After tragedy comes the time to rebuild. This is a necessity, but it is also an opportunity, because when there is nothing left but ash, a phoenix rises. I think it’s time to discuss the phoenix.
I recently read a book called Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg. In it, a worldwide tragedy occurs, requiring society to rebuild. The people who survive the titular catastrophe, Nightfall, are comprised almost entirely of the people who understood, anticipated, and prepared for the disaster, but the survivors are split mainly into two groups:
Group 1 knew enough to survive, but as they still weren’t entirely sure how things were going to play out, they neglected to plan for the aftermath. Group 2 had been anticipating Nightfall for longer and were very sure of themselves, and therefore were taking steps to rebuild even before disaster struck.
Group 1, in the end, has no choice but to allow Group 2 to restart things the way they want, because they simply don’t have the power or resources to propose something else.
If we’re expecting a huge shipment of lemons, shouldn’t we be stockpiling ingredients for lemonade?
Life is kinda scary right now, and our big wide world has gotten smaller throughout history, until it is now tiny and trying to use fear and panic to separate itself again. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t in a position to do a whole lot about it, which is why I propose we start spreading hope instead.
The fun thing about a phoenix (to return to the topic at hand) is that you know it’s going to go up in flames, so before it even happens you’re already anticipating and planning for the rebirth. An absence is an opportunity to create something new. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; but when it is broke, we can rebuild it better.
So what if we started planning what we want life to look like after catastrophe? What would make the Future a better place than the past, what should we learn from the present, and how do we make that a reality?
In this time of craziness, I would like to offer you something. You guessed it, it’s a freaking phoenix. A baby one, freshly disintegrated.
You get to pick whichever one you want, but the catch is, you have to name it after the thing you most want to see in the future. This can be something as simple as “feeling supported” or something as big as “carbon neutral planet” or anything in between. It can be a personal goal or a community goal or a global one. Something new or something you’ve already been working towards. The point is to personify the change you want to see in the world.
Now that your new pet has a name, you have to take care of it.
Obviously you have to love your phoenix, because that’s the best way to take care of something, and it’s easier to get things done when you’re passionate about it. You also have to feed it. Unfortunately, phoenixes– or maybe phoenices? Like how vertex becomes vertices?– phoenices are very picky eaters. I suppose that’s what you get for keeping a mythological bird as a pet. They are nourished by things that nourish the goal they personify. For instance, a “carbon neutral planet” phoenix might like to snack on the use of a metal straw or bringing your own bags to the store. You should make sure to also feed your phoenix bigger meals, like participating in a climate strike or coming up with a new campaign (or whatever feels like a big thing for you and your phoenix), every week or two.
Now you can draw your phoenix, create a space for it in your life– literal or mental– whatever you like. And make sure you post about it at least as often as your other furbabies. Use #MyPhoenixIs and #PheonixFuture, and tag me (@QueWhatNow) so I can share the heck out of our collective dream.
You can have as many as you want, but you have to take care of them all by doing things that work towards your goals for our future world. Or at least pick a few of your favourites to focus on, but post all the rest anyways.
You may be wondering when you should start collecting your phoenices, and when their intended Future is going to start.
I can’t tell you when our Nightfall will be over, but I can say that it is never too late to start creating the future you want to see. It’s unrealistic to think that one day the world will be a mess and the next it will be perfect, but maybe we can create a smooth transition from one to the other if we start it now.
And if you’ve gotten to this point and are thinking, “But Hannah, won’t all our phoenices blow up in our faces and disintegrate too?” Please remember that a phoenix can live for 500 years before restarting its cycle. And if you manage to reach your goal in fewer than 500 years? It can restart a little early and give birth to a new one for you to carry to fruition.