Thursday, January 26, 2017

Smell the Flowers, Pick the Fruit, Watch the Animals

On my worst days, I feel as if humans are a scourge on the Planet Earth. On other bad days, I lapse into thinking that we are not to be blamed for destroying our Home because we are just doing what we naturally do. On my best days, I see clearly that industrial civilization is not what we are, and that humans have a role to play in this world. That role is a stewardship role, and the vast majority of us are not doing our duty. Myself included.

To play this important role, we must interact with all parts of the ecosystem. We cannot be stewards through our purchases. We cannot be stewards by recycling. We must smell the flowers, pick the fruit, watch the animals, feel the heat and the cold, be comfortable in our own skin: know ourselves thoroughly. We must be able to feel discomfort and not immediately recoil. There was a time when all humans did this and more, so it is definitely possible. The challenge is reaching beyond our comfort zones and abandoning the belief that the only way to go is the way we are going, toward ‘progress.’

If we are to be stewards, we must think beyond our immediate needs, as many of us who are damaging our Home have the luxury of being able to do. We have to be less selfish, in a sense. We have to do what’s best for other species and parts of the ecosystem, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because in the post-fossil fuel age we will need functioning ecosystems to live. Feel what it's like to know that when you eat food from far away, drive a car, turn the air conditioning on full blast, etc., you are causing harm to something else that is nearly irreversible. You are contributing to a planet that is less habitable to your family and friends. To feel this way is uncomfortable, but the truth should not be obscured. Occasional discomfort can push us to change our behavior.

My soft, wannabe steward hands

Despite what I perceive as a somewhat common, unstated belief, our elected officials cannot make us stewards. They will not perform magic that negates our need to be stewards. Why? Let’s consider an example (for areas of the world that have freezing temperatures). Supreme Leader A cares about us being stewards. S/he orders us to keep the heat in our homes and offices set at a temperature no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, just to keep the pipes from bursting and give us a bit of warmth. Most would find these temperatures to be quite uncomfortable. Many would be angry that the government is telling them what to do. But, in fact, Supreme Leader A is confronting energy depletion, climate change, and environmental degradation head on. S/he is not talking about these issues, but actually pushing us to be stewards.

Supreme Leader A is, of course, a fictional character in our industrial society. Austerity and sacrifice are not sexy, whether you’re on the Red team or Blue team in the United States. We should not expect a leader to tell us to do anything we don’t already do in some form, or that they don’t do themselves. We need to lead with our actions. Only then will Supreme Leader A pat her/himself on the back by claiming credit for what we’re already doing. Elected officials only do what earns them praise. How can we expect them to be stewards, or ask us to be stewards, if we are not stewards ourselves?


There is nothing left but to simply do. Walk outside; spend a weekend outside. Bring a friend if you like, but spend some time alone. Look at what is around you. Feel, observe, be. Start to tinker (responsibly) with what you find; seek guidance from others. How do you feel? You may be uncomfortable, mentally, physically, or emotionally: that’s OK, stewards are not always comfortable. The comfort comes when you dive in and through. There is no substitute for walking away from the human-built environment and being in the awesome presence of all-there-is. This is where we came from and where stewards must return to. Only by being out there does it become clear what we must do. That which extends beyond human reach has much to teach us, and we are wise to listen and learn.

I’m on my way out the door for a couple days to continue my practice.

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