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Living Fully in a Collapsing World

Updated: May 30, 2023

By Steve Aman and Doug Della Pietra

An Imagined Conversation with “Collapse Acceptance”

Steve Aman / Doug Della Pietra: Welcome to our program, Insights on the Edge of Collapse. My name is Steve Aman. And my name is Doug Della Pietra. Today, we welcome back someone who has become a friend of ours over the last couple of years. Collapse Acceptance (CA) first joined us in this space about a year ago. At that time, CA spoke of how her awareness of collapse has emerged in the last few years, how her emotional response has evolved, and she has changed from Collapse Aware to Collapse Acceptance. Since then CA has taken a pretty public role in sharing her message across the United States and then to South America, Europe and even the Oceania continent in New Zealand and Australia.

Welcome back CA. Each time we speak with you, we come away with new insights. Especially in the last year, you have shifted our mindsets in ways that we would never have imagined. Still, we know that others have not always appreciated your message and perspective. So, today, we would like to give our listeners a deeper glimpse into your story and message.

CA: Thank you, Steve and Doug. It’s a privilege to be with you again.

S+D: You have described yourself as “one of the shyest people you will ever meet.” You have also said that, typically, you spend most of your time in solo activities such as reading, writing, taking walks in nature, and the like. You grew up in a very small, rural town – very small. Less than 500 people. So, what led you to make such a bold change in your life? What is the springboard for you to take such a public role?

CA: There is no one in the world more surprised than I am about how public I have become. As I mentioned when we spoke last year, I became aware of unstoppable collapse through Jem Bendell’s paper “Deep Adaptation.” That essay was a wake-up for me – a seismic shift that shook me to my core. Who I thought I was and the future self I imagined would emerge were absolutely shattered!

S+D: Can you say more? What specifically was shattered?

CA: Growing up in a small town, my world felt quite predictable and stable. Reflect, read, and write. Get lost in my thoughts. Enjoy relationships with my family and friends. Go to work. “Recover” by binging on Netflix. Volunteer for a local food pantry. Responsibly plan for retirement. Be loving. Make a difference. Leave a legacy. And, although death wasn’t ever listed in that life sequence, there was an understanding that death was peaceful – while you slept, completely unaware. A “Leave It to Beaver” series played out in my very own life.

CA: My friend David Baum refers to the shattering as a “rude shock” in which the future that we imagined is suddenly stripped away. David says that not only does it feel like a death, it is a death: “It’s the death of the fictional person that we expect to be. We feel the loss of our future self, and we grieve for that person as we would grieve for any person dear to us.”

S+D: That really resonates for us; the “rude shock” has been a part of our experience as well. So, in your experience, what is the relationship between death, grief, and collapse acceptance?

CA: Great question! We could probably go down the rabbit hole with that question for hours. I will say this: the “rude shock” is an opportunity because, as a seismic shift, it is an awakening – a wake-up call. Like Rumi’s poem “The Guest House,” it is important to welcome and treat every guest – feeling, emotion and experience – with honor, “even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.” Grief is a messenger who “has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

CA: Grief is a teacher to learn from. In grief, we are reminded of the impermanence of life, most especially our own mortality and that since birth, each of us is in the dying process, moving ever closer to death. Back in the summer of 2022, I happened upon a tweet by Jordan Perry (@JordanPerry) in which he describes a conversation that he had with one of his children about collapse:

“Hey Dad I’m scared about Collapse.”

“I hear you. But it’s just change. Something always births from death.”

“But I won’t live my full life.”

Yet here you are, living a full life.”

“But it will end sooner than it should.”

“There is no future, Your whole life is in this moment.”

Jordan goes on to explain in a follow up tweet:

So, imagine this was a mythic conversation between a seeker and a guru on a mountaintop. Replace “Collapse” with the generic “Dying.” It would not only make perfect sense, it could be the punchline of a deep meaning koan. Collapse isn’t the issue, and it never has been.

CA: How profound! “Collapse isn’t the issue, and it never has been.” In other words, collapse puts us in touch with impermanence and our own mortality, which for most of us is experienced as a “rude shock” that results in grief. Collapse acceptance is a response to the grief that we feel – “living a full life” in this moment.

S+D: That is profound! Are you saying – and using the image of Rumi’s guest house – that, if we welcome and treat the rude shock and grief, as guests they will guide us through an awakening to life’s impermanence and our own mortality into acceptance?

CA: Yes, exactly. For me, collapse (or death) acceptance has refocused my attention. As Jordan Perry tweeted, “There is no future. Your whole life is in this moment.” In other words, by more fully welcoming my mortality, I have settled down – settled – into this present moment, right now, into reality. The past is the past – it is no more. The future is the future – it is an illusion of the “not yet.” The only thing that is real – REALITY – is the here and now, right now.

CA: Instead of entertaining and being thrown off-kilter by questions like “How much time do we have” or “How much time before this or that happens,” acceptance has helped me regain my balance and equilibrium by being rooted in the reality of right now.

S+D: Perhaps one of the most frequent critiques of your message is that you are promoting a passive, resigned sort of “throwing your hands up in the air” response in the face of unstoppable collapse. That there is nothing we can do that will turn things around. So, accept it because our fate is sealed. How do you respond to such a criticism?

CA: Well, some may say I advocate giving up. Actually, I have given up. I have given up on fixing our predicament. I have given up on technology solving it. I have given up on expecting some strong leader to come along and fix things. I have given up on believing that the consequences of ecological overshoot will somehow be avoided.

CA: What’s different, though, when I operate from the interior condition of who I am, Collapse Acceptance is the reason that I take action. Instead of acting in order to turn things around, fix, solve, and save, I act because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the outcome. I act because it nourishes my soul. I act because it is love in action, even if my action does not result in societal transformation and change.

CA: Karen Perry, Jordan’s wife, describes this in her “15 Benefits of Collapse Acceptance” as Super Hero Release. We don’t have to fix it, solve it, save it. We do have to act.

CA: Collapse acceptance frees – “releases” – me from believing that I am or can be a Super Hero who is able and needs to swoop in and save the day.

S+D: It seems that many people who are collapse aware find it really difficult to move into a place of Collapse Acceptance. Since that is who you are and what you are all about, how would you encourage people to take a serious look at the reasons to take that next step and how?

CA: It has been said that being collapse aware is hell, and that being collapse accepting is transformative. There is no better way to put it: serenity, calmness, connection, and the opportunity to be love in action. It’s one of those life scenarios that, if I am almost committed, say 99%, then life is a struggle. And, once I give that last one percent, there is a release, a relief, a lifting of burden and movement into action because it is the right thing to do.

S+D: Thank you. What a powerful response! You clearly describe an empowered agency tempered by humility as the response to our predicament. There is no resignation present there, no doubt!

S+D: As we come to the end of our time together for today, any last thoughts that you would like to share in closing?

CA: Yes. Thank you. Tied to the idea that we act without expectation of a set outcome is a core capacity for living in acceptance, namely, detachment. In his book Leadership Is, Harrison Owen writes: “Whoever is present are the right people to be there; whenever we start, it’s always the right time; what happens is the only thing that could have happened; when it’s over, it’s over.” Now, when I share this with others, it often gets a visceral response. It smacks, once again, with a sense of fait accompli. But, that is not what Owen is saying. Rather, he is saying that, given all of the choices – the “reality” – that our species has put into motion across the timeline of history and to this present moment, what is happening right now is the only thing that could have happened.

CA: When we accept this – that what is happening right now could not be different given the confluence of choices made over the last 10,000 years by our species to settle in semi-permanent villages made possible by the agricultural revolution – we actually move into what the Rev. Michael Dowd calls collapse trust. For Michael, trust brings in that sense that reality, and our current predicament, could not be otherwise, that the patterns are thousands of years in the making. He says that collapse acceptance can still deteriorate into playing the blame-game or trying to find out who is at fault. Trust goes deeper and sets us free from guilt, blame, and shame. And that sense of freedom gives way to a right relationship with the present moment, which manifests in joy, gratitude, generosity, kindness, compassion, love, and peace.

S+D: Beautiful. We find ourselves wanting to just be silent. To let what you have shared with us soak in like the life-giving rain. Thank you so very much for being with us today. We feel so fortunate.

CA: You’re very welcome. And, I have to say that this is a gift for me, too. I get to come out of my shell a little bit more.

S+D: Thank you for joining us for Insights on the Edge of Collapse.

(Steve Aman is a retired farmer who continues to find amazing connection to the land and all that moves over and under the land. Recognizing the pain of watching many aspects of life and civilization unravel, he also came to realize that taking steps towards resilience and acceptance would be immensely beneficial to himself and others. Doug Della Pietra says that what we are seeing in society – things breaking down, falling apart, unraveling, failing, etc. – is all an external manifestation of our collective interior condition (consciousness). Doug believes that work of resilience and acceptance in the face of collapse is first the “work that reconnects” us with our large “s” Self, and then with others, more-than-humans and the earth. To learn more about the Resilience & Acceptance in the Face of Collapse course, click on Course Syllabus.)



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