I was telling my friend Nancy some of the ideas I've been writing about here - that climate change may be a teacher for us all – and she put into words an idea I've been peering around the edges of all week, unable to shape it into words.
Climate change might not be so much a teacher that shows us something new, she said, as it is an experience that helps us trust what we already DO know.
That sounds exactly right to me.
Isn't there a part of us that knows that the Earth is alive, as we are; that we are connected to one another and the rest of the Earth; that we need to share with each other and take care of one another if we are to survive; that we can find peace and happiness and joy while co-existing with that which supports us?
Saints and scientists and prophets and writers and teachers have been telling us about this terrain for generations.
Little children seem to know much of it intuitively.
But there are so many ways that we are taught to distrust the part of ourselves that believes these things. Advertising teaches us to distrust our sense that we could be happy just being, in nature, hard at work, with friends and lovers and family. Economics teaches us that we are separate and must follow our own narrow interests, that our interests are different than those of the people who make the things we need and the Earth that provides those things and receives them when we are finished with them. Our maps, which divide up the single unitary Earth into cities and states and nations, teach us to distrust our sense that we live within one complete and indivisible whole.
No wonder we feel a little stressed and strained and bewildered. There is so much of our own knowing, so much that our senses are telling us, that we've been taught to distrust.
I think the Earth, stressed by the burdens we are placing on her, is offering to us something solid to cling to in this confusion, a point of reference in the conflict between what we know in our hearts and what we learn in our culture.
Look, she says, look where the advertising and the economic theory, and the idea of nation-states and disposable plastic everything has led you to - right to the very edge of disaster. Those theories and ideas don't fit with the Earth's realities of chemistry and flows of sunlight. They ignore most of what goes on in the dark layers of forest soil, in the microbial mats of swamps, in the quiet secret roots of trees, in the hearts of the poor and the dispossessed.
There she is, our Earth, huge, ponderous, slow, reporting out the consequences of 500 years of a certain way of thinking, showing us that a lot of that thinking is misguided or counterproductive.
If she were to ask us a question, perhaps it might be this: what is the risk of trusting in what you already know, in the most treasured and deepest parts of yourself?