A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability
Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2013|
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Finding the Gift
Originally published in
Approaching the Limits to Growth, 29 September 2012
Reprinted with Permission
Those of us who have been following the unfolding global crisis - the
converging, interlocked "wicked problems" of energy, the environment,
economics and social justice - have become intimately familiar with the
painful progression through the Five Stages of Grief described by
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. |
1. Denial — "This can't
be happening! There's been some stupid mistake."
2. Anger — "This is
simply not fair! Who is to blame for this?"
3. Bargaining — "I'll do
anything for a chance at a few more years. Anything!"
4. Depression — "I can't
do anything about it, so why bother with anything? What's the point?"
5. Acceptance — "Well, I
can't fight it, so I may as well prepare for it."
As I have worked within Stage 5
for the last few years, I've come to realize that Kübler-Ross
one stage too soon. There is an important stage even beyond the clear
recognition and acceptance of What Is Really Happening.
Often when we
arrive at acceptance we are so relieved just to be free of the pain of
our grief that we stop looking to see if any new possibilities may have
There is a fundamental principle in deep inner work that the greatest
gifts are always found in the darkest places. The acceptance of an
inevitable ending, whatever it is, can clear our vision and allow us to
see previously unnoticed things that become the launch pad for new
growth - for a kind of rebirth.
The bigger the change, the greater its potential gift, if we can just
look at it with new eyes. We may find ways of moving beyond our
habits, expectations and judgments. We may realize that our old
of seeing the world held us back. We may give ourselves permission to
live authentically, as our true selves.
As a reminder to keep looking for those opportunities, I invite
you to add a sixth stage to the Kübler-Ross model:
6. Finding the Gift —
"Wow, look at the opportunities this change opens up! I may not be able
to go back, or even forward in the direction I wanted, but just look at
all the other possibilities that have suddenly appeared!"
At first, I wanted to change things. I hoped to help put out the “fire on the roof of the world”
or at least show people how that might be done. Later on, I wanted to
wake people up to the fact that the roof was on fire in the hope that they would find a way to act. Both
of those hopes have turned out to be forlorn.
Now I have turned my attention and energies closer to home – to my
immediate circle of community and my own inner preparations. My
involvement with the global aspects of the crisis has largely shifted
to watching it unfold, to making sure that any new developments are
seen and understood by others, and generally acting as a shamanic
witness to humanity’s transition.
If we follow this shift in our attention and values, we will discover
the opportunity to explore the sixth stage of grief, and we will begin
to find the gifts that such great challenges always hold. These
It is time for us to stop thinking in terms of fixing things that
can’t be fixed. It’s time instead to begin imagining the best
live happy, caring, cooperative, altruistic, mindful, joyous, and even
sacred lives in the midst of a world we have defaced forever.
- Understanding that humanity is a special animal, and that
our specialness and our animal nature must be a factor in all we do;
- Realizing that we are a part of nature, not apart from her;
- Learning that our sense of control is an illusion born of
fear, and that the fear itself is an illusion;
- Recognizing our personal and collective limitations, and
reorienting our action within them;
- Awakening to the fact that change is not the enemy, but the
nature of reality;
- Accepting that what humanity faces is not a set of physical
problems, but the turmoil that always accompanies a transition from
adolescence into adulthood.
In closing, I would like to say that there is a very good reason that
the concept of Surrender is
at the core of all the world’s sacred
philosophies. Unlike the Western interpretation of the word – “the
acceptance of defeat” – this use of Surrender
asks us simply to accept
that there are indeed some things that cannot be done. If we
to the truth of our reality in this way, we are suddenly released from
our attachment to the impossible, free instead to do the very best of
those things that can be done.
In this surprising reversal of meaning, surrender becomes synonymous
not with final defeat, but with the opportunity for true victory.
opportunity is to find the gifts of insight that wait hidden in even
the darkest corners of our experience.
me this day
The courage to change those
things I can,
The serenity to accept those
things I cannot change –
And above all, the wisdom to
know the difference
May your journey be filled with hope, joy, liberation and love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Chefurka is a Computer Scientist with a lifelong interest in environmental issues. He has spent over twenty years working in Research and Development in the Ottawa telecommunications industry, and is currently Project Manager at Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans. His personal web site, Approaching the Limits provides open access to his writings and is a valuable resource for study and reflection on many dimensions of the impending ecological crisis. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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