Everyone is trying to make sense of this current moment of almost total chaos. Some some call it anarchy, but that is not correct as we still have governance at many levels. This state of chaos can be seen in many situations and human activities: with the climate crisis, with fires, storms, floods, air pollution, and record temperatures; in politics, where one clan tries to undo anything that the other did or proposed, and both clans are without any project toward the future; socially, where urban downtowns are becoming centers of unrest, protests, and shooting, with many stores closed and boarded; in health, where a pandemic unmasks a dysfunctional society, incapable of responding to the most basic needs of its population; and, finally, in the economy, where the rich take advantage of this human tragedy to become even wealthier, and those with the lowest income become poorer and approach homelessness. The toll is unprecedented. Prevalence of depression symptoms in the US has increased more than 3-fold during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 8.5% to 27.8%.
A few weeks ago, the Hudson Valley Park of Study organized an online discussion titled “Accompanying People as They Approach Death,” in which Victor Piccininni, author of the book The Art of Accompaniment: Tools and Practices for Personal and Spiritual Accompaniment in Palliative Care and End-of-Life, spoke about three stages in a dying process.”The first stage is called Chaos, and its most significant indicators are denial, internal and external struggle, fear, anger, isolation, depression, internal and external violence,” he said. “It is the irrational fear of losing the superficiality of the self and the body. “Stage Two”, Piccinini continued,”is called arrival of the ‘departure’.” It is a “surrender,” a giving up of control, and the registers of peace, serenity, well-being begin to appear. The third stage is Reconciliation and Transcendence, where we see registers of deep inner peace and reconciliation with life.”
Piccininni’s description of the stage of “chaos” fits perfectly with the current moment; it seems that our society, as we know it, is dying. We are experiencing the disintegration of the White-West, as we witness daily expressions of the fear of losing control. At the world level, not every culture is in this moment of process, but we can clearly see the West is facing it. If we are interested in accompanying this process, we need to help our culture get to Stage Two: Acceptance. We need to accept that the White-West is losing its domination, its supremacy. The White-West culture will not be the one-and-only reference and center of prestige anymore. Depending on how Stage One plays out, the chaos could either get much worse, leading to violence and war, or or it could slowly shift to Stage Two.
It is difficult for us to accept that someone close is dying and that we have to let them go. Sometimes, we take extraordinary measures to try to keep someone alive, even if that person was a total jerk. Death is not talked about in Western culture, we try to avoid it at any cost.
Everyone knows that the White-West culture is dying, from the white supremacists on the right to those on the extreme left. We are at the end of the journey: there are no images of the future, no energy for transformation. The only question is, are we in the right disposition to accompany the process towards Stage Three, Reconciliation and Transcendence? That stage will create the conditions for the construction of a new civilization that we call the Universal Human Nation, where human nations with diverse social structures will come together to share, support, exchange and learn from one another. As Piccininni says, accompaniment is an art, and maybe one we will need to learn very quickly.