Every day should be Earth Day
Recently, I heard a feature on NPR about these bacteria that live within rocks, that were found to have been alive for 1,000 years! That seems like the stuff of mythology, but we know that there are bacteria in almost every part of this earth, even in clouds and volcanoes, nourished by the sulfur, methane and iron, though perhaps not as long-lived as these.
This brought home to me, very starkly, how we’re all connected with not just life as we know it, but with everything around us: the mountains, rivers, and not least, the stars above us, and of course the sun and the moon.
As the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn says, “I am because you are; and we all are, because of all that we came from, and all we are part of.”
This pandemic will one day be over, and we will surely change some of our ways, as directed by the experts and the government that are trying to tackle this huge challenge. According to Dr. Fauci, we may never again shake hands, gather in large crowds, or go on rallies, protest en masse and so on. The restrictions placed on us now may seem like huge hardships to many of us, but we know that these are minor changes, superficial at best. After all, whole countries get by without shaking hands, as in Japan where they bow to one another, or in India, where people bring their palms together as in prayer, to greet one another with a Namaste’.
This situation has also brought out the best in us – our inner strength, kindness and compassion. We share what we have with our neighbors; neighbors shop for the elderly, check on each other, make masks for others, and thus we take care of one another, as in a vibrant, well-functioning community.
This is now, in the midst of a raging pandemic. The larger question is: are we capable of looking at the big picture, connecting the dots and making real and meaningful changes to our lives, for the long haul, in order to accommodate all of life and everything that supports it?
Ancient and indigenous communities have worshiped the sun and the moon, and made gods of various aspects of nature, for good reason, however primitive we may consider them. They knew the intrinsic value of everything that surrounded them, every little thing they took from nature, and even everything they painstakingly made, taking none of it for granted. Can our care and mindfulness in these times lead us in that direction?
Every time we buy or think of buying a piece of clothing, or even furniture, do we think of the hours, materials and labor spent in making it? Can we imagine its life cycle, where it will end up when we no longer need or want it?
Do we look at a whale or any other sea creature and think of what we have done to make their lives untenable, with the islands of plastic that they are forced to ingest, albeit accidentally?
Is Zero Waste a fancy term we throw around in board rooms, with all good intention, but not yet in our blood as an intentional way of living, like many of our ancestors? Can we imagine a life where nothing goes to waste, and anything we take from the earth, for any of our many appurtenances, ends up again to replenish the earth, like all life does?
Every time we buy a box of cookies, do we consider what happens to the packaging it comes in? Every paper we use and throw away, every project we undertake, just to keep ourselves or our children busy, everything we use, misuse, overuse, waste – do they bring up in us a sense of, “well, this is not right, there should be a better way?” Yes, I’m sure we often feel that way, especially here in the privileged First World, especially those of us who are intimately familiar with another way of living. So then, what do we do about it? If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Nature seems to be showing us another, better way of life and living, in these trying times. Now that we have been forced to slow down, pace ourselves, we can actually see its greenery, feel its pulse and hear its songs, all day long! Will we learn this lesson for the generations, not just for now, to be forgotten the moment things seem to return to apparent normal? Will we then incorporate that lesson into what will be our new normal, building a really thriving and sustainable world that excludes no one and no thing?
It is great that many of us do everything we can to reduce our consumption as best we can by reusing, re-purposing, not wasting, recycling and composting all that we can. How about reversing this process and starting with “What do I really need, really love, cannot do without, will make my life better” and acquire and keep only those things that fulfill these needs?
That may be a more fulfilling life, lived with intention and appreciation for all that we have and all that we are.