Embracing the Impossible
I’ve been treading a lot of unfamiliar head and heart space lately. Engaging with a few different kinds of hopelessness — both on the personal and macro level. And while I see the efficacy of logical, engineered solutions to problems, I’m also becoming painfully aware how engineered solutions often engender more problems of their own.
(Antibiotics, used properly, fight infections. Over-used and overly synthesized, they lead to more deadly strains of bacteria or destroy a person’s gut biome. Automobiles solved transportation problems while also leading to the suburbs, oil wars, and climate change. Digital tech promised more connection, and resulted in disconnection. And so on.)
The “other” way of approaching these same challenges is to think of them less as problems to be solved with a fix, than systems to be engaged with more consciously. I mean approaches such as permaculture farming, gut biome enhancement, or challenging the very structure of a society that requires people to own vehicles in order to get to their place of “employment” or even “entertainment.” It’s a more subtle approach, that almost requires a softening of focus. It’s what some people call an indigenous perspective, but may be better understood simply as more cooperative, collaborative, resonant. It’s less a way of seeing challenges as problems to be engineered or solved, and more as a call from some part of the system that needs to be heard or adapted to or even fostered.
I’ve started working this way in my own life, and it’s not easy. It’s not something one can do all at once. My chiropractor, the dearly departed Mark Filippi, used to call it the “this time, meantime, and next time” strategy. This time, because we’re in crisis, we do the necessary intervention, like taking an antibiotic. But then in the meantime, we do whatever we can to restore the gut biome or shore up the immune system, so that next time we don’t have to take such a forceful intervention. This time, the meantime, next time.
What I’ve started to wonder, though, is whether and how this may apply to our collective challenges.
The more I read or listen to the smart environmentalists, the more convinced I am that…