Thoughts for the Coming Winter

It sometimes seems it’s all that we can do to keep on going.  That fateful Thursday several weeks ago news poured down like the actual rain.  Quite apart from the sad passing away of the Queen, there were many other things that became apparent on that momentous day.  You can say a lot of things about our new government and its reaction to our pressing social and environmental crises.  Whatever our response, whatever the need to challenge proposals, we can only hope that, economically, we’ll see increasing sense or a least a hastening of the day till we get a government worthy of the name. 

As for the energy crisis, some kind of corrective has been on the cards for years, which makes it no less galling how relatively unprepared we are for it by the unambitious scale of action this last decade or two.  But it doesn’t seem a completely irrational hope that we can still emerge somehow stronger or in a sense a little more honest out of all of this; living more within our means while rising to the challenge to source our needs with greater concern for the climate.  As we know, if any of this is in any way medicinal, right now it doesn’t feel like a particularly palatable brew.  But there may be some consolation knowing that our trials are not in vain.

With all that said, it’s worth considering at times like these that we always have options.  While not everything may be as we like, we can still take steps to attend to our psychology.  We should do what we can to not let ourselves be dragged down by the sometimes obviously quite sobering prospects that appear to face us this coming winter; recently at least, any rational analysis of the news has threatened to become quite overwhelming.  Perhaps the best thing we can remember is that, despite the habits we may have regarding news and media, saturating ourselves with updates and bulletins and articles remains just that – a choice.  If that sounds indulgent or callous or reckless, consider the words of Howard C. Cutler in his writings based on conversations with the Dalai Lama on the practical ramifications of a positive state of mind; “it is unhappy people who tend to be the most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic.  Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily.”  Crucially for any crisis, experiments show that those in a better state of mind are more likely to help out others in need. 

And therein lies another choice – developing a practical response.  That means we can focus on what we can do – not paralyse ourselves with concern or despair over those things that may be beyond our control.  A calmer mind is better placed to look at given options, to be inventive in any given circumstance, look for the ladder at the end of any allegorical alleys.  It can give us the strength to continue, drive for change and better circumstances, to be more kindly disposed to those all around us, bolster our capacity for patience and compassion.

Is it too much or too fanciful to believe there is a counterforce to all our woes, some spirit or will out in the ether or within each one of us that seeks and can serve to ameliorate all this?  A force that wishes us to continue, a will to carry on? Is it too lofty a notion to attempt to meet any hardship with grace, to bolster ourselves with silver linings, the things we still can be grateful about?  None of this is intended as a call for happy-clappy, Maoist sunshine state mentalities that justify sticking our heads in the sand.  But we can seek to respond to these times as effectively as we are able, even if that just means keeping our heads above water.  Anything that helps us get through each day, overcome the difficulties we can, helps give us the wind in our sails even in apparent adversity, is not as abstract or denialist as it may sound.

We know all too well what we’re faced with this winter.  Recent announcements regarding general help with our energy bills head off the worst of what we might immediately have faced.  But we shouldn’t pretend that it’s going to necessarily be easy.  It may offer some relief to reflect that if we can hold fast this coming winter, we may be in a much better place come the Spring.  Weaning ourselves off Russian energy was long overdue in any case and there should be no doubt that current events are certainly catalytic for greater energy security – it’s a question of how we respond, how we make the most of this as yet largely unnavigated opportunity, whether we shoot ourselves in the foot or look at it as a chance for benevolent change; encourage the take up of renewables with ever greater alacrity and, yes, first and foremost insulate our homes.  For all the need for better policy on high there are things that most of us can still do; if downsizing and cohabiting seem tall orders we can still seek every avenue for greater efficiency, make a shift to green power wherever we can, lobby for government grants – such steps at least would represent some progress despite the storm of the crisis we face.

While not negating what many may be going through or the blistering injustice regarding the attitudes of some of the cabal apparently running the show, the old things still count; fortitude and bloody mindedness, helping out our neighbours, keeping heart.  We live in changing times; some things must be laid to rest before we can bring in the new.  The kind of transition we face will be determined by our capacity to strive for every avenue of renewal, to think creatively, to seek to bare the world up as our culture transforms; with force of will, resolve and single-mindedness.  Perhaps it’s best to concentrate on that which lies immediately before us – to bolster and harbour and strive to endure in the knowledge that a brighter day may somehow lie in wait if we can just bring it to bare.