Good Grief

The ethical ecologist Marc Bekoff says that ‘Play is training for the unexpected’. As we face a time of critical uncertainty, play is undoubtedly the best training.

But there are questions. How do we manage our grief at ecological loss? How much should we involve children in this grieving? Will they manage their grief if they do it their own way or should we protect them from knowing it all? What can we learn from children’s ‘sad play’? Will they lead us beyond our current ‘space between stories’?

Why am I thinking about this? It’s International Remembrance Day for Lost Species on 30th November. The initiators are Uncivilisation attendees Persephone Pearl and Andreas Kornevall, as well as Vanessa Vine. (I’m also involved this year by including it in Treeage, a week of creative actions for trees.) There will be poems, songs, stories and other forms of litany of loss for the many pristine habitats and non-human beings we will no longer see. Some people are asking ‘why do this? Surely we should be taking action instead?’

To convey the event’s purpose, Vanessa quoted Stephen Jenkinson on how grief is the twin of a joy for life, and therefore essential: ‘From a young age we see around us that grief is mostly an affliction, a misery that intrudes into the life we deserve, a rupture of the natural order of things … What if grief is a skill, in the same way that love is a skill, something that must be learned and cultivated and taught? What if grief is the natural order of things, a way of loving life anyway?’

So we learn from this that we must not repress grief. The ability to grieve is there when a baby opens her mouth to cry but it can still increase with practice. Grieving well is about loving life profoundly and precisely, loving all the parts of life as they pass, and emerging more whole. The ability to grieve is to pass through it.

There is much to grieve for. I’m writing this in yet another pre-dawn insomniac anxiety fit, having read a study about a critical state shift in c.2045 that will prevent the planet from supporting life as we know it. Many people share my insomnia. Drew Dellinger, who made this filmpoem, wakes at 3.30 am because his great great grandchildren won’t let him sleep. They’re asking ‘What did you do once you knew the planet was being plundered?’ My daughter commented drily, ‘Yeah, so what did HE do? He just made that video!’

What can you do?

Sitting here in the dark before she wakes, I worry that my daughter will read these terrifying statistics or hear me talk of them. She has already heard some of it, of course. She has responded in part by carrying on her life as joyfully and creatively as she can. But she also weaves some sadness at biodiversity loss into her art work. For example, she co-invented the Unextinction Machine – an art project where she collaborated with her dad to generate new animals to combat extinction losses. The animals are just imagined, so in some way it’s not going to directly tackle the problem. It is only play. But it was an oblique strategy that raised our spirits and awareness, and it also led us to take practical actions for wildlife.

The Unextinction Machine

It is only play, but play is not only. What is play then? Its opposite is repression and fixity. Play does involve rehearsal and imitation but comes with freedom to change yourself and to generate novelty. Playful learning is inherently complex and edgy, pushing you on a trajectory towards becoming fully human, which means more fully interacting with the world. Healthy playful learning involves grief, when you disturb yourself to points of horror (by taking risks in games or by approaching harsh truths obliquely) then cycling back to places of comfort or denial. You have to repeat this process. Prolonged and free playful learning allows you to gradually assimilate those unpalatable truths or to cope with risky tasks.

So, I think it’s right that children should be free to play and make art about big tragic issues, but I also worry that the knowledge of what is to come is just too tragic. On the other hand, I don’t want to see knowledge repressed. I think as adults we become suckers for stories that miss the target of the real reasons for our grief, and we harden the split in ourselves between the horror and the denial. This leads to a benign orthodoxy where we agree that we mustn’t speak too much truth because alarming people, especially children, about the future causes negative reactions. It’s an intractable problem, this balance between comfort and knowledge.

David Bond knew he had to do something for the sake of the children, so he assigned himself Marketing Director for Nature and set up Project Wild Thing. This is a new campaign using creative media to get children playing outdoors in green spaces, in touch with their inherent wildness. A film is linked to pledges and games that motivate adults and children to have green time. The film is getting well circulated and should be effective because it is a well-crafted narrative, compelling and light-hearted. It is hard to disagree: of course children belong in nature. We know it from our own experience.

But I have questions too. So much more needs to be done to restore children to their birthright to a thriving planet. There is the issue of time. We can’t teach children in abstract ways to be better Earth stewards and sit waiting in the hope that they succeed where we failed.

What can we do?

Jay Griffiths has written an impassioned analysis of the crisis for children in Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape. A key message of this is that children are chronically estranged from their ‘kith’, denied freedom to grow through full connection with a favourable place (or oikeios, the Greek origin of the word ecology). This book provides an anthropological foundation for grasping the crisis, on which we could build a comprehensive and systemic plan for children. At the same time, a big part of ‘what must be done’ is expressing sadness for what is lost. Jay is often criticized for her emotional prose, which keens most about the restricted freedoms and losses of wild beings. This criticism arises from our split-ego culture that is so uncomfortable with personalised, informal and open-ended expressions of grief. Free-range sadness is mostly banished from designed play and learning because adults assume it is not safe and that children won’t like it. Perhaps too, we adults fear that children exploring sadness would open up too much reason for grief in ourselves.

Bayo Akomolafe has published a rousing speech on The Deep Shift We Need for a New Planetary Future. He opens with a reflection on the recent birth of his first child. His ecstasy about being a father contrasts with a tendency amongst some young adults now to reject procreation – because they can’t afford it, are concerned about overpopulation or don’t want to bring children into a doomed world.

Bayo feels that ‘children enchant the world. They are the prime reason why I still find it possible to believe that the universe has not given up on us. They bring hope and light and play to our otherwise bland existences.’ He also knows that ‘there is a depth and sternness to their play … They are heralds of hard questions and difficult considerations.’ He outlines his argument that most do-good initiatives are just sticking plasters, that we need a deep shift based on connectivity. We must turn to each other. He returns to the theme of children, explaining how they teach us: ‘I suspect that our children bear a crucial message for us in these transitory moments … in learning to be with them we not only find clues about the new world now demanding our attention, we find wisdom for catalyzing her emergence.’

So, if children teach us how to be wild, free and connected, then we must allow children to be so and must model this ourselves as adults. I see this as a feminising shift. Some may say this sounds too undisciplined and soft but I think this essential shift in adult behaviour towards intimacy and expressiveness is tough to enact and does not mean abdicating responsibility. Simone de Beauvoir argued that our patriarchal leaders are like children, and that in inheriting or accepting patriarchal power we also become infantile. Our leaders have gamified their competitive and corrupt power, in the form of the Global Race, and expect us to play this big game. But when do we ever hear any expressions of sorrow or honour for the losers in the game? This is not a good game. We need games and stories in which we can be wild and free, and sad and connected.

Paul Shepard in his essay ‘Nature and Madness’ diagnosed the environmental malaise as one of adult infantilism, due to a lack of ceremonial initiation into the natural world. Education focuses too much on making the world (which means destroying and then remaking) and not enough on loving the world as the ground of our being. In a less infantilising society the emerging adult ‘will not study [nature] in order to transform its livingness into mere objects that represent his ego, but as a poem, numinous, and analogical of human society’.

So, we can but try to involve children in serious rites of passage. As Persephone says ‘making events like Remembrance Day that are eclectic, seemingly eccentric, sometimes playful, is part of a bigger task of finding inclusive, accessible, beautiful ways of looking at and talking about difficult things, and most importantly mark a commitment to explore the realm of rites here and now – to try to re-find or invent a language of praise, connection and memory and to share that with our children’.

Timezones: RHI

(the road not taken)

nnnnnnnggggnnnnn For she was beautiful – her beauty made
mmmmmmmmmmmmmThe bright world dim, and everything beside
mmmmmmmmmmm.Seemed like the fleeting image of a shade

…………………………………….| &time’s | ocean |
……………………. …….(not grainsofsand)
{ o r s t a g n a t e s e l e g a n t l y } …………………………&&flow&&

…….in the ubiquity of time this is what allows for narrative

That was the first verse. When he had finished it, Eeyore didn’t exactly say that he didn’t like it, so Pooh very kindly sang the second verse to him


He then asked me if I wasn’t interested in changing my life. I replied you could never change your life, that in any case, one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t at all dissatisfied with mine here.*
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm(He looked upset)

My muse is not a horse,
……. g….and I am in no horse race
………………………and if indeed she was,
………………………….still I would not harness her to this tumbrel –
………………………….this bloody cart of
………………………….severed heads and
………………………….glittering prizes.*

I realised that I’d destroyed the balance of the day and the perfect silence of this beach where I’d been happy. And I fired four more times at a lifeless body and the bullets sank in without leaving a mark. And it was like giving four sharp knocks at the door of unhappiness.*

………………The Ocean-Nymphs and Hamadryades,
…………………Orreads and Naiads with long weedy locks,
…………….. Offered to do her bidding through the seas,
…………………Under the earth and in the hollow rocks

mmmmmmmmmmmmm…I don’t know who I’m supposed to be
…………………………………………..hg.. ….she whispered
………………………………………………that’s okay
……………………………………………..I replied
………………………………………….neither do I…

Then Pooh climbed a little further… and a little further… and then just a little further. By that time he had thought of another song…

*He then asked me/ I realised that: Camus, The Outsider
*My muse is not a horse: Nick Cave

Timezones: Rhi is a section from the long poem Coflyfr: experimentations with time.

Coflyfr is an experiment with the instinctive – a paddle up the collective river of inspiration whose source eludes. By stepping away from conscious research Coflyfr seeks to represent the fluid nature of time, language and memory. The waters of time are mercurial, malleable and interchangeable, existing everywhere and nowhere at once. Coflyfr’s words are an artificial construct, a dam built to contain, an attempt to hold, and perhaps briefly, understand.
Coflyfr [kov-liv-r]: record, register, chronicle.
Cof [kov]: memory.
Llyfr [ll-iv-r]: book.
Read the entire piece here.

The Bellwethers

When I read the diagnosis, and fully believed it for the first time, I felt the emotional shock, as you do with cancer, that even as you look at yourself and nothing seems wrong, your mind is forced to realise that your body will die – a disease of which you see only the faintest initial signs at this moment is going to ravage and kill you in the future

But that was just it – even though the numbers were there, and test after test had come back positive, I couldn’t see what they were talking about. Around me everything still worked as it always had. People worked and machines worked. Nothing I needed for my survival was lacking: air, water, food, shelter. What was happening to the earth’s climate and its multiplicity of species was a backdrop, the way foreign wars or famines (and they’d always been foreign, my whole life) were. I felt vaguely depressed at the idea that my habitat, the body in which my species lived, was facing a terminal illness, but this phenomenon was more abstract and less of a disturbance to my everyday life than a bus breaking down or my computer crashing.

Almost immediately I began to make those calculations, just like you do with cancer: with luck and some help from the latest technology, I was a good candidate to live out a normal lifespan, to die of something else before the habitat-sickness got me. I wasn’t living on a sinking island surrounded by a storm-whipped sea, or at the edge of an expanding desert. I wasn’t too young or too old. I wasn’t poor, and it was the poor who were always hit first and worst, in obscenely anonymous numbers, by any disaster, and sickened, died, or were uprooted and had to flee for their lives. I wasn’t a bellwether, an early victim, like those tragic men in the first years of the AIDS epidemic who wasted away while the world shunned or ignored them, and their friends went on partying like the guests in the castle in ‘The Masque of the Red Death’.

But at the same time, and more and more, I began to feel an odd sense of ghostliness, as if somehow, strangely, I had already died. Perhaps this was a consequence of the realisation that I wasn’t at risk of losing something that I had ever truly possessed. I had never known what it was like to be connected to my natural environment to the extent that I sensed changes in its rhythms without being told. Nor had I ever had to wrest my food from my surroundings every day, and thus experience in my own body my success or failure at understanding what my habitat could provide. I had never felt for sunlight, air, water, and soil that immersive, wholly dependent love a child feels for its mother. What consciousness of nature I had possessed was almost entirely aesthetic. It was landscapes; it was ‘pleasing to the eye.’ This was not a trivial feeling – but neither was it enough to give me a sense of vitality. A non-living object can also be intensely beautiful, and many were, to me.

But without any fundamental connection to an enveloping vitality, living in a technologically mediated world that didn’t require much intimate engagement even with other humans, I felt more and more like something that simply kept moving through space in isolation without any clear purpose except self-perpetuation. That is, like a ghost.

What can a ghost do? Ghosts, our legends tell us, are incapable of acting to alter the physical world. I looked around and realised that I was surrounded every day by legions of similarly ghostly beings, all moving through their lives with the same abstraction, floating above the natural world in layers and layers of artificiality that grew deeper as our technology grew more sophisticated. And only our clumsy, lumpy, defective bodies still tied us to the receding natural world, but more as a dog’s chain, not a life-giving umbilical cord. Those who had the money set about intervening in all sorts of ways to try to make their bodies more to their liking, to resist their imperfections, fight their decline. The rest mostly cursed, ignored, or feared them.

We had moved into a new phase in our collective experience of the world: for all of our previous history, the survival of the group had been paramount, but we were now surrounded by a culture of which the individual was said to be the highest expression. The ghosts kept speaking about our ‘freedom’, and what was freedom? The ability to pursue your dreams, they said. Just think about that phrase for a minute. What they really meant was a world where nothing was real but oneself, one’s fantasies, floating free of the body, tied as little as possible to the imperfect, hostile world.

Ghosts, vampires, zombies – our freedom meant a kind of permanent Halloween. I began to understand why a new crop of legends of the undead had such wild and extreme popularity. They were a fun-house mirror way of reflecting our fear, not of what we might become, but of what we had become.

On the opposite side of the mythic year, May Day, the celebration of the living world and of human labour, had dwindled to nothing. We didn’t base any blockbuster movies or television series on its figures and legends.

Still, even as we lurched to grab the means to free ourselves from them, our bodies were the bellwethers. What our minds refused to see, our bodies tried to tell us. Most of all they said that death was inevitable – but collapse was not. You could live in ways that were healthy, and die as all living things did when the body had completed its cycle. Or you could live in a way that would bring about a total breakdown of your body – in its most violent and dramatic form, this was suicide. If you could believe that bodies other than your own were as real as yours, and that yours did not exist in isolation but was part of larger systems that also functioned as bodies – society, species, ecosystem, planet – then perhaps you could begin to glimpse that what could happen to your personal body could unfold at these larger scales as well.

But no – our consciousnesses had not expanded but shrunk because of our ghostliness. I remember a radio announcer on a community station, a lonely voice in the wilderness, who used to say with an invisible wink: ‘when one is wrapped up in self, one makes a very small package’, but he was drowned out by thousands of voices telling us every day how great we were, how much power we had, we the ghosts. ‘A single person can change the world’, they lied. ‘Your first responsibility is to yourself.’ ‘You can do anything you set your mind to.’ ‘Anything you desire can be yours, if you want it enough.’ And in the face of this constant clamour, how could we believe that we were subject even to our own body, much less the body politic, or the body of nature?

Drifting in the world of ideas, while food and water still flowed easily into my body, the parks were green, the distant mountains snow-capped, and lilacs in the dooryards bloomed, I read about what causes civilisations to collapse: the negative feedback loop of destructive trends that, rather than mitigating or reducing, a given society escalates or reinforces until they completely override any positive capabilities that still exist.

I made a mental list: inequalities of wealth, power, and control of resources; repression, warfare; reductions of genetic, cultural, social, and economic systems diversity; consumption of non-renewable resources; commodification of life, speculation; reliance on complex technological intervention – all of these were escalating, some geometrically.

There might be more, but I stopped there. I knew that while I was completely convinced that these behaviours were fatally harmful, they were all presently described by influential people as being either regrettable but necessary to human progress, not actually harmful at all, or else bound to diminish at some future point if current operations were simply allowed to continue. And these conclusions were still accepted by most of the people who, like me, were not facing any imminent threat to their survival. What I believed was solid diagnosis, they denied as petty obstruction.

It seemed obvious that such lists would only become matters of consensus after the fact. And probably not even then – by definition, a civilisation’s collapse wasn’t something that could be analysed as it unfolded. Collapse usually entailed loss of the record-keeping systems upon which the civilisation had relied, so any future historians who emerged would always be speculating about its causes as well.

Obsessing about the exact characteristics of our civilisation’s putative collapse, then, was another sign that one was subsumed in the ghost-life: it might be a pastime for those who thought they were too smart for zombie movies, but no more useful to forestalling any potential terminal decline than listing the ways a person might commit suicide would forestall the taking of one’s own life.

As Dorothy Parker, wit and suicide, had demonstrated:

Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful,
You might as well live.

But what then should we do? Ghosts cannot come back to life, if they are truly ghosts. They are the condemned for whom there is no reprieve. But I was still a living organism. I would inevitably die, but I was not dead yet, and I still had some latitude within which I could act. Existentialism guided me as neither environmental nor social necessity could, given my situation. Existentialism told me that humans have breached all the sustaining walls, cognitive and physical, that kept us shielded from the absurdity of our condition, and yet there is still a way to live that is not a complete concession to absurdity. Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defence – the creative act, says the poet. Neither ‘bad faith’ (denial) nor despair offers us release from the ghost world. (Nor can we think ourselves out of it, however much those of us who love to think would like to believe that). But very specific things one does with one’s body, like physical activity for some life-sustaining purpose, can, temporarily.

And that is how I began learning to grow a little bit of food, in small leftover spaces, and in ways that tried to mimic rather than manipulate natural processes. And to give my labour to a couple of equally small and contingent projects for building soil, creating habitat, and repairing broken land, in my own city. To watch and learn something of the birds and other creatures of the wild that still interpenetrated my over-built world. And also – don’t laugh – to sing.

These things have made up only a small portion of the hours of my life so far. I still live largely in the ghost world, but now I know it has edges.

And I found others there at the edges: bellwethers not of danger and sickness but of a fuller life. Not of future ill but present good. Not of freedom but responsibility.

We are in an odd position, acting from inside the half-life, not because we are compelled, nor because we believe our individual actions, even heaped one upon another, have the power to change large-scale outcomes or transform reality – which is still the reality of a progression towards death not just for us personally but at the largest earthly scale – but we act as we do because it is a way to be more fully alive, right now. And when you step into a world that is more fully alive, even briefly, you realise that only from that world can any human reality that is not absurd – which is to say, that is different from ours – be born.

Sometimes I stand at my back door in the twilight, with the noise of the television a senile murmur in the background, and wait, and listen. I know I am listening for the faint sound of a distant crash, a kind of final sound reverberating through layers of time, to tell me that a vast and seemingly monolithic absurdity, an old empire of illusion, has collapsed under its own weight and is crumbling back into life. And I know I won’t hear it, because that isn’t the way it works, but still, for a little while as the day is ending, I listen, and I wait.


The Zenith

On the walls of the caves at Lascaux, France, there are paintings of aurochs, Bos primigenius, the awesome wild ancestors of domesticated cattle. They stood up to six feet tall (1.8m), and could weigh two tonnes. Their thick horns were three feet long (0.9m), pointed forward, and curved inward – perfect tools for ripping apart lions, tigers, wolves, and hunters. They lived from England to northern China, south to the Indian Ocean, and along the Mediterranean coast of Africa.

In The Travels, Marco Polo (1254–1326 AD) wrote, ‘There are wild cattle in that country [almost] as big as elephants, splendid creatures…’ In Gallic War, Julius Caesar (100–44 BC) said of aurochs that ‘These are a little below the elephant in size, and of the appearance, colour, and shape of a bull. Their strength and speed are extraordinary; and they show no mercy to any man or wild beast of which they catch sight.’ They didn’t fancy hunters.

In Travellers’ Tales (1883), Rev. H. C. Adams discussed the aurochs that used to inhabit Scotland. ‘The wild cattle which anciently inhabited the great Caledonian forests, and are described by Boëtius as being fierce as lions, and bearing so great a hatred to man, that they will not eat any of the herbs that have been so much as touched by him, and are generally believed to have been a different and smaller breed than that of the aurochs of Germany.’

Aggressive creatures that could not be controlled were not welcome in a world increasingly dominated by domesticated humans. The last wild aurochs died in Poland in 1627. Domesticated cattle were smaller, far more passive, and easier prey for wolves.

Nobody owned wild aurochs, but docile cattle became private property, sources of wealth and status. The more you owned, the greater your prestige. As the herds grew, the land used for grazing expanded, and ancient forests were murdered to create more and more pastures. The health of the land was less important than the wealth of the man. Private property, and the insatiable lust for status, always tends to arouse infantile tendencies in domesticated humans.

Many regions were ravaged by overgrazing, and transformed into wastelands. In The Others, Paul Shepard noted that ‘If the auroch was the most magnificent animal in the lives of our Pleistocene ancestors, in captivity it became the most destructive creature of all,’ causing more damage than either fire or the axe.

Wild boars, the ancestors of domesticated pigs, still survive. In northern regions, they can grow to enormous size. Boars in Russia and Romania can weigh as much as 660 pounds (300kg). They have sharp tusks and can be very dangerous when threatened. They have been known to gore tigers to death. Wolves tend to leave adult boars alone, and focus their attention on yummy little piglets.

The wild boar population in France is currently exploding, because farmers have devoted far more cropland to growing corn (maize), a food that boars enjoy. Corn is processed into ethanol, a fuel used to power motorised wheelchairs (as late as 2011, large numbers of French continued to drive automobiles!). Many have come to lament that they exterminated the wolves, because they are now up to their ears in wild boars and wheelchairs.

Boars and aurochs survived because they were strong and ferocious. Mouflon, the wild ancestors of sheep, survived because they were faster than Olympic athletes on steroids. They excelled at racing across steep, rocky landscapes. The also had large curled horns, capable of rattling the brains of their foes when cornered.

Young mouflon orphans were quite easy to raise in captivity. Hence, sheep were the first domesticated livestock animals. Domestication erased most of their survival instincts. Sheep were an easy meal for even coyotes. A pack of wolves might kill a single horse or cow, and call it a night. But many times, they killed an entire flock of sheep; because they were so easy to kill, it was hard to stop – and then they would just eat one or two.

For predators, killing is thrilling, an exciting climax, the jackpot. This thrill may have been what motivated humans to continue inventing better weapons, so we could kill more and bigger animals, as well as other humans who aroused our displeasure. Over time, the planet has paid an enormous price for this primitive arms race, which put us on the path to super-storm.

Ice age fauna of northern Spain courtesy of Mauricio Antón, licensed under Wikimedia Commons

Before domestication, predators and prey lived in relative balance – the world worked pretty well. If wolves ate a deer, this was normal and healthy. Nobody’s feelings got hurt. But as the domesticated world expanded, the wild world shrank, and wild prey became increasingly scarce. We pretty much forced predators to eat our livestock, so they did, and then we got all huffed off about it.

Those dastardly predators consumed our precious wealth without paying for it, an unforgivable offence. So we declared war on them, and we’ve been working hard to exterminate them for many centuries. We’re making impressive progress, but we’re not quite finished. We’ve also been busy wiping out wild humans, because they were obsolete obstacles to the complete domestication of everything everywhere.

Before domestication, there were lions all over the place – along the Rhine, in Poland, Britain, southern France, Egypt, Greece, Palestine, Macedonia, Turkey, the Fertile Crescent, and India, according to David Quammen. In some areas of Europe, they survived until about 11,000 years ago – around the time when domestication slithered into the daylight.

When I read Craig Dilworth’s notion that the high point of the human journey was the Upper Paleolithic era (40,000–25,000 BP), I was a bit dubious. But today, flipping through Jean Clottes’ stunning book, Cave Art, I realized that he was correct. Humans crawled far inside caves with torches, and painted gorgeous portraits of the sacred animals for which they had the deepest respect and reverence. Images included the horse, lion, aurochs, rhinoceros, salmon, bear, mammoth, buffalo, owl, hare, ibex, auk, weasel, reindeer, chamois, fox, and wild human.

In the Upper Paleolithic era, the world was unimaginably alive and 100% wild and free. This planet was nothing less than a spectacular, breathtaking miracle. Modern folks would eagerly pay big money, and get on a 40-year waiting list to experience a pure, thriving wilderness filled with mammoths, lions, aurochs, and buffalo. To gasp with wonder at vast clouds of birds filling the skies with beautiful music and motion. To listen to rivers thrashing with countless salmon. To see, hear, and feel the powerful vitality of the reality in which our species evolved, the type of world that the genes of every newborn baby expects to inhabit – a healthy, sane, beautiful, wild paradise.

Even then, at the zenith, we were very close to living too hard, getting too clever with too many tools, with too little foresight, too little wisdom. The cave paintings have preserved that sense of profound wonderment from our days of jubilant celebration. Our wild ancestors were passionately in love with life, and they were passionately in love with the world they lived in. They provide us with a perspective from which it’s much easier to comprehend the scope of our current predicament.