Within this election there’ve been numerous allusions to the apocalypse, as an expression of things having the potential to become irreversibly fucked up in a way that leads to the end of the world — an idea that humans seem to tenaciously flirt with — along with more specific allusions, such as the four horsemen of the Republican apocalypse, in the sense of the party disintegrating and changing in a fundamental way.
The term ‘apocalypse’ literally means ‘unveiling’ – in this case, much has already been unveiled about American misery and collective wounds, things that as a society we all need to know about and face.
Archetypally, apocalypse is a time when humans lack a collective mythic container that gives their lives meaning, a collective story of who we are, why are we here, and a sense of our purpose as humans. Mythic containers, like everything, have a life span, a beginning, middle and end, and endings contain the potential for new beginnings. A time of apocalypse, though chaotic and shaky, offers the possibility of new emergence, of evolutionary transformation. I’m already hearing people speak of their response to the Trump victory as a re-commitment to what matters most to them.
In a best case scenario, we could become a diverse, poly-mythic people, rich in stories from numerous cultures coming together with present time vision in a dynamic collage.
One danger of apocalyptic times is that people may find themselves falling into cynicism, depression, greed, exploitation, and addictions of all kinds as symptoms of lives that lack a sense of individual and collective meaning. I think of our current situation as a time when the pus needs to come out and the collective wounds cleaned –not a task for sissies.
The uncertainty of apocalyptic times creates an understandable desire for stability, security, and a sense of shared purpose and values. This is part of what makes fundamentalisms of all kinds appealing, including a leader who seems strong despite clearly exploiting people’s fears. Many people voted for Donald Trump despite their misgivings about his character. It’s been like a collective version of seeing a friend dating someone who is clearly unhealthy for them – what do they see in that person? Why does this friend keep making excuses for them? What longings in them is this lover exploiting to the extent that they are willing to be blind?
All this got me musing on what psychospiritual principles might provide a basis to help us navigate our apocalyptic times in a good way, akin to the basic principles of a healthy diet.
I wanted to be fairly rigorous and streamlined about this, to get to a bottom line set of principles that mythic diversity and apocalyptic transformation can grow from, so that we can potentially turn this lead into gold, while also holding and being held by a social diversity of visions. These are the two that satisfied me that way:
- Interdependence: The awareness that we are all in this together, which means that exploitation, greed, hatred, and demonizing of the ‘other,’ will eventually cause personal suffering as well as collective misery. We are all made of the same elements. We breathe the same air. Our individual stories live within a collective story.
- All the spiritual traditions emphasize love. The narcissism and entitlement that has been part of America has us collectively rather immature about love. Love in this sense is not about getting something, a feeling of pleasure, an addictive grasping, or being inauthentically nice, but rather holding the view that we are indeed all in this together, and not letting ideological differences and conflict of belief interfere with a basic motivation of good will towards those we share the planet with. This doesn’t mean that one gets to sit back in some ‘it’s all good’ bubble. We need to be fierce and passionate, while staying steady on the larger picture.
Stay strong in the struggle.