What Matters: Or "What Do We Do When the World is Ending?"


A heavy title, I know. But let's face it, many are experiencing a sense that we are, indeed, seeing the death throes of the world as we know it. I have been feeling it quite a bit this summer, thus the long stretch between postings here on Living A Mythopoetic Life.

The summer has been difficult on many levels: I have encountered some personal trauma material that circles back around every now and again from the distant past— Tahlequah's grief, the mother orca who carried her dead baby calf for 17 days, was enough to almost undo me completely— The air is heavy with smoke from the now-normal summer wildfires burning all along the west coast— Deadly heatwaves and flooding create chaos all over the world— And the current administration relentlessly dismantles decades of environmental protections— All of it has left me feeling clobbered.

I have had a hard time getting things done. This all came to a head when my despair and hopelessness rendered me unable to even water my plants, withering from the days-long stretch of dry hot weather.

What To Do When Rendered Helpless

So I've done a few things to mitigate this. I recommend all four.

One—I got a kitten.

Two—I reached out to my support groups. Others are feeling it; we commiserate; and we bolster one another against the onslaught.

Three—I created an altar where I have laid it all down—the personal and the collective grief and trauma. I sit with the altar several times a day. Invaluable.

What Matters

Four—I write in my journal. So here we get to the part about What Matters. I wrote:


Truly, though, how do I make things matter when the world is dying? Wrong question. Because things matter whether I'm involved or not. For instance, the plants in my care. It has taken everything in me to provide care for them these last two weeks. Because I think, "It doesn't matter; we're all going to die anyway."

Here's the thing though—Everything matters. Someone could say to me, about me and my needs and wants, about my life—"It doesn't matter. You don't matter." But just because that person doesn't see that I matter doesn't mean that I don't. I may even believe him, take it in, and say, "You're right. I don't matter." I will feel hurt, worthless, ashamed. I'll think about suicide or homicide. I'll feel and think these things because I matter. No matter what someone else thinks of me or tells me, what I think of myself or someone else, we matter because we matter. We feel the compensatory, correlative pain that comes when that's not recognized or honored.

And so, each of my dying withered plants matter and each of the animals fleeing the wildfires matter. And every living being, soul, person on this planet matters. Each stone, each layer of earth, each withered leaf, each carbon atom.

Every thing matters.


My life, my being, is integrally, intricately bound up with yours. Your hatred and anger and intolerance matter. Your love, boundless compassion, deep wisdom, and astounding presence matter. Your life, your grief, your death matters.

It all matters. Radical acceptance.

I don't have to do anything. I don't have to fix, repair, undo, supervise, manage anything for it to matter. I am to witness. To respond where I am meant to respond. To love. Because that's what matters in the end.