(Photo by Andreas Selter on Unsplash.com)
Have you done nothing since you think the extinction of the human species is possible?
Extinction Rebellion have incorporated the “evil” E-word into their name and the hourglass’s time into their logo. Even the young Fridays for Future movement talks about the possible end of the human species. Dramatic consequences of global warming are visible all over the world.
What is to be done?
Here I offer a small selection of DOs. I concentrate on ideas that help you to live with these dire prospects. There are a lot more to add.
I wish to find as much acceptance as possible for whatever comes.
If you share this desire, I invite you to follow me a few steps along this path.
1) Fictitious Date of Death
I have told a friend that I am going to give me a fictitious date of death and that I feel relieved. I guess he thought „He is going crazy!“ But he asked me nicely: „Why?“
I have heard an audio book from Alexandra Reinwarth. She describes in „Life is too short for later“ (only in German available) how she and her circle of friends is confronted with another friend getting a new cancer diagnosis. Everything that is important in life stands in a different light. She decides to make a self-experiment. She gives herself a fictitious date of death in about a year. I have enjoyed to listen to Alexandra‘s experiences during this year. She describes it with a large portion of humor and self-irony.
With these experiences of Alexandra in mind I can answer my friends question. With death in mind I am relieved to see more clearly what‘s really important for me in my life.
With extinction in mind it is not easier. There are rough ideas as to what our near future might look like. Nobody of us has experienced extinction of the own species. It’s easy to talk your way out of it: “Perhaps I have three more years, maybe even ten.”
Let us begin with one more year. I have begun my last year while I have been writing the first ideas for this text. I am looking forward having tears and fun like Alexandra.
I grew up in a big and old house, very old, more than 350 years. This house had a large attic. We loved it as a playing ground when we were kids. There have been cupboards and other furnitures, everything that accumulates during many decades. My aunt and my grandma died and their households had to be cleared. All what wasn’t thrown away ended up in the attic.
When my parents got older and lived in this big house alone they began to clean the attic. My sister, my brother and I decided which furniture we wanted to have. And during months – or better said – years much was given away, passed on or thrown away. That was a big job and my parents needed help of their family.
From today’s point of view I recognize that we had initiated a big End-Of-Life (EOL) ritual. Well, my parents died not many years after this ritual. And there was a lot of stuff left in the rest of the house.
I have remembered all this, when I stumbled across the book “Magic Cleaning” from Marie Kondo.
Marie Kondo turns the sorting upside down. Instead of concentrating on things, that she doesn’t like, she holds every thing with her hands and asks her heart if it brings joy into her life. The aim is to be surrounded with things you like and that touch your heart. This means bathing in abundance. The side effect is to reduce things. Another side effect is that it is infectious for other family members.
It’s important to find the right balance that feels comfortable for you, it’s no challenge who has the fewest things.
It is really a to-DO. And the doing has a huge symbolic value for cleaning your mind. It’s a strong cleaning ritual and a grief ritual as well.
3) Listening to Podcasts
Podcasts get close – right into your ears and your head. And the voice is very personal and authentic.
Most people who think that it is possible for us to be in the midst of an extinction wave, including humankind, experience that loved ones don’t want to know anything about this subject. The vast majority of people don’t want to let any of this get to them. So they remain alone with it.
I guess you have similar experiences.
Internet and social media are important ways to find like-minded people.
The biggest power of podcasts is to come in touch emotionally. The voice has a very direct access to emotions. Even if you hear something about scientific stuff you receive a lot between the lines. Especially if you use headphones you let the voice direct into your head. This is simply an additional effect that comes with the medium.
Listening to voices talking about the unfolding disaster gives you the feeling of not being alone with it. It becomes a “normal” topic to even laugh about. The emotional reactions come to rest.
The biggest weakness of podcasting is that it is a one-way communication.
4) Social Media Diet
When you have come in touch with the 6th mass extinction wave one reaction might have been that you have devoured informations. May be you tried to find mistakes, you wanted to expand the room to negotiate. Or you wanted to deal with uncertainty. May be you are sure that we are in the midst of a great demise of biological systems. But it is not clear how this catastrophe will touch your life and how long you will live your life, how you are used to. Or you wish to find something that helps to wake up from this bad dream. Is it a bad dream?
With daily catastrophe news and these big questions it is likely that you burn out. Many of the to-dos I am writing about might help to cool down, but at some point it’ll be enough. You need a break.
The book “Deep Focus” from Cal Newport gave me this valuable clue. “Deep Focus” is about how you can do your work with more concentration and less distraction. But it is really good to transfer to other things – outside work.
Cal Newport suggests to shut down all social media channels or to pause for 30 days. And then you ask yourself these two questions:
- Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service
- Did people care that I wasn’t using this service?
If your answer is “no” to both questions, quit the service permanently. If your answer was a clear “yes”, then return to using the service. If your answers are qualified or ambiguous, it’s up to you weather you return to the service, though I would encourage you to lean toward quitting. – Cal Newport in Deep Work
I didn’t come back to Twitter for example. Now I only use Facebook with a handful of groups and instagram primarily for dog photos. And for family communication I use the save messenger Signal. And I like to listen to podcasts and sometimes I publish episodes.
My experience is that my blog posts have more attention. I am sure it’s an effect of the deeper focus.
5) Body Experience
Many years ago while I tried to change my professional perspective I got to know Bodewijn Vermeulen a former financial auditor. He had developed a very individual coaching method. After I had a coaching weekend with him I joined a course “train the trainer”.
Among other exercises we have trained our body awareness, danced, have done movement meditation, Feldenkreis, progressive muscle relaxation. We have always exchanged our body sensations. Which foot is cooler? Am I standing more on my heel or ball of the foot? Do I breathe more into the left or right lung? Do I pull one shoulder up more than the other?
That sounds trivial at first glance. But the potential for change has become more and more apparent. Unpleasant feelings, for example, are perceived much more clearly and can then go without being evaluated or questioned. This is the same when Buddhists recommend to concentrate on one’s own breathing.
An easy way to train body experience is progressive muscle relaxation. Here you‘ll find an online version or here or search for „progressive muscle relaxation mp3. You can easily relax and as a welcome side effect you go through your body and make it more aware.
Other possibilities to train body experience are Yoga, Tai Chi and trainings where you become aware of in-breath and out-breath.
6) End of Live (EOL) documents
My parents and my parents-in-law have died at a high age of mid 80 or early 90. They all had written a living will, where they have determined in detail how they want to be treated when they are in the dying process. For the most part that are medical questions. But it has been very us eful to let them go and not to try every medical treatment to prolong life in the last weeks or days.
I have helped my parents drawing up those documents. As doctor and nurse they had very clear ideas and wishes. I have been surprised, how easy it has been to talk with them about death and dying.
My wife and me had experiences accompanying our parents in the process of dying. Nevertheless, we have put off drawing up EOL documents ourselves. We needed some months from the first version until all were signed. I had many conversations with my wife about dying, and with our children too.
I do not believe that we can rely on it to be exactly the same as we have written it in the documents. In a collapse situation, we will probably not be faced with the question of which medical treatment we prefer.
But I have found it very valuable, to talk about death and dying with my family and some friends. This is a very good opportunity to overcome this taboo.
7) Express Gratitude
The following video is about feeling happier by expressing gratitude. Feeling happier facing death and extinction is quiet a good idea. To appreciate the people who have the greatest influence on us is a win-win situation.
If that’s too big for you, you can try 5-minute-journaling:
- Get a notebook ready.
- Every morning at the top of the page, write down three things that would make the day ahead a good day.
- Make a note of an affirmation to accompany you through the day. A motivating sentence that gives you security, self-confidence, courage.
- Before you go to bed, write down three things for which you are grateful, that you have experienced/perceived them. Important: Be as concrete as possible, also appreciate little things, but above all: Write down only what you really feel.
If you ask yourself where the 8th point is: Sometimes it’s over faster than expected.
Please add more ideas about what you are doing or want to do in the comments section.