Two thirds of the way through my master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, I’m often asked what I hope to do with my education. Last night, in my mindfulness meditation group, I stumbled across an answer. It sounds a bit hokey, maybe because it’s one of those “new jobs” people talk about. It’s so new, that I haven’t heard anyone else talk about it. For lack of such a job in the National Occupational Category (NOC) listing, I’ll call it being a Midwife for a New Society.
The title just came to me while I was trying to keep my spine aligned as I sat cross-legged on the floor of the Quaker meeting house. I love that this meditation group, which follows the teachings of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Thanh, meets in the same place as my beloved Quaker community — but I digress. I was breathing and trying to focus on being mindful of my physical presence, when it came to me that our society is in such crisis right now, physically, socially and economically, it feels like being in the transition stage of labour. Those who have given birth will know what I’m talking about – the state when you are no longer in control, when the forces of labour have completely overwhelmed you, but you’re not quite ready to push. You’re exhausted, beyond pain, beyond anything except the moment at hand. It feels like things could go either way, but given the enormity of the task, death could be the easier way out.
A hundred years ago, it was entirely possible that the mother would not survive childbirth. That’s where midwives would come in. They were the voice of calm, the guide through the darkness, occasionally the intervenor who could turn a baby in-utero, or give the mother enough encouragement to continue. They couldn’t do the work for the birthing mother, but they could shepherd the process, and they knew the stages of labour well enough to know when to step in with reinforcements.
Imagine that our world is in labour now. To an outsider, it looks like death is imminent. The physical changes, the pain, and the unknown all threaten to overwhelm us. But for every crisis on earth, might there be a corresponding breakthrough? According to this map of protests, people are crying out for change. Traditional fossil fuels are wreaking havoc on our earth, but quietly, alternative energy sources and alternative technologies aregrowing in number and use . For all the attacks that extremists foist upon innocent civilians, might there also be people breaking down walls of communication, and building bridges to a better society? Are their people taking charge of their lives, their health, and their communities? I believe that both bad and good are happening at such a fast pace, we can’t keep up. It could go either way. Our human race needs calm people who know the process of change, who can shepherd it along, and ask for intervention where needed. The human race needs midwives while we are here, in the transition stage of labour, who remind us of the big picture – the birth of a new spirit as well as the ending of what was before.
So now that I know what I want to be, the next question is, how do I get there?