On my way to mid-week worship yesterday, I was thinking about the state of the world and the predicament we humans have created. While in Chicago last weekend for a family wedding, I was walking briefly along the “Miracle Mile” shopping district (where our hotel was located), coming back from finding some relatively cheap stockings for my daughter Kate, since all the ones she’d brought were full of runs or ran as soon as she tried them on. The street was crowded with people going home from work, shoppers and tourists. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a bittersweet sadness, recognizing that humans are just here, doing what we do, much of it unworkable and unsustainable, some of it gorgeous, creative or just plain loving and compassionate. Mostly folks are just getting by, day to day, trying to make a go of it. What a hash we’ve made of things, and maybe, it’s just what it is, no more, no less. Perhaps, I can just be here, noticing and loving what is. I come from a long line of would be fixers, people who want it to be better; a world that is more just, more compassionate. But sometimes, as my husband says so often these days, “its just above my pay grade”. So I cried some tears, of sadness and of relief that I don’t have to, and can’t anyway, fix everything!
As I continued on my short 10 minute ride to worship with a small group of outliers, even for Quakers, I thought also of the the beautiful two wedding ceremonies of my niece and her, now, husband; one Episcopalian and the other Hindu. While I enjoyed them both, I’d never experienced a HIndu wedding before and really enjoyed participating in the surprisingly earth-based rituals and ceremony. However, I sorely missed our Quaker tradition of worshipful silence, and the opportunity to share messages of love, or stories from the lives of the couple before and after they met; meaningful, or humorous, wanting to be shared. There was, of course a little of that during the reception and dinner. Both Anna’s mother and Vikrum’s brother spoke from the heart.
In remembering something opened up and a message came through. Something wanting to be spoken, what I would have liked to say, not just to them, but to all present:
What matters now is our relationship with Earth; as our foundation, our mother, the very ground of our being. We are all, not just metaphorically, but actually outcroppings of this planet being. Gandhi once said something to the effect of,”when you are making a decision, think of the poorest person you know, or know of, and what effect your decision will have on their life.” We must now do the same for the Earth. When we are making decisions, we must think of Earth and what effect it will have, as far as we can know, because that will effect all human life, and more so for anyone poor who is temporarily unprotected by wealth, status or geography from climate disruption, sea rise, fires, storms, floods and droughts.
However, for most of us, it isn’t really possible to love the whole Earth, we need to love a more specific part of it. Here is where the message got very specific: “Find the land you belong to. Love it/her, bless her and she will bless you. This will make all the difference.” Belonging to, is quite different than owning. For city dwellers and people who have been impoverished, it may mean a city park, a neglected lot, or a rooftop garden. Allow yourself to be claimed by this land, tend it in whatever way you are able. Take care of what is already growing; help restore the land if nothing or little can grow there. Make a small pond, a butterfly garden, create a brush pile that will be shelter for small animals and birds. Give it your attention, when you are able. smell the dirt, the plants, what its like when it rains. Be open to receive whatever it has to give you; beauty, food, tranquility, life in all its cycles, including birth and death. Put your bare feet on it… If you don’t seem to be able to experience any of this, you might try noticing that the people or person you belong to, that you love and feel grounded in, is an outcropping of Earth; every bone and muscle made from the stuff of the Earth; minerals, chemicals, water, blood, bone, teaming with the elements that come from the Earth, teaming with a microbiome that comes from the Earth.
We have forgotten that in some very real way we belong to the Earth; we are her children, all siblings and cousins to and with all life, animal and plant alike. So finding the patch you can belong to and beginning to act like it, might, indeed, make the difference that needs to be made; that may inspire and support us to turn away from our destructive cultures and practices and most of all to create an economic system that does not exploit not even the Earth. Impossible? Seems like it, but then so many things that seemed impossible 100, or even 50 years ago have come to be. One of the greatest arguments against ending modern-day slavery in Britain and the US was that no one could imagine how things would work economically without the unpaid labor of enslaved people. Even people who knew it was morally wrong, couldn’t image another system.
So, find the land you belong to, bless it/her and she will bless you. This will make all the difference.