Saturday, May 23, 2009

Of Yeats, Genocide and the Biosphere -- Looming Deadlines that Frame Our Future and Determine Our Legacy

The dews drop slowly and dreams gather: unknown spears
Suddenly hurtle before my dream-awakened eyes,
And then the clash of fallen horsemen and the cries
Of unknown perishing armies beat about my ears.
We who still labour by the cromlech on the shore,
The grey cairn on the hill, when day sinks drowned in dew,
Being weary of the world’s empires, bow down to you.
Master of the still stars and of the flaming door.
The Valley of the Black Pig (Wind Among The Reeds, 1899)

Of Yeats, Genocide and the Biosphere -- Looming Deadlines that Frame Our Future and Determine Our Legacy

By Richard Power

Five decades and five years into this incarnation, it is natural that I am not only proud and grateful for all that I have done and experienced, but also haunted by all that was lost along the way, as well as all that might never come to be.

But overshadowing both of these preoccupations is another one, brimming with urgency and profundity: what shall I do to make a significant difference with the rest of this life?

In Left-Handed Security, which I published at the end of 2007, I suggested that four looming deadlines framed our future:

1. Will the USA choose reason or madness in the 2008 election? It chose reason. No matter how frustrating many of Obama's moves have been and will continue to be, it is still the difference between reason and madness. And consequently, there is hope that our democratic institutions can slowly be restored to health.

2. Will the nations of the world reach a meaningful agreement on the Climate Crisis in 2009? There is nowhere to turn after Copenhagen. Bold, rapid and sweeping action must be taken, on a planetary scale. It is a long shot, but there is still a chance, and it is do or die.

3. Will the world achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015? Even if we had no Climate Crisis, we would still be confronted with dire sustainability issues in regard to water, sanitation, etc. Most of the forward momentum was lost over the eight years between 2000 and 2008; and most of what was left got kicked out of it all in the global financial meltdown and the resultant economic contraction. There will be hell to pay if we do not get this vital initiative back on track.

4. Every evening, the sun sets on another missed deadline in regard to suffering of Darfur. Will the human race meet its responsibility to end the genocide? Or will we allow our governments to continue to fret and posture and play semantic games? The facts on the ground are worse today than they were even six months ago.

Not a very encouraging status report.

But I am confident that the world is older than several thousand years, and that the fossils of dinosaurs are not an elaborate, divinely concocted hoax to test our faith. In other words, evolution, with its imperative to adapt or perish, is still the natural law of this world, and so we will soon see if we can follow reason and love out of the labyrinth of our own ignorance before it is too late.

The image included with this post is the tombstone of one of my heroes, W.B. Yeats, the great Irish poet, patriot and mystic. His life and work have offered me solace and inspiration since I was a little boy who should have been far too young to be concerned with such serious matters.

But the lines of poetry Yeats chose to have inscribed on his tombstone spoke to me even as a child; and they have continued to speak to me ever more compellingly as the years have spiraled away and downward into currents of both the Liffey and the Lethe:

Cast a cold eye,
On life, on death,
Horsemen pass by.

In my thirties and forties, as I explored the vastness of the Tibetan wisdom, I came to realize the deeper meaning of that beautiful Celtic sentiment; it speaks of the fecund emptiness known to those who have truly embraced martial arts or meditation.

If you are free of everything, then you can do anything.
Well, at least, that is the attitude to cultivate.

The outcome of it all is beyond our control.

As always, I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

For a Words of Power Archive of posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

If you have not already joined the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore and I urge you to do so. Click here.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on UN Millennium Development Goals, click here.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, ,, , , , ,