(Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen 127 Hours and don’t want to know how it ends – as if? – don’t read this.)
“We are in between stories” observed Thomas Berry in 1978. Our old Cartesian, reductionist, industrial stories are clearly dysfunctional and destructive, but new ones like those being developed by ecovillages, transition towns and millions of other initiatives and innovators around the world, have not yet gone mainstream.
It is happening, but not always in straightforward ways. I believe new stories and metaphors are bubbling up through our collective unconscious to help us understand and cope with the coming crises of peak oil and climate change.
One example is the movie 127 Hours, which chronicles the true story of mountain climber, Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) and his incredible efforts to save himself after his arm was pinned by an 800 pound rock while canyoneering.
In many ways, Aron’s story perfectly parallels where we are as a species. We have become cocky and careless and have forgotten simple tools that have helped in past emergencies. We’ve fallen from on high and are now truly “caught between a rock and a hard place.”
And like Aron, it’s taking us a while to fully grasp the severity of our predicament. Our water (i.e. oil) is running out, but there’s still some left, so we think maybe it’s not so bad. But we’re so thirsty! And, oh shit! We just spilled some! This can’t be happening! Okay, don’t panic. It’s a big problem, but we’re smart! We’re strong! By brains or brawn, we can come through unscathed.… Right?
Wrong. In the end, it’s too little, too late. Like Aron muses, our whole life, all of our actions over thousands of generations have led to this moment… to this decision that is almost too horrific to even comprehend.
The thought seems insane! Cut off our what?! But this is part of who we are! We would die! And the pain! The pain would be just too much…. No, it’s better to just wait. Maybe someone will come along to save us. Maybe if we just keep chipping away at the problem, we’ll be able to pull out of the situation.
It all comes down to this moment. This generation. Instead of 127 hours, we have maybe 127 months – around 10 years – to make the ultimate decision. Are we willing to cut off our lifeblood of oil; break the very bones of our economy; go through some intense pain … in order to survive as a species? Or will we wait it out and die as cowards?
Our story can still have a happy ending. Aron Ralston not only survived. He was transformed. He healed. He became a father. Now, he’s climbing new mountains and inspires others to accept change and take control of their lives. If we accept our destiny and collectively take this hero’s journey, we will renew the world and our role in it. Distant generations will sing our praises. This is our mythic moment folks! Let’s get crackin’!