Most of what I write is analysis or sermon; when I write about what can be done, I usually write about what society can do and rarely what individuals can do.

However I’ve had a few requests for writing about what my readers can do, in the situation we now find ourselves and in the situation as it will unfold in the years to come.

Whatever happens, the future will be interesting: The certainties of the neoliberal era will be replaced by actual, rapid political, technological, and economic change. Combined with the oncoming shocks of environmental change, it’s going to be a fascinating time to live in.

And that’s the first thing I suggest readers do: Change the way they view what is coming. Much of it will be bad, yes, but it will also be a compelling time to live in. Perhaps when growing up you imagined what it would be like to live in times of crisis and hardship? They will soon be upon us, and while we might not have chosen that, we can only act as Gandalf told Frodo.

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Let us start, first, with death.

All of us were born to die. We have only a small amount of time on Earth. The question is not if we are going to die, but how we live. The simple practice to deal with this is to imagine your death. It sounds horrible, but in fact people who do it often find themselves happier afterwards. Get comfortable with what is inevitable, and much of the fear of it goes away. And when you no longer fear death, much of life’s remaining fear leaves.

At most, the onrushing crisis may have changed when and how you’ll die. It hasn’t changed the basic existential fact that all that exists, ends. In this knowledge, held deeply, there is freedom.

Having accepted your death, you can move on to the business of living, including, if you choose, not dying quite so soon. Life at all costs, in my opinion, isn’t worth it, but each of us must decide what price we will pay for another scrap of life, what we’re willing to do to breath another day. This may be hard labor, it may be moral compromise, it may just be cleverness and outwitting death.

Just as there is great comfort in acknowledging death, there is great comfort in knowing what we will and won’t do.  The lines we won’t cross define us more than perhaps anything else, whatever and wherever they are. And this is the second step: What will I do, what won’t I do?

The third psychological step I suggest is comfort with pain and loss; an acceptance of it. In preparing for death, we imagine our death; in preparing for pain and loss, we remember what we have lost and the pain we have experienced in the past.

Dwell in it for a bit, bring the memories up if you can bear them, then remember the other side.

You survived. You are still here. You are still you. You survived the loss of people or things you loved; you survived pain. You can take it, and still function.

A sense of relaxation towards pain and loss actually makes both hurt less. Suffering is what we add to misfortune, when we accept what is happening and has happened, we suffer less. This doesn’t mean not trying to avoid pain and loss when that makes sense, simply that it is not always unavoidable and that railing against inevitability is foolish and makes the event worse.

Having done these three things, turn your gaze outward, to the good things that remain in the world. What do you still love? What still gives you joy? Is it some people you love? Is it, perhaps, something as simple as the taste of the food; the wind on your face, the steering wheel under your hands? Find those things, dwell in what you love, and enjoy.

Having completed these four tasks (and it will take some time, done properly), you will find that you look to the past with far less regret, the future with far less fear, and the present with far more joy.

These steps may not seem “practical” but if your head and heart aren’t straight, nothing else will work well.

Future articles in this series will deal with “practical” issues as well as psychological, but the first step is to get loose and easy again, to believe you can handle what’s coming, and that it’s worth doing so. Perhaps you will even be able to look forward to the future as fun; a challenge worth meeting, in hard times.

Loss and pain will still find us, of course, but we can handle it. And nothing we lose was ours to keep forever anyway, because none of us, as humans at least, are eternal.

The times are changing, and they are going to be hard times for most. The good will still exist and these are the times that others will read of and imagine, “What would it have been like to live then? Could I have handled it?”

Those who live on are those doomed and honored to live in such times.

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