The Alchemy of Healing
Humanity finds itself in the midst of a quandary that can be distilled down to just one timeless conflict: fear and scarcity versus courageous abundance. The last year and a half has pushed each human on this planet into a deep examination of which reality it is that they have chosen to inhabit, and extended an invitation to everyone drawing breath as to how they wish to proceed. Where there are decisions to be made, there is an opportunity to practice the art of alchemy. At its core, alchemy is simply choice.
The bedrock of the fear and scarcity narrative is a crisis from which emerges a victim, a persecutor, and a rescuer. Let's take the food systems of the planet for an example. Millions of people starve to death every year. That's the crisis. We are told that the crisis stems from a very large human population for which to supply a massive quantity of food; enter the concept of scarcity. In but one scenario, the victim is the farmer, who perhaps has inherited the family farm, but struggles to pay the taxes (more scarcity). The farmer is forced to use genetically modified seeds in order to avoid patent infringement lawsuits (fear!) from large corporate patent holders because, in the world of commercial farming, this farmer must plant a monoculture crop (wheat, soy, corn, etc.) in order to turn a profit (scarcity). The large agricultural corporation sells the seeds and chemicals necessary to grow these monoculture crops, and is the persecutor; the perpetrator of the problem, for the corporate manufacturer really has no incentive to fully remedy this crisis. The farmer cannot afford the seeds and chemicals (scarcity); before the advent of genetically modified crops, the farmer would save some of his corn harvest from the prior season for seed to plant the following season. Seed had been free, self perpetuating, and abundant. Yes, there were some pests and weeds in the field, but barring any freak weather incidents, yields were historically good and profits were stable. Now, the farmer has to purchase seeds, the chemicals necessary to germinate the seeds, and the chemicals necessary to keep the fields weed and pest free. The quantity of food might increase, but the quality decreases (and arguably, this leads to other problems for humans, the soil, and the planet). The profit margin has diminished due to increased supply costs despite an increased yield, and now the farmer is in jeopardy of losing the farm due to falling behind on taxes (more fear and scarcity). Enter the rescuer (and also the persecutor, who is avoiding appearance as persecutor by way of confiscating family farms), the federal government, who then passes a farm bill and provides tax subsidies to the farmers to help them pay for these new single-season seeds and chemicals. In truth, the farmer isn't really much better off, it is just that they are less likely to lose their farm this particular year. The real winner is the big agricultural product manufacturer, who now receives the subsidies indirectly by virtue of the farmer participating in this new system of mass produced monoculture crops. The problem isn't really solved, its just a temporary "fix" that ultimately creates greater imbalance...more crises, more fear, more scarcity, necessitating more victims, persecutors, and rescuers.
By contrast, permaculture focuses on taking a piece of land and planting many species of vegetation (abundance), rather than just one type of crop. If one plant underperforms or fails, all is not lost. The planted species are comprised mostly of perennial crops; plants that come back every year, such as fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, herbs like hops and mint, vines such as grapes and kiwis, and building materials like bamboo or hemp (more abundance). There are perennial flowers that choke out weeds and invite beneficial insects into the landscape, driving out the pests that could otherwise jeopardize crops, while at the same time providing habitat and food for pollinators, like bees and hummingbirds. Perennial crops also stabilize, enrich, and improve the soil. Improved soil increases biodiversity and nutrient density of foods and medicines grown in it (abundance!). Annual crops, like lettuces, carrots, and squash round out the plot, and are of an heirloom variety; their seeds can be collected every year (more abundance), and with each successive planting, the crops become more acclimated to their environment and tolerate fluctuations in climate better. Because the ground is not tilled, and most of the plants are permanent, the soil builds mycelium networks, holding water better, and choking out most weeds. The land, with less effort as time goes on, produces enough food to feed the humans and animals that live there, without shipping and all the resources required to transport the food. The courage comes in having vision enough to choose to step away from what is common (corporate monoculture), forgo instant gratification (huge annual harvests) in exchange for investing in long term solutions (fruit trees that might take 3-5 years to yield) that require creative, harmonious solutions (organic pest and weed control rather than spraying harmful chemicals).
Abundance or scarcity?
I believe that the contrast is obvious: in one system, humanity has created a narrative that requires a complicated set of unnatural technology-dependent steps in order to sustain the model, while in the other system, humanity has worked in harmony with the natural environment. The first system is driven by an egotistical (and false) view that pits humanity against the environment. The second system merely acknowledges the truth: we are not separate from nature.
We always have the power to choose: huge input for little output...or little input for huge output. Huge use of nonrenewable resources...versus a system that by and large renews itself. Hierarchal benefit versus holistic benefit. Victims, persecutors, and rescuers versus no victims, persecutors, or rescuers...crisis versus harmony. Complex solutions versus simple solutions. Instant gratification and short term profit, or delayed gratification for long term abundance.
Look around at society. Many of the systems you see on the verge of collapse all share things in common with the corporate commercial monoculture system; our "health" care system focuses not on holistic wellness by way of diet, rest, and exercise but instead on non-renewable resources such as pills and injections that fail to solve the root of our health issues. Education, which does little to foster creativity, imagination, and critical thinking but instead rigidly implements a dogmatic one-size fits all system that values memorization and regurgitation. A legal system that must have victims in order to turn a profit, so criminalizes things that hurt no one in an attempt to generate revenue, rather than educating and empowering people to solve their own problems. We can collectively choose to focus on "returning to normal" - which, in my estimation, was never "normal" to begin with and was rooted in a fear and scarcity-based narrative that emphasizes external solutions fostering dependency upon complex systems in order to secure necessities - or, we can instead choose to see the futility in our past decisions and allow those things that are "too big to fail" collapse and be replaced with decentralized solutions that offer courageous abundance. "Normal" hasn't made us healthier; it has exposed all the sickness that pervades the planet and those of us living upon it. Returning to "normal" makes little sense if humanity values real healing over temporary quick "fixes" that serve only to prolong and perpetuate the problems we face.
Fear is no way to live. While everyone loves to blame some "other" on making them feel unsafe, unwell, insecure, or uncertain about the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, this blame serves only to discount our own individual power to do bold and courageous things in the face of such failures. One person may believe that they need a certain medical intervention in order to survive; another person may have a firm conviction that the medical intervention won't solve the problem, but perhaps a less stressful lifestyle, better sleep, and a more nutrient dense diet will. When we fail or refuse to honor another human's choice in remedy, we are denying that human's right to engage in the art of alchemy. Every single human on this planet has the absolute, cosmic, natural right to alchemically transform their life through the choices they make. Even our seemingly insignificant daily choices, such as deciding to eat organic dark leafy greens over a Snicker's bar have alchemical repercussions; some are immediate, while others are cumulative over time. We can choose to be afraid or courageous. We can choose, at any moment, to entertain solutions rather than blame. We may choose to forgo all external hopes for salvation in exchange for self salvation. We can choose our own path without rendering judgment upon those who have chosen differently.
We can alchemically heal. It just takes courage.