The world, today, celebrates in gratitude for the planet we share while wrestling with the damage done to it by our human species. In this week, here in the US, we continue to struggle with what it means to be members of a society which aspires to equality for all while trying to hide from the realities of racism woven into the fabric of our society.
The created world could teach us a lot about how our society could function more holistically and compassionately. But religion, as we have lived it in the past few centuries, has taught us that the created world, nature, is antithetical to spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While religion planted itself ever more firmly (in the last 600 years) in the notion that somehow spirit and flesh, spirit and earth, were separate opposing realities, it lost track of the very first thing the Abrahamic scriptures professed; that The Creator called all of creation GOOD. The Source of Life didn’t say humans are good and reptiles are bad. That Source didn’t say only men are good but not women. And that Source definitely never said this breed is better than that breed, whether talking about the colors of the human rainbow or the myriad fish in the sea.
In our compartmentalized, sanitized, narcissistic society we have put environmental concern, racial concerns, LGBTQIA concerns, and so many other concerns into neat little separate boxes. The power constructs would have us believe that we are each struggling alone in our own little box and the resources of ingenuity, sustenance and compassion have to be allocated to this box or that.
But that is not how the Creative Force designed this world. Everything and everyone is part of an ecosystem which only flourishes in unity. When we strip away the top soil, or burn the rainforests the consequences ripple out. The mycelial network between fungi and trees stops functioning; stops sharing the resources to renew life.
The same has been true for us. As we have commodified peoples and tore apart the connections between us, our social safety-net has disintegrated. Granted, it only served as a safety-net for some some of the time, because the game of power has been winning for a long time, separating us. In our own little boxes, we live in fear and lack. We don’t know how the folks in their own little boxes are or are not functioning, but we assume they must be doing better than we are. The fear, distrust and anger grows. It was designed that way by those who hold the power and resources.
Those of us with white skin didn’t know what we didn’t know, and in our blissful ignorance bought the lie that “those people” (those other little boxes) where robbing us of our birthright. The systems of oppression we have been blind to, be they poll taxes or red-lining or mass incarceration, were consciously designed by those in power. They told us that we had something to fear, and more specifically they told poor white folk – “see you don’t have it so bad. At least you’re not black.” The significance of this week’s verdict will only be made real if we stop believing the lies and living in the boxes.
The language of fear has changed somewhat but it is still about keeping us separated from those who are also struggling to get by. Now they also tell us – don’t believe the scientists, don’t wear the mask, don’t leave your house without a gun – be afraid. It’s a jungle out there!
If only it were. In a jungle or a forest, yes, there are some dangers, but there is also mutuality. There is a wisdom in nature that knows there is enough for all. We are only now learning that even the community of trees communicates and supports one another, sending nutrients and messaging through their intertwined root system. The plants, animals, microbes and waterways are a community of mutual support, taking from each other only what they need, knowing that the survival of all depends on their interconnected web of life.
The reason we celebrate Earth Day each year is because our species has forgotten that it is part of that web of life. More specifically our American society and other colonizer societies, has believed the lie that we are somehow separate from the web of life. We’ve built up our little boxes, put fences and highways around them, keeping ourselves separate from the wild.
But just as we have raped the planet, tearing off topsoil and mountain tops, we have destroyed the fabric of society. Rather than growing our sense of unity and love, we have grown fear and baseless hatred. Just as nature is supposedly unsafe and dirty, we have made women and people of color into dirty, wild things to be tamed. We have siphoned off clean water for fracking and bottled it for sale. We have convinced ourselves that science and faith are both suspect if they in any way remind us that we are part of the larger world; that we share in its fate and are responsible for one another.
We can deny pandemics and climate change all we like, but it will not prevent either. We can turn over our civil liberties in the name of safety, but it doesn’t mean that those in power won’t put a knee on our neck if we too become perceived of as Other or Enemy.
On this Earth Day, let us remember that we are all part of a rich tapestry of creation that the Source of Life called good. That Source is a compassionate and loving connectivity, which calls us to responsibility for one another as the hands and hearts of Love. It is not too late for us to reawaken from the epidemic of fear and hate. It is not too late to rejoin with our web of life to heal the damage done to planet and people. It is not too late for everywhere to be Eden once again, if only we look with compassion on this earth and all the peoples that inhabit it as our kin.