“A Guide to the End of Civilization (in 6 simple maxims)” by Christopher Stanley

1. Civilization is not the World.

Civilization is ending, but the World is not.  The World has lived through far greater changes than us.  The World was here for billions of years before we came along, and will be here for billions of years after we’re gone.  We are not so grand that we can kill Life itself.

2. Civilization is just a story.

Our systems and artifacts are entirely secondary.  Their purpose is merely to tell the story.  The story claims that humans are special.  That humans are powerful.  That humans are progressing.  And, above all, that humans need the story.  The story is fiction.  We’re just a species like any other.  And we got along just fine, indeed far better, for two million years before we so recently invented this insane story.

3. Someday humans will die.

Just as every individual has a lifespan, so does every species.  And just how every individual dying is ultimately good, right, and natural, so it is that every species dying is ultimately good, right, and natural.  Some day and for some reason, we will die.  That day may be soon and the reason may be civilization.  And, ultimately, that day and that reason would be neither better nor worse than any other day or any other reason.

4. The World is more important than humans.

Through civilization, humans have a disease.  Through humans, the World has a disease.  That the World is cured is more important than that humans are cured.

5. This problem is self-correcting.

Our problem is a lack of sustainability.  But the flip side is exactly that: this problem cannot sustain itself.  It will end.  It can’t not end.  It may end in a way that humans don’t enjoy, but it will end.  The World will be healed.  We may not survive the cure, but the cure is guaranteed.

6. We are returning to right relationship with World.

Our right relationship with World is the one that cures it of its disease.  And be it wisdom or fertilizer, we will find that right relationship.  But this Return is not an event, it is a process.  And it is a process that unfolds not on our terms, but on World’s terms.  So we cannot cause the Return, but we can participate in it.  Indeed, the deepest parts of ourselves call us incessantly to that very participation.


Listen for the call.  Learn to discern the call from the insane stories ringing in our ears.  When you can hear it, do it.  Whatever it is.  Not because it will save the World or even yourself, but because it’s what you are made to do.  Not because it satisfies logic or practicality, but because it satisfies the timeless contract between World and Life that is the essence of every being.  It might not make you happy.  It certainly won’t make you popular.  But it will make you a little more whole.  And whatever it looks like, a human who is a little more whole is some tiny part of the cure of the World.  It is some tiny gift of ourselves to the whole.  Our gift to the World is our life, even if that includes our death.

About Christopher Stanley

This sort of territory is where I spend most of my life.  The last, lurching steps of the story of civilization.  Experimenting with recovering a true awareness of a World and Life that we never actually conquered.  Exploring what it means to faithfully participate in the Return to right relationship with World when the present is so uncertain, much less the future.  Tentatively approaching a hazy sort of peace with the whole crazy situation while still caring about it more than anything.

Editor’s note: This essay was originally posted at PrayWithYourFeet.org.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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