Perseverance: Lost in the Gulf of Mexico

By Margaret Wheatley, 2010
First published in YES! Magazine

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I have several dear friends who live along the Gulf of Mexico. One, an Academy Award winning filmmaker who had developed a multi‐part TV series on the Gulf, “America’s Sea,” emailed me a few days ago:

My sadness over our American Sea is becoming unspeakable. Few, and not I, can imagine the damage that will be done for generations to come. It has not even begun and the idea of cleaning it ‘all’ up is folly.

Another friend, in early May, just as this cataclysm was beginning, wrote:

I was at a friend’s birthday party and an oil company executive I’ve known for years whispered in my ear, ‘I’ve been in the deep water drilling business for years and none of us can figure out how this happened. Nothing that should have stopped it worked. And the damage is limitless. 25,000 barrels a day is the more realistic number. It will take months to stop it, much less clean it up. Nobody knows how to do this.’ And I said, ‘Hurricane season is here.’ ‘Game over,’ he said.

For my cousin’s shrimp and fishing company—game over forever. For Louisiana wetlands—game over. For Cajun culture—game over. SYSTEMS FAIL. The Gulf Coast has always been sacrificed for oil and industry. By everyone. SYSTEMS FAIL. Game over.

I call in their voices to deepen our understanding of what’s happening in the Gulf, and what it means for our future. And what it means for us right now. What do we do with our anger, our outrage, our frustration, our impotence as we tune into what’s happening there? How do we avoid being consumed by these dark, swirling emotions that, like oil in the Gulf, destroy life’s capacities? How do we persevere and find the strength and faith to keep working for what we believe in?

If you’re watching or reading the news, do you feel as I do how broken we are as a people? Just like the storms we fear this hurricane season, we’re lashing out wildly, raging, blaming, screaming for fixes, grasping blindly for life rafts.

Our anger is righteous, yet anger always blinds us and keeps us apart. Our need to find someone to blame is predictable, yet it’s not how we ever learn to understand complex causes. Our desire to punish, to seek retribution is natural, but it never heals the future. Our frustration and impotence are real, yet they rob us of the energy and relationships we need at this time.

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