Do you really think we will get through the climacteric, and come in due course to a time of resilience, manners and harmonic order?

Don’t answer that question, for you may discover to your cost that your answer is either a self-fulfilling or a self-denying truth, and that both count against us. If we deny that there is a liveable future, then we will do little to secure one. If we affirm it, we come into other trouble, such as complacency, an optimistic view that what we are doing now is all that is needed, an iconic focus on the simple solution, or the constant anxiety of life on the edge, between hope and doubt: positive thinking seems to be the right thing in the circumstances, until you notice the wreckage.S132

Instead, think of what happened to Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice, you may remember, died after having been bitten by a snake, and Orpheus went down into the Underworld to recover her. The goddess Persephone agreed to let her go on condition that Orpheus did not look back at her as she followed him. Unfortunately, he forgot about this condition—he did look back, with the result that Eurydice vanished forever and Orpheus was torn to pieces by angry women who threw his head into the river Hebros, where it floated downstream, still singing.

That is, make the intense commitment. At walking pace. Plod on. Climb steeply uphill, out of the Underworld. Keep your eyes fixed ahead. You never know—you might get there; you might even find out where “there” is, and you might inspire others to come with you. Just don’t look down . . .

We do not need to choose between hope and expectation. What matters is to keep hope alive, which we won’t succeed in doing if we are constantly checking up on it. It is not certainty that sustains our focus, but the ambiguity that comes to us, for instance, in the prayer from another ancient moment of commitment against the odds: “Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief.”S133


Related entries:

Grim Reality.

David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

Comment on this entry: