The Relevance of Deep Time by Joanna Macy

September 25, 2010 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world — we’ve actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.” ~ Joanna Macy

The Relevance of Deep Time by Joanna Macy

People of today relate to time in a way that is surely unique in our history. The technologies and economic forces unleased by the Industrial Growth Society radically alter our experience of time. It is like being trapped in an ever-shrinking box, in which we race on a treadmill. The economy and its technologies depend on decisions made at lightning speed for short-term goals, cutting us off from nature’s rhythms and from the past and the future, as well. Marooned in the present, we are progressively blinded to the sheer ongoingness of time. Both the company of our ancestors and the claims of our descendants become less and less real to us.

This peculiar relation to time is inherently destructive of the quality and value of our lives, and of the living body of Earth. And it will intensify because the Industrial Growth Society is, in systems’ terms, on exponential “runaway”–accelerating toward its own collapse.

Even as we see its consequences, we must remember that this relation to time is not innate in us. As humans we have the capacity and the birthright to experience time in a saner fashion. Throughout history, men and women have labored at great personal cost to bequeath to future generations monuments of art and learning, to endure far beyond their individual lives. And they have honored through ritual and story those who came before

To make the transition to a life-sustaining society, we must retrieve that ancestral capacity–in other words, act like ancestors. We need to attune to longer, ecological rhythms and nourish a strong, felt connection with past and future generations. For us as agents of change, this isn’t easy, because to intervene in the political and legislative decisions of the Industrial Growth Society, we fall by necessity into its tempo. We race to find and pull the levers before it is too late to save this forest, or stop that weapons program. Nonetheless, we can learn again to drink at deeper wells.

Joanna Macy,


Entry filed under: Buddhism, Habitat and environment: the evolutionary tradition, Politics. Tags: , , , , .

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