrifying; devastating even. And it is natural for the human mind to resist suffering – to resist pain – and to locate the source of suffering as primarily external and beyond our control. This is a lie, but many of us believe it is true.

Love is the Way

When we connect with what is vital in our existence in this world at this time, we identify the values that give meaning and purpose to our lives. And when we identify the goals that arise naturally from our values, we are able to commit ourselves to acting in accordance with our deepest concerns.

There are dark forces in our world seeking to divide us. We all know this. In some cases, these are politicians, but we also find media personalities intent on increasing our fear and anger and encouraging us to strengthen our tribal affiliations while blaming someone or something “on the other side” for what is happening in the world. I implore you to resist the delicious seduction of hating and blaming and instead choose love. Love your family and friends, and all our world communities and seek all the big and little ways that you can to make a positive difference in a world so desperately in need of what you have to offer.

We are not separate. What I most want for myself, I want for you. We are in this together. And we will survive this. I believe we will learn from this. I believe we will come to understand and accept that each human life is precious and that the only just society that will ever make sense is one that values each and every person.

Adyashanti wrote, “Because of an innocent misunderstanding you think that you are a human being in the relative world seeking the experience of oneness, but actually you are the One expressing itself as the experience of being a human being.”

This pandemic is a wake-up call. We can no longer afford to play our games of separation and disconnection when the truth is so clear. We are all intimately connected through our shared membership within the human family. And as humans, we are the one species capable of conscious awareness of our unity with all life. What we do to this planet and what we do to one another, we do to ourselves. Once we see this truth, we cannot deny it. And once we know, we must act and we will. Many of us already are. The transformation of the world is underway. Do not fear. Let love guide you now.

Douglas Craig
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 30 years. He believes in magic and is a Dawes fan.
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23 Responses

  1. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    The reality I see every day now when I look up at the sky and watch the weather reports here in Phoenix is that the smog has thinned out. Mountains normally hidden from view are showing clear and sunsets are not obscured by dirty air. The Haboobs will still come but that is a natural occurrence that has happened in deserts since time began.
    The air is cleaner because there are very few cars on the road. My son drives truck delivering food to Walmarts and now just takes the quicker route instead of having traffic delays forcing detours. That means he is not on the road as much.
    The big question is how do we, not if but when, return to a normal economy and keep the cars in the garage and not back on the road?

  2. . . . adding to Bruce Vojtecky’s words about cars (above) . . . I keep wondering why people fail to embrace electric or hybrid cars. When cars became available people were more than happy to do away with the horse and buggy and buy cars. Now that that there is a better solution to transportation than the internal combustion engine car, why do we resist it when it clearly would help to make the air better. Re: Douglas Craig’s article – I can’t thank you enough for all the inspiration you have given me/us by your articles in A News Cafe.

    • Steve Towes Steve Towes says:

      It takes the operating lifespan of a vehicle for it to cycle off the road—until it’s a junker, someone out there will want to/need to drive it. It would take a massive federal program to get all of the gas-burners off the road over the course of a few short years.

      It took 50 years for horses and draft oxen to be displaced by autos and tractors. It wasn’t a smooth transition—there were winners and losers. To put that in perspective, 27 years ago I’d be sitting in front of my humble Mac LC II, and there was no internet. Big changes generally don’t happen overnight.

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Until electric cars have a much longer range, those of us who live in the tall and uncut will need to use gasoline, although hybrids might be the answer. I read that one EC manufacturer – maybe Tesla – is investigating using solar panels on the roofs of cars. Sounds like a great idea.

  3. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    Down here in Phoenix Sun City area golf carts are a main method of transportation. Electric powered they can fit in the garage with room left over. In fact since Golf courses are considered an essential business golf carts are probably considered essential.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      All those electric vehicles, and I was thinking Sun City must be some kinda progressive Mecca!

      Not really, but even though I knew better—I assume solid Sheriff Joe/Trump support in Sun City—the demographics still surprised me. 98.44% White, and only 1% Hispanic in a state with a ballooning Hispanic population. Also 0.5% black and 0.3% Asian. That’s got to make it among the whitest communities in America. I wouldn’t have guessed you could engineer that level of racial segregation without racial CCRs.

      • Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

        Sun City is an over 55 community that is controlled by HOAs that make it impossible for young families of any ethnic to live in. The Silver crisis now going on here in Arizona, notably high lighted in Sun City, is those older white residents are dying or moving into residential homes. That is leaving a boatload of houses with no buyers because of the over 55 requirement. Now those communities are looking at adjusting the over 55 restriction or have a lot of empty houses. Even here in El Mirage, where Spanish is the main language, the Golf Course/Retirement community across the street is starting to not renew house/trailer leases. With the lack of water and valuable land, golf courses, especially here in the West Valley may be deemed essential but are falling out of favor as many families are moving from the expensive West Valley out here.
        Sheriff Joe would win hands down in Sun City but he won’t even make the ballot in the county.

  4. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    I think we should start-up mini Think Tanks all over our local community’s. Not only for venting, but to begin a sense of what Doug talks about, a reality of where we go next. I would add that they form with a combination of folks you know and don’t know. This gives a voice to all thoughts. I’m starting one today via the old fashion phone call method.

  5. Avatar Kathy says:

    Thank you for your insight.

  6. Avatar Jenni says:

    Beautiful.

  7. Avatar David Boone says:

    Pride and willful ignorance is the great human downfall because it is each one of our personal downfalls as well, the enemy which besets us constantly from all sides who we must be vigilant against. Education (not “schooling”) is so important – how can someone be expected to think at all when they have not once ever considered how or why they think? As long as the common person doesn’t know what epistemology (or etc.) is let alone why it is important, this whole matter that you describe perfectly here is sadly doomed I think. Science, for example, is undergirded by philosophy of science, which itself is undergirded by the philosophical matters themselves (metaphysics, ontology, and what have you). To sit way out on a far twig of the tree as these conservative and liberal ideologically-motivated “thinkers” do, whilst foolishly imagining that the very monster chewing at the tree’s root is the one and only branch which supports their own privileged twig which they take for a solid log… well obviously that situation cannot last. I don’t believe every person needs to be a philosopher to come to a genuinely healthy relationship to life and nature; but the damage wrought by anti-intellectual and ideological partisanshit is deep and I fear irreversible. Most people in this hyper-screeened, post-real age are just too far gone to care anymore what is beyond the self-cultured array of filters within their own private echo chambers. The “Age of Aquarius” aka ‘Man’ that we are cusping on is, in supreme irony, also known as “Ragnarök”, widely understood by those in the know as a long and very dark Midwinter aeon of destruction and ossification. Just some more grist for the public millstone…. 😉

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      “…but the damage wrought by anti-intellectual and ideological partisanshit (sic) is deep and I fear irreversible.”

      Almost as hopeless and cynical as my thoughts on the matter. Keep trying.

  8. Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

    Beautifully written and thoughtfully expressed, Doug. Thank you for this and the lovely illustrations too.. A good start to the day.

  9. Avatar Judy Salter says:

    I’d like to know the source of the illustrations. They are as beautiful as your words

  10. Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

    Thanks everyone for the kind comments and interesting observations. Regarding electric cars, I bought my first one in 2008. It was a blue ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) Xebra, basically a thin tin shell on a three wheel chassis. Like a three-wheeled motorcycle. Google it. I bought it for $13,000 and forgot to tell my wife I was buying it. That was an interesting conversation. I really forgot to tell her. I remember her looking at in the driveway and me and back at the car and me with a stunned look on her face and me saying, “I told you about this, didn’t I?” It was the worst car I ever owned and that is saying a lot because I once owned a 1980 Chevy Chevette. The range was horrible. Only 12 miles and I was lucky to get that. And slow! I was lucky if I could get it to 45 mph heading down Eureka Way. I drove it 5 miles to work, plugged in and 5 miles back home. I was afraid to drive it anywhere else. I had range anxiety constantly and I am serious when I say I would have nightmares about that car for years after I got rid of it. The batteries died after about a year and the company replaced them. I had it sitting on a lot in Chico trying to sell it but after 6 months of no one wanting it, I got it back. I could write a long article about all the things that went wrong with that car. Within a day or two after I acquired it, the plastic dashboard shield melted in Redding’s heat (it was only May!) and covered up the speedometer and odometer. I mentioned once to someone that I wished I could rid of it and he said he would take it off my hands. I was never happier than when he loaded it up on a trailer and took it down the road. In November of 2018 I bought my second electric, a Nissan LEAF and it is the very best car I have ever owned, in terms of comfort and ease of use. I have owned 4 Priuses, a Honda Civic Hybrid, and other Honda and Toyota vehicles, VW bugs, Mazda and Datsun trucks, and Buicks and this LEAF beats them all except again for the range. In the summer, I get between 150-160 miles and winter between 120-130 on a full charge which is fine for driving around town. If Congress would finally put a price on carbon and pass The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763), we would be well on our way to transitioning away from the ICE (internal combustion engine) and toward full electric cars. It is coming but its not clear how soon.

    Regarding Frank’s idea of doing Think Tanks, I hope you and others will do this. It was one of the best things I have been a part of. What is better than being with good friends with fine minds and loving hearts?

    Finally, here is the secret of the images. I cheat. I took these pictures with my old 6S IPhone on the river trail the last couple weekends and then used a Prisma Photo Editor app to turn them into fine art. It is super easy and fun and the app is free.

  11. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Doug and his hidden talent as an artiste. Sign them and begin marketing.

  12. Thank you, Doug, for your wisdom, for your insight, for offering a way to navigate these choppy waters. I appreciate you so much!

    (But hot damn! You “published approximately one 800-word column a day for seven years; nearly two-million words”.!

    I don’t know how you do it, Doug, but you are awesome.

    (You made me laugh at the part in comments where you said you bought your first electric car and forgot to tell your wife. Funny!)

    • Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

      Thanks Doni! The saddest part about those previous columns is the paper erased them all. I would love to get them back if anyone knows how to recover such things.

  13. Avatar Cher Matthews says:

    Love this Doug! The old acronym for FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. So I asked during meditation what is REAL and got the answer Recognize Everything As Love! Truly Love is All There Is and is the only thing we can take with us when we leave the planet. Thank you for ALL you do!

  14. Avatar Buford Holt says:

    Good to hear from you. Hope our paths cross sooner rther than later. It remails to be see when, if ever, I’ll be driving again. It’s in convenient, but liveable. Best to Nancy!

    • Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

      Thank you Buford. Stay safe my friend. “We’ll meet again. Don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

  15. Avatar annelise says:

    Hi Doug! Can you talk more about why you got out of the stock market as related to climate change? Thanks! I have read and reread this several times. Makes me feel more hopeful.