Every morning, I work with the hourglass. To me, it is fitting that Extinction Rebellion uses this powerful symbol, particularly in this moment of now when we are facing a future that is suddenly in crisis. Nothing is different. Everything is different. What are we to do?
I think that the only thing that’s truly different are our perceptions. A possible epidemic has always been right around the corner. We have been in the middle of the sixth great extinction of life on Earth for some time now. The majority of us have just woken up to the fact that it includes us, right now, not in some distant future. We thought we’d have plenty of time to solve our problems and now we see all the missed chances and wasted time.
I work each morning to turn the hourglass on its side. Time is not our enemy. COVID-19 is not our enemy. It’s a microbe, part of the planet that we are also part of. Like the Earth, our bodies are superorganisms, cells, microbes that have chosen to specialize in certain functions to create a greater whole. Without microbes we couldn’t digest our food. The cycle where creatures that have died are recycled and reborn into new life won’t function without them.
The hourglass is only scary when it’s static, standing on its end, the sand slipping through the bottleneck until none remains. It’s meant to turn, after all. Life must always be in motion, cycling endlessly from form to form, between embodiment and spirit. Life is a wheel. The hourglass can be seen as only the hub and four spokes.
I choose to work with what I’ve been given. We have a lot of energy invested in this symbol, so simple, a pair of intersecting lines encircled. The lines form the rune Gebo, the gift and the connection between giver and receiver. What could be more appropriate? We are indeed reaping what we have sown, and some have suggested that The virus is the medicine. The two cups of Temperance, the two halves of the hourglass. If the wheel is in motion, Gebo becomes Dagaz, the Day. Round those edges and the Infinity symbol is revealed as well.
I have been seeing the Hourglass being turned. Humans with our shoulders to the wheels of feedback loops spinning towards Death slowing them, doing the things needed to stop them, send them spinning towards Life. I am walking to work as I do this work, instead of driving. Humanity’s oldest form of transportation, and all it costs me is rising earlier, making the city my gym and my sacred space. Two miles is half an hour of magic and a chance to trace a different path though my neighborhood each day. I see us climbing out of the Hourglass, out of the boundaries set for us. Changing the balance as we pull the top downward. Great trees growing, their roots lifting the bottom, branches pushing.And we are climbing towards the bottleneck of the Sixth Great Extinction. We are rising to our better natures, helping other creatures and each other, making room for all to pass through that point of constriction and terror and making sure as many of us as possible survive.
We need the great web of life if we are to survive. We need to realize that we are one great lifeform stretching back to distant ages and forward as well. We can choose to be the blessed ancestors, we who are living at this crucial moment in time. We know what needs to be done, we have all the tools needed. This pandemic can indeed be a gift if we make it so. It is awful beyond measure that it had to come to this, that so many may die, but all we have now are stark choices and the sooner we make them, the better the outcome will be for so many.
This work began simply:
“Thank you Universe, for my blessings. Thank you for the deep sense of peace that pervades my life. I have never heard a shot fired in anger, I have never wanted for the basic necessities of life. I take that deep sense of peace and spread it over the whole world, thick and green. I now live in a world where everyone has that peace, where everyone has food, shelter and clothing appropriate to their needs and their creeds.” I visualized the planet, green light pouring over it, surrounding it, glowing as I said the words.
It grew, a drop in the well each morning. We all shape the world with our choices. Beginning my day with a thought like that shapes my existence. I didn’t start out walking to the train. I drove to it, eventually the car became a bicycle, the bicycle became my feet. A couple of minutes became half an hour to envision what my neighborhood might look like, and how we might get there.
Right now, my immediate task is simple. I’ve been told to stay home. I thought we were in The Chrysalis before, but now that is literal. I’m thankful for the blessing of having a home and plenty of food. We’re both healthy. Can anything else be done? There are people in tents mere blocks from here. I scan the internet for news, and opportunities to volunteer. I will start a lettuce box today, and pot the seeds that I started recently in old egg cartons. Now I know why that project was begun.
For now, it is time to be quiet, calm, listening for our part in the song of life. We are in the process of becoming.