How we view a problem will shape our response. As Abraham Maslow famously said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” So how do we find other tools? And do we need a tool at all, or perhaps a flower?
I’ve been thinking about this because at the moment I’m exploring two very different responses to the climate crisis: the rational, and the imaginal.
First, the rational. I am reading David Wallace-Well’s bestselling book The Uninhabitable Earth. If you’ve not read or heard of this book, do check it out – but be warned, it is not easy reading. In fact, it is compendium of the doom which awaits us (and has already begun) in our current trajectory of global warming. Wallace-Wells batters the reader with relentless information about the impacts of heat, flooding, wildfires, pandemics and economic collapse which will increase year upon year. He cites reports, statistics and warnings from the scientific and medical communities. It’s a well-written and impassioned, rational look at the consequences of our choices. And I am reading it because I want to remind myself of the facts and stay up-to-date about the fierce gravity of the situation.
Next, the imaginal. I am just embarking on an online course called Courting the World Soul, designed by the lovely Sharon Blackie, author of If Women Rose Rooted and The Enchanted Life. Blackie is a depth psychologist and mythologist whose work is deeply embedded in a rich, nourishing tradition of imagination, dreamwork and fairy tales. I have only opened the first of eight modules, but am already immersed in the understanding that Anything Can Be. And I am participating in it because I want to remind myself that another more beautiful world is truly possible.
I wonder: what does it mean that the entrenched rational argument is wielded by a man, and the playful imaginal approach by a woman? Perhaps I’m not being fair – but the dense information of The Uninhabitable Earth seems profoundly masculine, while the gentle uncanniness of Courting the World Soul seems profoundly feminine.
I believe this climate crisis, this awful consequence of the industrial age, is the result of a deep imbalance in our world: too much masculine energy, and too little feminine. Too much dependence upon the rational realm of facts and too little appreciation of the imaginal realm of dreams and stories. I also believe that we each and every one of us hold it within our power to respond to the world’s problems with a flower rather than a hammer.
So I will finish reading The Uninhabitable Earth and I will also keep opening the modules of Courting the World Soul. They both hold value. But I do know to which one my heart is more drawn.