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Michael Dowd: Living Fully and Lovingly in the Age of Dying: Deep Adaptation
Video Recording (Oct 3, 2020)
Nuggets From Michael Dowd's Call
Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Michael Dowd.
Rev. Michael Dowd is a Christian minister, author, and eco-theologian. He is known as a bridge builder connecting liberals and conservatives, religious and non-religious people, science and religion. He shows how a sacred view of Big History, human nature, and death can inspire each of us to live with greater joy, integrity, purpose, and passion. He accepts the "doom" predicament of modern human civilization, and engages in efforts to give voice to this context, along with his perspectives on a “Christian response”, grounded in compassion and goodwill. He supports audiences in transcending belief systems in a way that deepens connection to the core of their faith. This call will focus on his most recent “post-doom” work. What is overshoot, and how does it connect to a Christian minister? How can one become resilient in a way that is aligned with evolution, ecology, and perennial wisdom teachings?
Below are some of the nuggets from the call that stood out for me ...
- Michael was raised Roman Catholic. Struggled with drugs and alcohol growing up, but found a lot of support in the Church. Never felt like an ex-Catholic but wasn’t really called to celibacy. He became a student of worldviews, which has became his main area of study. How do we co-create reality with our worldview? Got into learning all sorts of tools for transformation. Was married for 13 years, and was a pastor. Discovered rural = conservative. Feel fortunate that I can be in any religious and secular setting and be fluid and at home. To him GODDE (old English spelling) means nature—he relate to it in an “I – thou” way. Living with nature in mind has been central to him since 1988. He did environmental sustainability work for 5 years to help communities lower their carbon footprint.
- If you buy into a supernatural only interpretation of the divine, the world turns into a resource and dumping ground. Theism vs atheism is a form of insanity i.e. God is only outside the universe, treating the world as an IT as opposed to a THOU. Many Christians have a worldview that is ecocide.
- Science and religion have been tag teaming the world to ecocide. Religion downgrades from a control mechanism to a coping mechanism. We are part an unsustainable boom & bust civilization. Once you have a culture that has a dominator mindset, you force others to do the same. There is an 80% probability that our species goes extinct in this century. Civilization as we know it is on its way out. So how do we have compassion in that terminal diagnosis? Whether we all go extinct is irrelevant – our way of life is rapidly passing.
- Reality is his God. Evidence is his scripture. Ecology is his theology. Integrity is his spirituality. Accountability to the future is his religion. Reading a book on evolution was a turning point where science and evidence shifted him out of a fundamentalist viewpoint. ‘What are we pointing to when we speak of God?’ was an article that moved him. It showed him that God = Reality. That’s when he gave up supernaturalism. He started interpreting reality as evidence or revelation of God.
- When he says ecology is his theology, he mean it to his bones. The fundamental fact of genuinely sustainable cultures is that it lives in one place without destroying itself. What allows that is carrying capacity i.e. a limit to how much we can take from the living world without things breaking down. Once you exceed carrying capacity, you are stealing from the future. You are on a path that is ecocidal. So many civilizations cut down the trees, wash away all the soil, and then they collapse. Honoring and treating limits as sacred is fundamental to sustainability. The sense of limitless is ecocidal. Sane vs insane progress is an important distinction.
- He's talking about coming back to genuinely sustainable civilizations that treated nature as God and other creatures as teachers. The human animal in that cosmos can thrive and continue to thrive. If we are anthropocentric, we will die. 5 Nobel scientists who endorsed his books.
- Since this conversation is happening right now—such a tumultuous times—if you are not aware that you or someone close to you could die, you are out of touch with reality. If you are not in touch with your own mortality, you are out of touch with reality. So many things are at risk and collapsing and abruptly changing. We’re in the early stages of a great conflagration – most of the world's forest will be burning in the next 30 – 40 years. Fall in love with nature. Treat the living world as God. What does it need? This is all holy work.
- People can only take a worldview if they’re ready. The western world’s religion isn’t Christianity, it's 'progress'. Those of who have awakened to the perilous time we are working in and done the grief work, are in a better position to move forward. That’s why he's in the post-doom work he does. How does one become active however love leads you? We are in the earliest stages of the greatest mental health crisis in human history.
- He did initially turn away from this for 12 years. He had a deep ecology world view until 2000. Even bought into the perpetual progress myth. He didn’t believe in the withering earth. Then he saw a TEDx talk titled 'Climate change is simple'. That’s when his techno optimism died. Then he's been studying the rise and fall of civilizations. Genuine sustainability vs false sustainability i.e. ecocide.
- The fundamental core of our ecocide is anthropocentrism. If our goal is maximizing for ourselves then that’s where it stops. Only a 'life-centered' view is a sane measure of progress. There is no need to play the blame game. How do we live in a time of collapse when most people deny it? Those who don’t deny climate change don’t think about it. Adaptive inattention is real, and he actually recommends it. Knowing what’s real, and what’s possible is important. A 12 step prayer was important for him. Collapse 101, and Post Gloom.
- The only healthy form of not knowing is humility. Human self-restraint is our only hope. Any form of not knowing that encourages us to downgrade our consumption is helpful. The question is 'who do we choose to be in the face of collapse so that we’re experienced as engaged in loving action?' He's only confident in what we have overwhelming evidence for. We’re not going to wake up next week with some understanding that overturns all that science knows.
- He calls meditation paying attention at the speed of life. He has spent 4 decades developing habits that are good. He has a 4 month old granddaughter. Does he want us to be in collapse? No, he is grieving for us and other species. HIs heart breaks for the reality that actually is. Not a single civilization has shifted from unsustainable to sustainable behavior on the way down. This will be the best year of your life. Next year is likely to be worse. These problems are now in runaway mode. Clarity is important – you may not like it, but the confusion is gone. That brings caring. What comes out after is compassion. Then it's love in action. Don’t put off having completion conversations -- meaning, have meaningful conversations. Expressions of gratitude and regret are important. Heart tenderizing conversations are important. Everyone who is privileged in some form can have it overtaken very quickly.
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