Nihilism and Radical Uncertainty – Thoughts from Mary-Jayne

(Reposting this with proper formatting and also correcting a fairly major Freudian slip, which suggested that flying and driving might be a meaningful contribution to combatting climate change…. A reminder that it’s best not to post things very late at night and in a hurry.)

In an earlier post, this blog tackled the challenge of whether someone who’s ecologically-aware can use a car, or even travel by plane, without needing to feel guilty or being judged by eco-peers.

My own view, while agreeing that it makes every bit of financial and social sense to use public transport, was thatrefraining from (!)driving or flying – within reason – is valuable more as a personal gesture than, sadly, as a meaningful contribution to stopping climate change.

Mary-Jayne Rust has come back with a very useful perspective, with which I entirely agree (although I would challenge the understanding of my own position as “depressive”, except in the paradoxically positive Freudian sense.)

Addressing our friend Martin, who is concerned about using his car to travel to a summer gathering of ecologically-engaged therapists, Mary-Jayne writes:

“Martin, I would feel sad if you didn’t come because of your fear of being judged for driving there. I agree we all struggle with our own constraints.

I’m also interested in your comments on nihilism, hopelessness, and Mark’s ‘depressive position.’

It is depressing to face the situation we are in. It looks increasingly likely that we are heading for unimaginable loss of life. And while I don’t believe this is “The End of the World” it does seems as though it’s “The End of the World as we know it”.

Nihilism seems rather different. For me it lies in the ‘f**k it’ mentality. This runs something like: “We can’t turn this around, therefore there’s no point in any action anymore, and we may as well fly as much as we like or do anything we like because ultimately nothing will make a difference.”

Ultimately this is “F**k Gaia”. It’s f**k life. That attitude is for me the most depressing and hopeless and hard to bear of all. And it’s entirely understandable…

I guess the question is about making a difference to what? Even when death is certain, there is still opportunity for extraordinary transformation which can make such a difference to both those who are on their way out as well as those who remain here.

So my way out of nihilism, of finding meaning at the end of the world as we know it, is to spend what time we have looking our Shadow in the eye, trying to see what we have been caught in, trying to repair the damage as far as we can. This, for me, is a question about how we make peace with Gaia.

Mark made a comment some time back that (for example) stopping flying now wouldn’t make a difference in terms of averting climate change. The only difference it would make is personal. I want to challenge that, to try and understand this on a relational level.

That’s because I think that all actions make a difference to my relationship with Gaia – which is my relationship with myself, with you, with all of life.

It makes a difference on a eco-spiritual level.”

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