Over the past several months our nation has faced a series of traumatizing events: catastrophic storms and fires, social upheavals over injustice, exchanges of polarizing verbal attacks, and now another horrific act of mass murder, all against a backdrop of continuing escalation of nuclear threats and posturing. Our physical, psychological, political and social ways of being have been destabilized. Taken in aggregate these events appear to be revealing a time of crisis unprecedented in recent history. Yet they need not overwhelm. Out of dark and trying times, history tells us that transformation can occur.
As President of Pacifica I have been acutely aware of the impact on all of us--students, faculty, staff, and alumni, first in terms of immediate dangers for those at the various locations as well as the psychological and social anguish for all of us witnessing these disasters. Responding to each individual event no longer seems adequate. This current time necessitates that we respond out of the fullness of our humanity informed by our commitment to depth psychology in all that we undertake.
Grief and mourning from the devastation and loss that punctuates our daily news, which comes at so rapid a rate, makes it difficult if not impossible to truly process our responses, setting up conditions to intensify traumatic reactions. Over time this can feel like a massive assault on our capacities for empathy and imagination as a culture. The center may not hold; the forces at play seem titanic. Even the forms of presentation of the news seem to traumatize. At Pacifica we are being challenged to re-affirm, re-member and deeply embrace our core values: Logos, Eros, Consciousness, Integrity, Service, Stewardship and Communitas. Compassionate, fair, equitable treatment of those who are caught up in the larger events would seem a minimal starting point, yet even this standard has tended to be politicized and often remains elusive. We must start with how we treat one another, for this is integral to the soul of the world. Empathy needs to be grounded in its archetypal base, acknowledging resonance with the roots of all being, transcending the individual, becoming communal in the broadest sense, up to and including the Anima Mundi.
How transformation may take place, including its direction, depends on the ways we learn and engage with events. Confronting the larger issues of environmental degradation, social injustice, polarization of society with racist and xenophobic fears, needs to be more fully addressed experientially in our educational system. A new paradigm is required where learning and community are integrated at affective and somatic levels as well as through cognitive understandings—conscious and unconscious, personal and collective activations all must be considered. Learning to recognize and take account of the deep connections between natural and human events can begin the process of healing the historical wounds from an outdated, inaccurate mechanistic view of reality. The complexity of our emerging world requires us to cultivate new ways of knowing and being with one another, attuning together to the holistic aspects of the environments we live in. Only through deeply felt awareness of the profound interconnectedness of our world, can a hopeful path through these difficult times be discovered. Pacifica, as ever, is in this process of re-imagining and finding our way through. We invite you to join us with full participatory consciousness to contribute.
Joseph Cambray, Ph.D.,
President/CEO, Pacifica Graduate Institute