Wake Up! Our World Is Dying and We're All in Denial
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I believe that the purpose of life is to expand our own moral imagination and to help others expand theirs, so that our circle of caring, which begins with our families, eventually includes all living beings.
One day, I played my grandchildren a song called "Hey Little Ant" by Phillip and Hannah Hoose. This song is a conversation between an ant and a boy on a playground with his friends watching. He wants to squish the ant just for fun. But the ant sings that he has a home and a family, too. He sings to show the boy that his life is as precious to his ant family as the boy's life is to his human family. The song ends with a question for the listener to ponder: "Should the ant get squished? Should the ant go free? / It's up to the kid, not up to me. / We'll leave that kid with the raised-up shoe. / Now what do you think that boy should do?"
When 9-year-old Kate heard it, she said, "Nonna, I'll never squish an ant again." Aidan, who was 7, also promised to let all ants run free. But 5-year-old Claire said, "Nonna, I still like to squish ants, but I won't kill any talking ants." Sigh. She'll have a growth spurt soon enough.
Poet Pablo Neruda wrote, "We are each one leaf on the great human tree." I hope we can extend that to include all living beings.
Dealing with our global crisis is essentially an ethics problem. If we don't expand our moral imaginations, we'll destroy ourselves. Healing will involve reweaving the most primal of connections to this sacred web.
Interconnection can be seen as a spiritual belief, especially in Buddhism. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "we inter-are." But it's also a scientific fact. Economist Jeremy Rifkin writes, "We are learning that the earth functions like an invisible organism. We are the various cells of one living being. Those who work to save the earth are its antibodies." At its core, interconnection is a survival strategy. Gregory Bateson said it best, "The unit of survival is the organism and his environment."
The next great rights battle will be a fight to rescue our beleaguered planet. It'll be about air, plants, animals, water, energy, and dirt. We have a right to a sustainable planet and a future for our grandchildren. And the meadowlark, the fox, the bull snake, the mosquito, and the cottonwood also have this right.
We're in a race between human consciousness and the physics and chemistry of the earth. We can equivocate, but the earth will brook no compromises.
In our great hominid journey, no one really knows what time it is. We could be at its end, or we could be at the beginning of a great and glorious turning toward reconnection and wholeness.
We who are alive today share what Martin Luther King, Jr., called "the inescapable network of mutuality." We aren't without resources. We have our intelligence, humor, and compassion, our families and friends, and our ancestry of resilient hominid survivors. We can be restored.
Since the beginning of human time, how many people have loved and cared for each other in order for us to be alive today? How many fathers have hunted and fished, fought off predators, and planted grain so that we could breathe at this moment? How many mothers have nursed babies and carried water so that we could savor our small slice of time?
We can never know the significance of our individual actions, but we can act as if our actions are significant. That will create only good on earth. Besides, what's our alternative?