“Change,” Octavia Butler wrote, “is the one unavoidable, irresistible, ongoing reality of the universe.
These days, I choose to believe that our persistence and our adaptability will allow us to keep changing with that universe for a very, very long time.
John Green, Humanity’s Temporal Range
John Green’s podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed explores and rates “…different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale.” He is by turns poignant, vulnerable, ironic, despairing, hopeful and laugh-out-loud funny. I tend to bing- listen to his podcasts, which he presents solo. Often he’s responding to listeners’ questions and suggestions. After hearing several episodes in a row, I feel as though I’ve been in soulful conversation with a kindred spirit.
In the short span of time between recording the March episode, Humanity’s Temporal Range and its broadcast three weeks later, everything changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic had arrived here in the US, upending our lives and taking us to the edge of a chasm where we’re still standing four months later. The other side is as far away as ever. We still can’t see what’s over there, and we certainly can’t get there yet.
This is a time of waiting in “I-don’t-know-land,” a time for finding insights and new perspectives as we don our masks, grieve our losses, and begin imagining future possibilities for ourselves and our world.
John said as much as he reflected the timing of this episode:
So, I guess this … is about how it felt to look over the edge — before I realized how close we always are to the edge.”
Three Stabilizing — and Hopeful — Pandemic – Related Insights
While we wait together at the chasm’s edge, unable to go forward, we can instead turn inward to find new insights, new perspectives and new ideas for when the time comes when we can move forward.
The podcast’s introduction named one of the powerful insights that the pandemic brought me. I’m not sure why it took a global disaster to bring it home to me, but so be it!
- The first is a non-negotiable reality that has (finally) become clear to me: We cannot know what the future holds. Even when things ultimately stabilize, I will never un-know what I now understand. There is certain power in letting go of an assumption that no longer serves, and a sense of opening up to new possibilities.This is big stuff for someone like me – a planner who rather liked her delusions of control!
- The second insight relates to the first. I need to accept this not-knowing. Acceptance doesn’t mean passivity, or giving up. It’s about conserving needed energy, as you do by not fighting against a riptide. It means shifting my focus, recognizing what I can know, and using my energy for what I can do now.
- The third is that I can create some emotional stability during this extended stay in “I don’t know land.” While we have to tolerate an unusual degree of emotional fluctuation these days, we can find ways to stabilize ourselves, even when the larger context that normally supports us has gone missing. You’ll find some ways for doing that here.
Finding Stability and Uplift
John’s podcast shows how we can find some stability and even uplift in turbulent times. We acknowledge the difficulties we’re facing. We accept the challenging emotions that surface and soothe them. We open ourselves to the insights they bring. Then we free ourselves from their tug, just as we free ourselves from a riptide’s force by swimming across it instead of against it.
John speaks his truth and with it comes the comforting reminder that I’m not alone. The hope that he expresses becomes my hope as well. Give him listen, and let me know what you think.