Which Way now?

Link To Chapter 16

The Crystal Ball

By Chris Wilson

So it is that we come to the end of our life cycle, and now it is time to weave all the threads of our discussion together so that we might look at the final garment we have created, and then to determine what kind of a legacy we might leave behind. I began the book by stating that our nature and actions are often paradoxical, and I hope I have demonstrated why this is so during the course of the book. The important question is how do we handle such an apparently unsolvable paradox, and how do we go from where we are now? Whether we will ever entirely free ourselves from such a position only the future will tell, but though at times we are clearly peculiar, contrary, irrational, cruel and at times plain stupid, I firmly believe that, if we take care, there is a future for ourselves and for all life as we know it today, in all it’s muddled yet glorious complexity. We may not know what lies ahead over the years to come, but we can do is to control the legacy that we leave behind us. Now, more than ever, difficult choices lie in front of us all. In life we often talk of standing at a crossroad, and of being uncertain as to which way we should go, and that is where we seem to stand now.

Three paths seem to lie before us; once again, it will be interesting to see which path we eventually chose.

The first option is to change neither the way we think or act, and even some experts will try and tell you that this is an option that can be pursued. Oddly enough this actually is an option, so long as we simply don’t care to look beyond the next 50-100 years.  It certainly is possible, so long as we are indifferent to mass species extinction, and we would survive, so long as we are untouched by world wide economic and social instability. The real question though is whether we really wish to develop or promote such values. In the short term it is possible for us to take this view, but the warning signs in nature surround us on all sides, for all life on earth, and if we were to follow such a regime what legacy would we leave for generations, and for all nature to come. Not only that, do we wish to maintain, or increase, an already uncomfortable divergence between who we are naturally as opposed to who we aspire to be. If we could stand still, or if nature could do so, then we might survive as we are, but how can we hope to survive in the mid or long term when, by our own actions, we are dramatically remodelling the very planet upon which we live?

The second option is to retain how we think, but to change what we do, and I would maintain that, overall, that is where we are now. We know that we are damaging the future of the planet, or at least altering the overall balance of life upon its crust, but we are reluctant to move away from the civilised personality that we have developed over the years. The result is that despite all our best efforts, we often address the symptoms rather dealing with the underlying problems, so even if we clear up the symptoms we want to eliminate, there is a distinct possibility that the same symptoms will return over time. If we were to resolve such symptoms, or even some underlying problems in accordance with natural rhythms of nature, then this approach might work, but we often seem to disturb rather than assist such natural rhythms, and secondly, do we really have the arrogance to assume that we have equal or greater power than nature itself? Not only this we are very good at overlaying one imbalance with another one with, at times, disastrous consequences. How many of us recall the childhood song about an old lady who swallowed a fly, do you recall the song I mean?

She began by swallowing a spider top catch the fly and only stopped when she swallowed a horse. What happened, she died of course, and so will we if this highly commendable ,but hugely imbalanced approach, were to be continually adopted over the years to come. To use another example think of untying a tangled ball of string. Most of us would soon lose patience with the string, and either start tugging like crazy or hurling the ball across the room, but if we were to stop and think, we would slow down, and gently tease out the tangle, thereby resolving both our stress levels, and the tangled mess of string. Does either the string or the old lady have any relevance to the huge problems we face today, certainly, for are not both examples representative of the imbalances we endure today? For the old lady we might read deforestation, and the ball of string, might be the global credit crunch, or whatever we will.

The third and final option is to change both how we think and thereby how we act, and this is where I would like to end.

Despite all the damage we have done to the planet, to ourselves, and to nature, I firmly hope and believe that with a sympathetic and natural approach most, if not all of our stupidity might be corrected, and that once more we might live our lives in relative harmony with all of life around us. As previously demonstrated, we can change how we think, all of us, and though it is uncomfortable when we begin to do so, the rewards of such an exercise may be staggering in the extreme.

Does this mean that I would have all of us communing with nature and becoming an indivisible entity with everything around us? The answer is yes, but not entirely in the way that some conservationists or ecological activists might envisage. Of course I want us to empathise more with nature, but we still have to recognise or accept three things.

We need to realise we are naturally part a broader living community,

we need to remember and accept that, at times, nature can be incredibly cruel, and finally

we must accept that as part of nature we can, and do, wield an amazing degree of power

The real question is the degree to which we exercise that power and accept the responsibilities of our own actions.

It is not our fault that we have been given such strength through the power of our minds, so are we to blame that such power cannot be exercised fully? No, as such factors are as natural as night following day, but it is our fault if we deliberately create instability and destruction wherever we go, as largely we alone have the power to change what we do.

In the satirical novel, Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift describes the bulk of humanity as

“the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth”.


I think this is a little harsh as descriptions go, but unless we are careful we may see such an epitaph inscribed on the tombstone above our grave. As stated though we stand a crossroads, and by our side stands nature, quietly, if sorrowfully looking on.

We can change and we must change.

That is the challenge that is in front us all; before our greed, stupidity, and arrogance take our planetary home and ourselves to depths of despair and destruction that even we cannot conceive.

Nature is now holding out her hand, and in her hand she is holding that challenge of change.

Can we ignore such a challenge? I hope that is impossible.

Let us hope for our sakes, and for the sake of the world around us, that we choose well, and choose in time.

God help all life if we fail!

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