“Grieve Play Love” is a 9 minute short film by Jem Bendell, set in Bali, released in March 2019.
The text of the voiceover follows below. A message from the filmmaker:
“In early 2018, my life changed. I studied climate science again for the first time in 25 years and discovered how bad it is. My estimation is that our complex consumer industrial societies won’t cope with the new pace of weather disruption to our agriculture. I published a paper on my conclusion, inviting deep adaptation to our climate tragedy, and was swamped with the response. Many people were and are, like me, traumatised by this realisation of a future societal collapse. I made this film for them. If that is where you are at, I hope it helps.
I made it where I was living at the time, in Indonesia, and drew on the beauty of nature and culture that still exists on this wonderful planet. You’ll see it’s a long way from a protest, political meeting or boardroom. But I hope the beauty in the film affirms once again what it is we love and stand for. How we live fully without pushing away difficult emotions triggered by awareness of our climate tragedy is going to have as many answers as there are people coming to this awareness. To help your own journey, I recommend connecting with others on this agenda at www.deepadaptation.info”
“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into darkness” John Ruskin
After we accept the full tragedy of climate change, what do we have left?
Most people I meet sense that life is meaningful. Belief in a future is one way we look for such meaning. A future for ourselves and our family, our community, country, and the planet.
It is why it is so difficult to accept where we are today. What future can we believe in now? And if that isn’t possible, where can we find meaning?
I left my job as a Professor and came to Bali to sink in to those questions.
And to grieve.
I grieved for my years lost to compromise. I grieved the loss of my identity. I grieved how I may not grow old. I grieved for those closest to me, and the fear and pain they may feel as things break down. I grieve for all humanity, and especially the young.
Within this despair, something else happened. My long-held defences began to melt away. I was opening-up.
Not everyone can leave to heal in a place this. But I want to tell you my story because so many of us now grieve over climate change.
Most Balinese seem so at ease with their life. In the temples in every household, children play at the symbolic graves of their grandparents. That’s not like our modern societies where we seem to hide death away. Could feeling the impermanence of everything be an invitation to experience life more fully?
I was drawn to connect more to myself, others and nature.
Breathwork, dance, fasting, improv theatre, chanting, circling and guided meditations.
I was opening to beauty and spontaneity. To connect without expectation. To create without certainty. And to welcome what’s transcendent into my life. I see that love can be the anchor during waves of anxiety, sadness and grief.
I was reminded of how my friend with terminal cancer experiences more gratitude and wonder. And how our last meeting was more beautiful due to the ending ahead. Awareness of the finite amount of time we all have on this Earth gives more power to the choices we make.
Your own path for grieving an environmental and social breakdown may not be like mine. But there is a path and it leads beyond despair.
So what of our future?
My vision is of a world where more of us are open to curious, kind and joyful connection with all life. My hope is we will discuss ideas without a want to prove ourselves right.
Because there will be tough decisions ahead. We can make universal love our compass as we enter an entirely new physical and psychological terrain.
And so, I was ready to re-engage with my profession, but with a faith to express my truth, however difficult. Opening a conference at the United Nations, there was really only one thing for me to say.
“We now know that many self-reinforcing feedbacks have begun to further warm the planet, threatening to take the future out of our hands. So if we don’t wake up from our delusions of what is pragmatic and appropriate, then shame on us.”
“…our intention for creating things needs, more often, to arise out of our love for humanity and creation…. The technology we seek is love.”
Feeling our pain at the ongoing destruction of life, we may find relief in the idea of a divine force beyond this time and place. But if doing so, let’s not withdraw from our fellow humanity. Climate chaos invites our loving immersion with life as we find it. We can rise into, not above, these times.
“The Earth is not a big rock, infested with living organisms, any more than your skeleton is bones infested with cells. The Earth is geological, yes, but this geological entity grows people. And so the existence of people is symptomatic of the kind of universe we live in.”
We may grieve the loss of life, and feel despair or anger at how this happened. But whenever it comes, human extinction will not be the end of consciousness or the cosmic story.
There is no way to escape despair. But there is a way through despair. It is to love love more than we fear death. So ours is not a time to curl up or turn away. It’s a time to dance like we’ve never danced before.
Before loss there was love.
After loss, love.
Before grief there was love.
After grief, love.
Our essence is never in danger.
When all else falls away,
Our essence can shine.
So, what does love invite of us now?
Grieve, Play, Love was co-directed by Jem and Joey. It was filmed, edited and sound engineered by Joey. It was written, voiced and produced by Jem. Jem and Joey met at http://www.connectionplayground.org