On the Burden of Awareness
Accepting the finite scope of our capacity.
I’ve had a few conversations recently where I’ve heard this idea that humans haven’t evolved to be constantly aware of our painful, complex global reality. All the crises, injustices, problems, issues; it’s simply too much for our small minds to deal with. There is no doubt this global consciousness is taking a mental toll, but there is also an undeniable imbalance between the gargantuan capacity of our mind to comprehend, dream, and plan, and the very limited capacity of our time, our energy, our very bodies. What are we to do with the mental capacity to perceive something as complex and large as climate change or economic inequality but the physical capacity of only having so many hours, of only being able to give our attention to one thing at a time, of needing to sleep every night and periodically fold our laundry? What are we to do when our mental capacity outstrips our very physics?
When we’re able to let go of the infinite range of our awareness and accept the finite scope of our capacity, we might realize that the consciousness that has activated us is the very thing that is burdening us. Environmentalist Derrick Jensen, in his book Deep Green Resistance, says “Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world, [but by saying that] they’ve assumed the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it…we no longer have to ‘hope’ at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive…When we stop hoping that the awful situation we’re in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free - truly free - to honestly start working to resolve it.”