View Full Version : Hallowing the Descent

01-06-08, 11:58 AM
Hallowing the Descent (http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com/2007/12/hallowing-descent.html) by Sharon Astyk (http://casaubonsbook.blogspot.com)

"One might say with the Buddhists, that this is an important form of "mindfulness" and try and cultivate the inner posture in which such consciousness can be relatively sustained. Consulting the dictionary I find that for the word "hallowing" the following definitions are offered: 'make holy or set apart for holy use, consecrate; to respect greatly; venerate." It was a new and most encouraging idea to me - that one's diminishments could be "made holy," "consecrated," "respected greatly," even "venerated."

I saw that the first step for me in learning to "hallow" the progressive diminishments in store for me was deep-going acceptance. But the acceptance would have to be positive, not a negative one, if it were to be a real hallowing. I must learn to do something creative with it."

Quaker writer John Yungblut writes this in "On Hallowing One's Diminishments," (http://www.quakerbooks.org/on_hallowing_ones_diminishments.php) using the ways of thinking he found to deal with his Parkinson's disease to provide a new way "into" times of personal and collective hardship. I'm indebted to my friend MEA for sending me Yungblut's pamphlet, and introducing this idea of the hallowing of loss to me, which has been in my thoughts a great deal lately.

There is no question in my mind, or in the minds of many thinkers, that we cannot go on from here the way we have been. That is, whether global warming, peak oil, world water supplies or financial crisis becomes the tipping point, things cannot continue the way they are. At the moment, most people do not know this yet - they believe fervently that if they just carry a cloth bag and vote for higher CAFE standards, the world will more or less go on for them as it has. They believe this, in large part, because they want to believe it. But that has to change.
What does it mean to consecrate or venerate your own losses? Yungblut does not lay them out this way, but there seems to be three strategies involved here. The first is the notion of treating your losses and suffering as companions to whom you are obligated to feel a friendly spirit towards. He notes that if your diminishments are not tormentors, it is easier to have a sense of humor about them, to seperate yourself from your sufferings.

The second point Yungblut raises is that each diminishment comes with gifts - the physical limitations that come with aging also bring with them "the reconversion from earning a living to cultural activity" - that is, there is time to talk to others, to think, to devote to the outside world as we retire and age. The definition of success changes - instead of focusing on work and outer definitions, success becomes children grown well to adulthood, the love of family, warmheartedness, kindness. Yungblut reminds us to look for the gifts in our losses.

Finally, Yungblut notes that we can view our losses as leading us gently towards our adaptation to the ultimate diminishment - death. That is, we can come to recognize that sometimes, the point is not whether we can alter events, but how we face them. We can find meaning, even when we cannot change things, in our ability to shape the meaning of things - to do right, even when the right thing is not enough, to face even very hard times with courage and honor, even though it won't make the hard times go away to do so.

What would this mean going into peak oil and climate change? How might we begin to "hallow" our descent. The first thought would be to recognize our companions entering into the future - name them, "peak energy" "Climate change" and "Depletion" and call them what they are - our future, and our companions for the long haul. Because once we acknowledge them, we might be able to get to know them, to get over our deepest fears that if we look too closely at the future we will not be able to bear it, and recognize and go on from there