Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Another blog is on the way.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Talking About Collapse in Mayan Territory

The Doomsday Clock, recently reset two minutes ahead, to 11:57.
We didn't talk about collapse--at least not much--and that surprised me.

During our week in Izamal, Israel was busy in the evenings. Sometimes he did bodywork for members of the group, but otherwise he was elsewhere. I wonder how much he would have said about planetary collapse--of our economies, habitats, and cultures--even if he'd been around. He seemed more interested in showing us ways to live based on spiritual principles sounder, or more deeply held, than our own.

If we'd traveled together longer, maybe we would have talked more about our feelings and plans in the face of collapse, but during our ten days together, we were busy looking at ruins, taking pictures, having adventures, and learning from our leaders new ways to feel stronger in these scary times. When we did approach the subject of collapse directly, I felt that most of us were holding back.

The topic of one brief conversation was how directly the Mayan experience applied to our own. The Post-Classic Maya of the Yucatan were in the end invaded and conquered by the Spanish. That didn't seem likely to happen to us, those of us who were Americans at least, armed to the teeth as our country is. Earlier Maya suffered from drought, overuse of resources, and stratified, top-heavy, disorganized societies. Those stresses did seem to apply to us. How did these Maya die in the end? Starvation, probably. No one wanted to talk about that.

I've had some experience talking to others about rapidly rising temperatures, the melting Arctic, the messed up Jet Stream, gridlocked government, the dying ocean and burning forests. These conversations have never gone well. I don't regret them but didn't want to repeat them on the trip, and I guess most of the rest of the group didn't either. Probably we already shared a roughly similar body of knowledge about these things. Some of us, I know, were trying to face up to the idea of near-term human extinction, a very rapid collapse caused by huge methane releases and probably already in progress.

But I was hungry to hear about individual circumstances, what people were planning to do, what was going on inside their heads. Maybe I should have said that louder.

Gary Stamper, for example, talked about his and his partner's situation in a loosely formed community with no children growing up to carry it on. He spoke as well about the impossibility of preparing adequately for "cliff events" such as a new, rapidly spreading virus or a currency collapse. I appreciated his honesty.

A gradual, stepwise collapse seems more probable to me. For that we have to band together in small communities, share, barter, help, look out for the most vulnerable. These strategies won't work in the long run--I don't think any strategy will save us--but in the short run, depending on community might be the only thing that will make life bearable.

Our six travelers from Germany seemed interested in the possibility that some of us might survive--if we can learn to live a different way. They train people in a remarkable program of personal development called Possibility Management.  I plan to learn more about that and about autonomous zones (see, for example,, a movement they are interested in fostering. I got the distinct impression, however, that Possibility Management begins with and insists on, if not optimism, a positive outlook. At this point I'd have to have a brain transplant to conjure up a positive outlook. A peaceful one might become possible, but a positive one, no.

Carolyn Baker spoke about collapse becoming a vehicle that would lead the willing toward a less egoistic state and ultimately to a transformation of consciousness. What that might feel like, no one can know. I've been pondering it anyway.

These exchanges pointed to a future none of us can see its entirety. Guessing, despite the flood of information finally coming out about trouble ahead, is also problematic. Since we are facing something the Maya did not face, something brand new and devastating in its emotional impact, the extinction of life on an entire planet, I guess it's not surprising that we have to look at it and talk about it a little at a time.

Before the trip, Gary wrote, "I think by going, I’ll be saying through the Mayan collapse and to the Maya, in a way I cannot do from home, that we are connected, that they are not alone. And neither am I."

I like that.

Tulum. The Maya couldn't go any further north without falling into the sea.