Headed up to the mountains about a month ago for one last lap of spring skiing, and had an "unstuck in time" kinda moment.
(And heads up: important Flow Camp update at the bottom!)
In the meantime...
Denver was warm that day––crazy warm. Like 80 plus degrees. And all the way up into the mountains there wasn't a sign of the slippery white stuff anywhere. Not an auspicious start to an alpine adventure.
By the time we got to ten thousand feet, there was snow again, but the creeks and rivers were flowing, grass poking up everywhere, it felt like late May in the high country, rather than mid-April. Simultaneously too much slush and muddy water and at the same time, the sinking feeling (based on several years of low snowfall) of not enough moisture to get us through a hot dry summer.
Pine bark beetles, emboldened by the lack of hard freezes had infested forests and left tons of standing deadfall timber, just waiting to go up in an inferno, shallow stream levels leading to temp rises and stressed fish––you could feel the whole ecosystem groaning in advance of the challenges ahead.
Then we hopped on a chairlift to whisk us neatly to the top of the mountain. That's when I came unstuck in time. Just over the ridgeline lay the basecamp of the old 10th Mountain Division––the soldiers who'd trained for combat in the Italian alps (and later secretly trained Tibetan Khampa rebel fighters). When those winter warriors came back to the States after WWII, they created Aspen, Vail and spawned the modern ski industry. I'd spent years guiding winter backcountry courses all through those training grounds––so they held a special place in my heart.
But as we were zooming uphill, on a mechanized lift, in between giant metal towers, with long planks strapped to our feet made of high tech material and ultra-low friction bases on which to slip and slide...I found myself trapped in the paradox that the very same military industrial technological complexity that had been able to invent such a delightful way to play with gravity, was, simultaneously and increasingly unavoidably responsible for its own undoing.
Barely fifty years––a blip of a blip in the archaeological record––where we figured out how to dance this delightful dance, and we'd overshot the mark with all of our rampant consumption. For a hundred thousand years, humans had never done this for fun, and then we suddenly invented downhill skiing out of thin air, for the sheer joy of it. We'd brought the magic of Frosty to life, just in time to see him melt away into nothing.
That whipsaw paradox is affecting much more than action sports (though, due to their intense attunement to rivers, mountains, oceans and forests, they are among the early warning indicators).
It's true for our awareness of ourselves, our species and our futures.
At the same time that we're delighting in updates from the Large Hadron Collider that seek to reproduce the moment of creation, and reading articles that the Navy has filed a slew of "UFO patents" for things as diverse as mini fusion reactors to flying submarines, we're also increasingly aware that the very same military industrial technological complexity that has given us this God's Eye View of Life, the Universe and Everything, has perhaps, irrevocably cooked our goose.
Because it's not just the Big Bang that we get to marvel over. It's all the Big Crunches too. Antarctic ice shelves slipping into the sea, bodies piling up in the Ganges and Gaza. Boots on necks, and riots in streets.
It's the Coming Alive arc of life, where we imagine and then pursue the best of what's possible, slammed up against the Staying Alive arc of life, where we dump everything that's not vital overboard, in the hopes of staying afloat.
And while I wrote about the personal implications of this schizoid reckoning in Recapture the Rapture, there's another level higher up from that that we're collectively living through right now.
At the personal level, it looks something like this: hey! been stuck inside for over a year now, how do we plan the most amazing hot vaxx summer adventure, vacation, festival ever and get our grooves back all the way on? Or, how do I quit my old job/relationship that I hung onto through the uncertainties of covid, and pursue my true passions now that I'm officially outta fucks?
Only a moment later to wonder, "wait a sec, should I be liquidating my 401K now before it all goes tits up, and double down on gold, guns or crypto? And how 'bout that Wall Street Journal article that just said a lake in northern Idaho is the hottest real estate market in the country? Should we be looking around, just in case the next time the music (or power, or gas, or groceries) stops, we're in a better spot?
So we're dealing with all of that meaningful reassessment of our personal priorities, at the same time we have a God's Eye views of where we've come from, how we got here, and where it increasingly looks like we're going.
It's as if we're marveling over the crisp 4K zoom feature on Google Earth––at the precise moment we get an alert to tell us we're sailing off a cliff.
It's hard to know whether we should be paying attention to our stomachs in our throat, or be dazzled by the tech wizardry of our precisely calibrated impact velocity.
Needless to say, that can tear the fabric of our minds.
It can also lead to denial and despair. Because the If/Then is so whacked––IF the world is coming undone, THEN I ought to radically reorient all my priorities––that most of us creep back from the edge of the Screaming Abyss, and do our level best to go about our regularly scheduled #bestlife programming.
That's no longer seeming all that tenable.
So, as of the last few years (for those of you following along at home, you've maybe noticed this), we are no longer investing time and energy training leaders in organizations not aligned to collective change. Helping people head faster off the cliff via "optimizing their performance"––feels neither ethical nor helpful.
When podcasters and journalists ask for the "quick tips" and "simple hacks" to help office drones drone a little longer, we're telling them our most heartfelt advice is to go look for more meaningful work––something, anything that moves the needle for our collective future. And really, the good news in all of that, is that there's so much that needs to get done––there's room for all of us on Team Human.
Here's an excerpt from Wendell Berry's Mad Farmer Liberation Front––it's so full of zingers that it's worth 2 min to read in full, but here's the phrase that comes to mind this morning for me:
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
At some point, we gotta start doing the things that don't compute, because nothing else but love and courage pencils out.
So do something today that won't compute, and love someone who doesn't deserve it.
Let's start with ourselves, and not stop until it comes all the way back around.
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