At the edge of the world the water is cold and the riptides are strong. Wild geese fly far overhead while a flock of pelicans skim the waves. Just as there are currents far out to sea so are there also currents over the land, storms that build. There used to be a time when there were people whose practice it was to watch these currents, not just sailors seeing the wind fill their sails, but individuals in deep meditation able to see the currents across continents, how the forces flow, how the patterns change over time.
But people are no longer trained in this work, no longer able to watch and bear witness, to see how the forces constellate, what is far over the horizon and what is near to the land. Our governments make decisions according to computer projections and plans for sustained economic growth. But life is not like this, it is darker and more demanding, as well as full of springs of joy and hope. Shamans in their trances could see where the circle was broken and how to repair the tears we make to the fabric of life. They could see events begin to constellate like storms building, before they manifested. But now we walk blindly through life, knowing instant news cycles but without real awareness. We may be able to forecast the weather, but have little understanding of the forces within life itself.
At the edge of the world it is easier to see the threads being woven into the world, the light and the dark and the different colors. One can follow these threads down into the fabric of life, how we walk in the outer world, and how our feet can also touch the inner. There are openings between the worlds where many different threads come together, places of power and potential. Sometimes these places stay in one place for centuries and are visible as a cosmic mountain where heaven and earth meet, or stone circles, temples, or oracles. Sometimes they move, following ancient songlines. They cannot be mapped on GPS, but through dreams and intuition, a deep knowing of what is sacred.
And although each moment is complete in itself, there are also moments in time that have a greater meaning, significance. In Shakespeare’s words, “There is a tide in the affairs of men.” We know in our own lives how certain times have a greater potency than others, often accompanied by synchronicities and unexpected opportunities or unforeseen difficulties. The same is true for the collective, “the affairs of men.” Watching how forces and events constellate we watch these tides, how they flow, how such moments require a greater attention, or a deeper intensity of prayer. Time is not just linear as our contemporary culture would have us believe, but has patterns, cycles, seasons. Our awareness of these patterns leads to a greater understanding of what is happening in our own life and in the world around us. It can help determine the way the future is written.
We are present at a time when many different forces are coming together, some visible and some hidden. We can see their effect in recent events—the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the accelerating collapse of biodiversity, the strange crazy dance of extremists and deniers. But we need to trace these events back to their source, not just where did the virus originate or what caused the war, but the forces that triggered these events, what they portend, what pattern is being enacted. And if possible can we balance these forces, not just with a vaccine or a new weapon, but with the deeper awareness that comes from watching the currents, the waves that build far out to sea.
Why is the fabric of our society being stretched, almost broken? Why are there places where no birds sing? What stories should be believed and what are born from unlived dreams that rise to the surface and then dissolve again? Sometimes I wonder about our culture that knows so much and has so little knowledge. That can see with a microscope but not with the heart, that has many statistics but so little understanding. Life was always a dance between the inner and outer worlds, known in our dreams and our senses. But now we walk in a world that sees only what is tangible, even as it is caught in endless fantasies and conspiracy theories, and a terrible war born from the myth of a lost empire.
Last year when the war in Ukraine came, I knew that it was more than just missiles and tragedy and tears. When I awoke in the night as the first shells fell, I knew that that was the end of our way of life as we know it—even here, in our small community beside the ocean half a world away, where the only danger is meeting a deer on the road, like the two fawns separated from their mother I stopped for this morning. Watching the darkness build for months this war was inevitable, even as it is catastrophic and no one knows how it will end.
Once again the thread of collective violence is being woven into our lives, but this time its shadow, its growing darkness, spreads across the world. It has threatened famine to millions, unprecedented energy increases in Europe, rationing, and a freezing winter. And what does it mean when half our world denies what is happening, with the news of missiles hitting apartments, images of the bodies of civilians censored, falsehoods reported in their place? We may have become immune to the notion of “fake news” as the defense of autocrats, but this suppression of the truth seems to split our world into light and darkness, truth and lies, freedom and oppression. Here there is no subtlety, no grey, but a polarity of intention. This is real divisiveness, not the pantomime of culture wars. This is about real freedom, not the accusations of loss of civil liberty that fill social media.
How many more will have to die until this present cycle ends? And what does this mean for our collective soul, for our collective future? For the mother who has lost her children, for the child who has seen her parents die, it is a tragedy written in blood. And for freedom, for truth? Will its light survive the darkening? Or is truth something we’ve already lost amidst the conspiracy theories and lies about stolen elections, the loss told again now in human suffering? Can we find our way back? Or will this violence just leave another trail of tears, more anger to be handed down through the generations?
Standing on this shoreline, watching the waves, I am trying to see over the horizon, to recognize this dark thread that is being woven into our collective destiny, woven with sorrow and hope, woven with the kindness of strangers even as the bombs fall and refugees flee. There are other threads—for example that of the deep love that runs through all things, the most direct connection between Creator and creation, the love affair that is life itself. This is the energy, the power, that gives birth to every cell and every star, that makes the atoms and the galaxies spin, as well as the sweet softness of a mother’s touch, or a skylark singing from before dawn to after dusk to attract a mate.
And now there is the thread our dawning awareness of life’s primal unity and interdependent nature. How we are interbeing with all of creation. What was instinctually known to our ancestors—who saw not just the physical connections but also the one spirit—is now being returned to us in a new way, which we need if we are to journey together with the Earth. Then there is a thread that tells the story of how we are at the end of an era, caught in the dying dreams and polluted landscape of a self-destructive civilization. And of course the thread that I have been describing in all these stories, that of a half-hidden pathway that can lead us to a living future. All these threads are being woven together to form life’s ever-changing tapestry, the images that surround us and give us meaning, and can help us to see the emerging patterns of a new way of being.
I live at the edge of the world, walking the shoreline or sitting in deep meditation. I try to follow the threads of our deeper destiny, to see where the rivers run clear and what are the signs that need our attention. Where our prayers are needed. The choices we make in the present time and the coming few years will determine the future for seven generations or more, maybe for centuries to come. We can see this in the possible effects of the climate crisis, with rising temperatures and heat waves beginning to affect our daily life. Will it rise 1.5o Centigrade (the so-called dangerous climate change guardrail), or more than 2o Centigrade as some have forecast—and some scientists more ominously say is already “baked-in”? And what would this mean for human life and also the biosphere of which we are a part? Can we avoid a perilous all-pervasive environmental breakdown, and will this include societal collapse? As I have explored over the last years, climate catastrophe is just one element of a world we have created, a civilization which has lost its connection to the sacred nature of the Earth, a foundation that sustained us for millennia. This coming decade will determine whether future generations inherit an inner and outer wasteland, even if we have no present models or understanding of what this might mean.
This is a moment, a decade, that will affect future generations—not just with rising temperatures but with a quality of life that belongs to the soul. We need to walk carefully, with awareness of where we place our feet. We need to be attentive not just to the present moment, but how events are unfolding through time. What is being told in the stories of today. What is just more and more illusions or distractions, and what holds a deeper meaning, requires more attention.
The seabirds cry and the salt water fills the tide pools. At the edge of the world there is much silence along with the sound of the waves. Many of the forces that tell the stories of today have been building for decades, even centuries, but there is also a break in the clouds that draws my attention to a different way of being. Is it enough just to watch these forces, follow these threads? I am not drawn much to action, preferring pure awareness. Discord increases the noise of the drama, and I prefer silence. But I hope that in telling these stories I can point to a way of seeing with the heart and the soul, to rediscovering the ancient language of the land and its dreaming. Sailors used to have to know the currents in the ocean, and shamans how the inner and outer worlds meet. There is a way to watch and listen, to see how the branch bends in the wind, how the clouds move across the sky. There is a need to know the forces constellating in our world, the subtle interplay of events. The war and the pandemic are not isolated events and there will be no return to the way things were. There is a wisdom we need from this watching, this awareness of forces constellating and places where life can regenerate. Where joy is present and sunlight is visible through the clouds.