The next advice to my friend is to tell a story to his daughter from Michael Meade’s book: Why The World Doesn’t End. Perfect title for her question, no?
Written in 2012 (which now feel like the Golden Years), Meade writes:
To be alive at this time means to be in a mythical condition that includes being faced with all the massive problems and impossible tasks that currently plague the modern world. It is an extraordinary time as both nature and culture need all the healing and creative attention that people are capable of giving. There is an increasing sense that time is running out and whatever can be done must happen immediately.
Yet old mythological ideas suggest another way of seeing the situation. When time is running out, when no one can find time anymore, it is not simply time that is missing but the touch of the eternal…
In a time of many endings, it is important to have a sense for lasting things, a narrative feel for life, and a reverence for the unseen. In the end, or near it, the real issue is not simply the future of humanity, but the presence of eternity.”
Take a moment to ponder those wise words. While asking ourselves the necessary question “What can we do?”, don’t forget to include “How shall we be?”
The book's central story tells of an old woman in a cave who is weaving a beautiful garment. The only time she interrupts her work is to occasionally go to the back of the cave to stir a soup that has been bubbling there a long time. Each time she goes back, a black dog grabs hold of a thread of the beautiful weaving and begins pulling it until it completely unravels. When the woman returns to the weaving, she finds it in chaos strewn about the floor. She then sits down to weave again, not trying to duplicate the former garment, but to re-imagine it and try to make it yet more beautiful. Of course, when she goes to stir the soup again, the dog unravels it and the whole drama starts again—an endless cycle of creation and destruction. And so the world will never end, just perpetually be re-imagined and re-woven by the collective imagination of each and every one of us. The black dog takes many forms—plagues, wars, big cultural shifts. And now it feels like a pack of dogs—nuclear annihilation, overpopulation, climate change, toddlers as Presidents, the corona virus.
But the story suggests that the weaving will go on. No one knows what the garment will look like—it is awaiting our patient work and aesthetic imagination. And of course, we’re devastated to see the threads strewn in chaos on the floor. But it does no one any good to just say “Bad dog!!” No choice put to pick them up and start making the world anew.
I think a seven-year old can understand that.