If this is a metacrisis, what do I do on a Monday morning?
Ten written, sung, and spoken reflections
This question came to me when I was reading a draft of Jonathan Rowson’s essay ‘Prefixing the World’ in late August. At the time, I couldn’t move from my desk to the kitchen without feeling faint from 38°C Italian summer heat — an inescapable, visceral experience of one of the facets of the metacrisis as he describes it. But some of the more abstract elements of the essay left me wondering about what followed for individual and collective mindset and behavioral change. A perfectly ruby-red sliced watermelon on my kitchen counter also kept distracting me as I edited (if we are indeed in a metacrisis, can I still enjoy that watermelon?). In all seriousness — although I do take the watermelon seriously! — I felt a pull to understand the ‘right’ place for awe, joy, and even humble sensory pleasures in the day-to-day within our current context. Maybe, all things considered, getting on a train to the coast and jumping into the sea would be the best choice I could make that Monday morning.
So this prompt came out of my own grappling with the piece, as well as my commitment more broadly to help draw out ways in which conceptual models interact with and influence individual lives. What do we make of these models, what can we do with them that takes them from the textual and intellectual realm into a felt, lived, experience? Which parts do we discard — or lean into further — after turning them around in our hands like a found stone or chestnut?
What follows is a collection of short responses from a group of ten friends and Associates of Perspectiva, each of whom brings a personal approach to the question through song, text, poetry, voice notes, and video.
To start, some questioned the question itself (‘is do really the right verb? maybe doing is what got us into this mess in the first place…’). Several also doubt the premise that we really are in a metacrisis at all. I was struck by how so many responses pay remarkable attention to the material world — eggs at a diner, children’s packed lunches, chopping wood — and trees and roots come up more than once. I was also relieved to learn that almost everyone is also grappling with what it means to hold multiple, simultaneously conflicting (or at least confusing) realities: Pippa, after singing a bit for us, reflects on both the ‘beautiful and awful’ aspects of what we are in; Tom draws us into the challenge of transitioning from the particularities of home to the abstractions of his work; and Layman, channelling W.B. Yeats in a kind of ‘luminous gloom’, wonders what happens if ‘the centre cannot hold — or who knows, maybe it can?’
~Leigh Biddlecome, Visiting Curator & Editor, Perspectiva
‘Half-a-Pome: Metacrisis with Eggs’
Before awareness of metacrisis, chop wood and carry water.
During awareness of metacrisis, ponder.
After awareness of metacrisis, chop wood and carry water. And commit to the Climate Majority Project.
My answer to this question is a short phrase, more of a mantra: put my roots down deep. I often play this song by Rising Appalachia to remind me, because its chorus contains my mantra. Images of trees are dear to me, and they are all over the scripture of my tradition. I come back to one verse again and again, from the ancient Hebrew book Jeremiah, which says that those who trust in divine Love will be like “a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”. These images show up in other places too, including in Revelation, that wild story of the end of the world, where the leaves of trees like these will be “for the healing of the nations”.
In these times that do feel a bit like the end of the world, I want to be someone who knows how to steady myself so I can be of use to others. So I put my roots down deep, and then look around to see how I can love my neighbour and build resilience for the times that are coming.
‘You better wake up and pay attention (a nod to Sister Act II)’
Today is a Monday. What did I do this morning? Threw on some clothes, helped my children gather and put on their clothes, made some coffee, emptied the dishwasher, made packed lunches for the children in tandem with my wife, tidied up a few things, drove the children to school, kissed them goodbye, then drew breath... and tried to hang on to these precious particularities as I dived into a sea of abstractions, unease, discourse and meta-discourse. Because the particular is the only reason that the general or the abstract matters; the trying and the failing and the trying again; the love and the loss and the renewal of hope.
‘A small creative act’: ‘How can I increase life, in that very moment of a Monday morning?’
Maybe Monday is needed for the metacrisis to exist in the first place? As children, we are socialized into days of the week. We are socialized into a nuclear family household and routine of school, which prepares us for the routine of the job market of the current global economic model. Monday is planned out, worldwide. For the rest of our lives. But what if there’s a point in time, where through metacrisis we will see this concept become obsolete?
Until then, I will continue to pursue meaning and purpose in work, which makes Mondays less stark, and more palatable. Until then, I will enjoy Sundays where Metacrisis feels a tiny bit further away.
‘How do we collectively re-sanctify reality?’
Martin Luther was once asked what he would do today if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow, which for an apocalyptic leader of the Reformation was not merely a hypothetical. He said that he would plant a tree. It’s a fascinating response because seemingly utterly useless. But I think what he was saying was that he would do what he felt was most valuable, lovely and hopeful — not in the sense of optimistic but in the sense of acting on what he regarded as good, in spite of all the bad pressing in. Personally, I should say that I’m agnostic about whether we are in a metacrisis, not because I don’t think there’s a lot about which to be concerned but because I also think that human yearning and responsiveness is remarkably resourceful and surprising. But even if I were convinced things were spiralling out of control, I’d hope to have the clarity of vision to adhere to what I regard as most lovely. I wouldn’t plant a tree but might read some William Blake or Dante, as well as say a prayer.
Is there hatred among stones?
Like us, they were born of stars
Colliding, spectacularly in the
Voiceless depths of space.
Think of them,
Once so majestic
Roaring through space
Now they simply lay lowly on the beach
Waiting for a child
To skip them over the lake
Or for a root (to grasp it)
Or a lichen (to call it home)
Or a poet ...
Is there wisdom among stones?
Like us, they are not yet arrived
Coming and going through
Will they still be waiting
A hundred million years from now
For a child, a tree, a lichen
Is there love among stones?
They say no, I say yes.
For love is in the way of seeing
Of grasping, of casting light
Of calling one’s home.
And yes, of waiting
Of waiting for ...
If even a hundred million years.
And what did the man save from the rubble
After the bombs destroyed the world?
That reminded him of his son.
Seeing him now
Wandering among the dead
Clutching... no caressing his stone
He promised to protect.
And he became a prophet of the ruins:
“Stones will outlive us, like bones outlive the flesh.
The record of man will be erased, and the stones will once again, learn to speak.”
Can this be true?
Are we the stones
That learned to speak
Only because one man
Carried his out of the rubble
And dreamed something
Perspectiva is a UK-registered charity, and our Substack is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
To learn more about upcoming and ongoing events as part of our new Perspectiva Community: