North Atlantic Books, 2015
Reviewed by Marian Van Eyk Mc Cain
Carolyn Baker is one of a growing band of writers who are facing up to the seriousness and scale of the ecological and economic collapse our planet is currently facing and ‘telling it like it is.’ Not only is she facing up to it but she is also facing into it more fearlessly than many and trying to help her fellow humans prepare for the reality of what—barring last minute miracles—the coming decades might hold.
Baker’s previous book, Collapsing Consciously (also reviewed on this site), pointed out that we need to stop hiding in denial, see and accept what is happening to us, understand the dynamics of this ‘collapse-Transition-Great Turning saga’ as she calls it, and equip ourselves with the right psychospiritual skill-set for coping with it. In that book, she listed a number of components of that skill-set. In this one, she looks in depth at one aspect of existence that has a bearing on all of those components, and that is love.
As the author points out, our language has just one word for love. Yet there are, as we know, many different kinds of love. Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling.
The reason that love is so crucial to how we are going to cope as things collapse around us is that our coping—and hopefully the sort of world that humans might build out of the ruins of the old one—will depend hugely, if not entirely, on our relationships. This includes our relationships with loved ones, with our neighbours and friends, with our children and our elders, ourselves, our bodies, our fellow creatures, the rest of Nature, our Earth…
The qualities of loving that we are able to bring to our relationships will include elements like compassion, empathy, forgiveness, detachment, humility and spirituality. Through our spiritual awakening we can learn to feel and express the sort of love that can enable us to upgrade our relationship skills to a high enough level to create the sort of balanced, sustainable world we long for. Love is like air. It is invisible, omnipresent, all-connecting. Without it we perish.
From practical advice such as how to talk to your children about Collapse to self-therapy issues like clearing our personal and cultural ‘Shadow’ and the importance of acknowledging our animal nature, this book covers a multitude of related topics. On the one hand, I found this wide range thought-provoking and exciting. On the other hand, the editor part of me wanted either to re-brand it as a series of essays or tighten up the structure in some way. But that is a minor quibble. Above all, I am grateful to Carolyn Baker for her fearless and forward-thinking take on what lies ahead of us and how we may best prepare for it.