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This Is Not a Garden: Thoughts on Ecology and Immigration

I’m taking a series of gardening classes and this first one is about ecology. My brain is out of practice at paying attention to an instructor for three hours, and it’s already decided this first session is not what I came for. I’m consumed with figuring out how to grow more than three tomatoes a year and I can’t see how learning about ecosystems is going to help. My mind tries to wander off into some other odd territory.

To stay focused, I dutifully draw my own version of this triangle the instructor is discussing, explaining what kinds of plants will thrive in what sort of situation. As I finish, something clicks. Not about plants, but about humans.

Yes, I get how the adaptable plants win in a harsh environment. Witness the dessert cactus, the marshy sea grass and the northern lichens.

In places of havoc and tragedy, where death is frequent and unpredictable, I can see how plants that put most of their energy into procreation survive as a species. Ferns, ground covers like clover, and the common dandelion persist amid fires and flood.

I’ve labeled the top of my triangle “lucky plants” but these are not the instructor’s words. The top triangle is a well kept garden, given plenty of water, sunshine and fertile soil. The instructor says if you remove human care, the plants will not all stay in their neat rows in the proportions the humans have selected. Some will thrive and some will dwindle, and which does what is determined by how aggressive the plant is. Yes, in a place where life is easy, over time the more aggressive plants win.

I think humans have some sense of this and, to our detriment, some of us have taken to applying this philosophy to our politics. Allow me to explain with a diagram.

True, we have our own societies which have adapted to harsher climates around the world. The dessert, the far north and the Australian Outback all present challenges. When the situation is extreme enough, human populations face little competition for their niche.

Yes, historically, populations at the mercy of ongoing wars, and of natural disasters like frequent floods, wide-spread disease or famine, have tended to have more offspring, in hopes of having some survive.

It’s at the top of the triangle where I think we run into trouble.

First, I don’t think we begin to understand how the plant kingdom is interconnected and really works. So, this particular view of ecology may not be fair or accurate as far as plants are concerned. But even if it was ….

…. we’re not plants. We lack the gift of the plant kingdom, to obtain all we need from the sun and the soil. In return for having to devour other life to stay alive, we get mobility. With that comes the chance to rapidly alter our locations and to shape our environment.

We’ve got these terrific brains that get us in all sorts of trouble, but also allow us to improve our landscape and increase our resources. We can think our way into trouble, but we can also think our way out of it.

We have hearts. I don’t mean in the literal sense, though those are great, too. We have empathy and compassion and somewhere deep inside a sense of the way we are all interconnected. In our souls, we don’t want a life of ease at the expense of having others suffer. We aren’t oak trees crowding out the pines or killing off the grass. We can pretend otherwise, but a healthy human feels sadness at another’s loss.

We need to understand that we don’t live in a garden and we don’t have to beat others off with a stick lest they try crowd us out of it. We need to build our policies based on the philosophy of being entirely capable of working with others to make the our environment better and safer for all. With the sense and compassion that are our birthright as a species, we could have a planet in which we all thrive. So put those sticks away.

Class is ending and I gather up my notes and doodles. No, nothing in today’s class is going to help me grow more tomatoes. However, I think I might have a great idea for my blog.

 

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2018 in being better, oneness, peace

 

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Peace in your heart, peace in your world

PeaceI wish you peace. Do I mean peace of mind? Or do I mean freedom from coercion and violence? I mean both, and I’m not sure which is the more difficult to attain. I am sure, however, that you can’t have much of the one without also having a lot of the other.

Your own peace of mind is largely in your own control. But let’s be honest here. It is hard to find that inner calm while dodging bullets, figuratively or, worse yet, for real. On the other hand, world peace is something we all have to work for, one might even say fight for, even if fighting for peace sounds like the ultimate oxymoron. When we end up fighting each other instead, while thinking it is for the cause of peace, we have truly failed.

But no matter how many times we hear that peace must begin in our own hearts, those of us who have a certain level of impatience find that this process of trying to live a peaceful life does not seem like it is bringing peace into the world at nearly a fast enough pace. I’m part of this group, and I’ve had to accept that no amount meditation and deep breathing is going to make me feel otherwise.

taboojive1It is true that my own inner peace would be easier to hold on to if I stopped following the news. But I think that changing the world is a two pronged process. Yes, I need to be the change I want to see, just as Gandhi said. But I also need to know what is going on, even if some days what I see looks like one giant food fight in the cafeteria. I can refuse to join in. On some occasions, I can even laugh at the people throwing peas and carrots instead of crying about the food being wasted and god-awful mess they are making. Then other days the fight turns deadly, and I understand better the gravity of the issues with which we all must deal. That is the point at which is becomes real easy to get cynical and give up.

So it is always encouraging to stumble across others who are singing their own song of peace, if you will, in their own way.

This morning a friend sent a link to an article on politics in the New York Times called Beware Exploding Politics. It is written by┬áThomas Friedman, a man who doesn’t particularly share my views, but what caught my attention was his reasonable plea for us to all stop throwing rocks at each other and to work together to find solutions to the world’s problems. It is short, funny, and worth the read.

hippiepeace5Then I stumbled on an old blog post from Cindy Knoke, a photographer I admire. I had saved the link months ago to re-post on this blog. She does beautiful work, but this particular one was her way of wishing the world peace. It is called Peace and is well worth the look.

Stumbling on two other kindred spirits was just the emotional boost that I needed. Yes, I will keep working on peace in my own heart. I want to sing that song as best I can so that others might hear me, too, and find encouragement to sing their song as they work harder to find their own peace within. It’s far too slow a process for my tastes. But I understand that it is and always will be the only one that will ever provide permanent peace.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2016 in art for peace, peace

 

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