Thursday, February 22, 2007

Climate As Teacher - Or Climate As Mirror?

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?

1 comment:

bugger said...

WHOOHOO! Ain't that the truth sister. Teaching us to trust what we already do know, yes, that striving for achievement (personal aggrandizement, career development) is fine but is completely trivial next to someone who cannot afford to eat or feed his/her children and that the fact that all of society everywhere hasn't stopped in its tracks only to pick back up once we're all fed and housed and cared for is utterly inverted, that we all need simpler more care-based lives, that childcare is the number one most important activity of human society and should be esteemed as such, financially if that is the only measure we believe, that no one in their right minds would make money a proxy for well-bing, or use the GDP as a measure of "prosperity" (literally tranlated from Latin as "doing well"). Clearly the health of a society is better measured by economic parity, if one must use financial measures at all - balanced by freedom, though I think freedom is a bit of a ruse. I'd say "dedication" is a better word but then I wuld sound like a fundamentalist.

Anyway, yes climate change teaching us to trust, build on, base decisions on what we know about what on a societal level is sensible.

That's it isn't it- its teaching us to think on a societal level - lifting our heads up out of the fog of individualism