I think “eschatology” is a funny word. Speaking it out loud makes potty-jokes come to mind. Say it, and I remember being 5.
The definition of eschatology, “the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind,” is much less funny. It, one might say, is a party pooper.
Seriously though, when thinking about the End of the World it doesn’t hurt to throw in a dose of humor. Severity has its place, but I don’t think it belongs in every place.
If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m not afraid of making things heavy. I’ve been upfront and honest about my own spiritual journey, asking questions about relevance and confessing doubts about community. This has been a space where I’ve encouraged dialogue, and practiced, as best I could, a kind of even-mindedness. It’s a practice, and it isn’t always easy.
Author, Michael York, writes in his guest post on The Wild Hunt that we are on “the brink of catastrophe.” He’s not altogether wrong. Pay attention to the science (or follow Archdruid Greer’s well-written blog) and you will agree that if there was ever a time where action was necessary, it is now. And for those of us who see our G/gods as being intrinsically connected to the land, you’d think we would be at the forefront of the movement for ecological awareness or preservation.
York’s post stirred up a great number of responses, many of which were quick to point out that the post sounded like “fear mongering.” They, too, are not altogether wrong. But fear is not completely out-of-place in this discussion, either. Drought is scary. So is the thought of a lack of nutrient-rich topsoil (a real, and growing problem). The ecological crisis, when it comes down to it, is no laughing matter.
But fear does little to inspire.
Frame the crisis as evidence of the End Days or the End of the World, or chose to look at one man’s decision to step out of leadership as evidence of the Beginning of the End of the Pagan Community, and you miss out on an opportunity to encourage dialogue, or contemplative introspection. From where I stand, it would be better to draw the focus back to our own motivations, our own choices, and encourage us to ask ourselves how we think we arrived at this point.
York says that,
We are disappointingly unimaginative as a communal voice despite some exemplary individuals among us.
I say, that kind of language doesn’t help. If anything, this is an example of a missed opportunity to be imaginative.
Leadership need not be relegated to the few, or to the charismatic, or to the “exemplary individuals.” Leaders need to be self-aware, self-empowered, and considerate to the needs of their people, their land, and the planet. If this is true, then the task at hand is not to chastise one another for our ignorance or lack of imagination, or to point out how we have failed; but rather to help cultivate our own self-awareness, to find new ways to inspire and empower each other, and to spend time in contemplation so that we might better understand which of these “needs” require our attention first.
So, ignore the title of this post. The End is Not Near, nor is it really an end. We are in a process.
The questions to ask yourself are, “How can I become more engaged in this process? How can I exercise my will to affect what is happening around me? How are my individual choices connected to the health of the various ecosystems which I inhabit? Begin with the questions. Sit with them, and then observe what comes up.
Should it start to get too heavy, say the word “eschatology” out loud, and giggle like a preschooler.