Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ever-so-slight sore throat. Mild headache. A little tired. Know the feeling? Right now, I am hanging on the edge of a cold. Maybe I’ll get sick, or maybe it will pass and I’ll be ok. I just took a vitamin C and am hoping for the best! For now, I’m in that in-between place of not knowing.
As I listen to the mainstream news (here in the US at least), it almost feels like the world is almost in a similar mood. Energy prices are skyrocketing and international markets are uneasy. Jane and Joe Average may not follow all the intricacies of commodity markets, but they know it costs a small fortune to fill their gas tank. They may not be aware of exactly how much of Greenland’s ice sheets is expected to melt this summer, but they are worried about the environment. They might not quite “get” the magnitude of the challenges facing us, but they are uncertain about the future. We all are.
It feels as though things have reached a critical state globally. Will we be ok? Will things stabilize? Earth is teetering on the edge of…something. Worldwide recession? Depression? Ecological collapse? Societal meltdown? We feel it coming on. We sense it, even if we cannot (or dare not) articulate it out loud. In a way, it is easier to ignore it, and keep on with the details of daily life hoping that things will somehow get better on their own. This is the equivalent of me popping a few aspirin to mask my symptoms. The aspirin do nothing to “cure” me of my potential cold, but they make it possible for me to ignore it a little longer.
What’s the alternative? For me, it’s getting extra rest, taking vitamins, sipping tea… essentially creating the best conditions I can for my body to heal itself. But even if I do all those things, I might still get the cold. There are no guarantees.
What conditions are needed for the earth to heal itself? What conditions are needed for societies to heal? To create peace? What is the relationship between humans and the earth in a sustainable culture? Can we create something functional enough to stave off the worst of the possibilities? Can we do it fast enough? Nobody knows. There are no guarantees.
Right about here my analogy breaks down. Globally, we don’t just have a “cold.” It’s more like a potentially fatal condition, or a massive, catastrophic injury from which we may not survive. The recovery will be long and painful. Thinking of it in this (more realistic) way, things become clearer. Anyone who has faced a life-threatening illness knows how one’s perspective changes. Things that seemed important are suddenly trivial. One’s priorities are instantly reshuffled. What remains is what really matters.
What remains are relationships. Connections. Friends and family. Loved ones. Love itself. Recognizing this truth on a personal level can provide us with some guidance for the larger issues. Contemporary culture has obscured the very real connections between us and the rest of life on earth. We have functioned under the delusion that we are somehow separate from Nature. Our task is to allow our collective priorities to be reshuffled, to rediscover the relationships and connections we have ignored. Our task is to lovingly embrace this process. In the end, we will discover our life’s work. We will discover who we truly are. When we do that, Nature will heal.
Rebecca Hecking holds a BS in chemistry, and an MA in cultural studies and equity studies. She writes about cultural sustainability and eco-spirituality from her home in Pennsylvania. This afternoon, she plans to sip some hot tea and take a nap in hopes that the extra rest will help her “possible” cold. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org