I know it may seem counter-intuitive, but purposeful memoir is as much about the future as it is about the past.
By taking the time to explore our unique personal journey against the larger backdrop of our collective political and planetary history, we come to understand the present more fully, and begin to live more intentionally into the thriving future we all desire.
I believe that broad social change starts with each individual person plumbing the depths of their own experience. Yes, it’s important to explore your childhood in your family, your youthful experiences with education and socialization, the choices you made as you struck out into adulthood. But we often overlook the impact that social history and environmental changes have on our individual life experience. When we sit down to write about our lives, we tend to relegate the broader story of our time on Earth to the background.
I have developed a purposeful memoir workshop, “Aligning the Personal, Political and Planetary for a Thriving Future,” which guides participants through a process of looking back over their life experiences in a way that begins to foreground the societal and environmental backdrop against which we have lived.
All of us alive today have lived through a period of dramatic, rapid change on Earth. Decade by decade, we have advanced out of the Holocene into the Anthropocene, the age when human activities dominate everything that happens on Earth.
In some ways, our technological progress has been wonderfully positive—for instance, the World Wide Web has enabled us to connect with each other globally in previously unimaginable ways.
But in this same time period we have presided over an ever-accelerating tragedy, as human population growth, coupled with rampant consumption and the burning of fossil fuels, has overshot the carrying capacity of the planet and threatened the welfare of all the other living beings who call Earth home. We now find our own lives, and human civilization writ large, gravely threatened as well by the destabilization of Earth’s climate and ecosystems.
The first step towards taking responsibility for the Anthropocene, and our own individual role in this time, is simply taking stock. How did we get here? What choices did we make, as individuals and societies, that led to the runaway climate disruption and species extinction we face today?
Having gone through this thoughtful process of purposeful memoir, we can then turn our faces to the future with greater awareness and firmer resolution, knowing what we value and determined to live our individual lives in ways that are more aligned with the thriving future we envision for all life on Earth.
As I wrote recently in my other blog, Transition Times, this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We cannot repeat the mistake of waltzing blithely on while the iceberg looms.
When, in the future, you look back on this time in your life, let it be with the satisfaction of knowing you did what you could to leave a legacy of a thriving planet to the generations to come, both human and non-human. Let it be so.
Jennifer & friend.
Now is the time, and we are the ones we’re waiting for.