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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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Christmas is Not about “love, but …”

It is probably because I’m doing gentle yoga to Christmas music in a candlelit room. These are the kinds of holiday activities you find in my new home town in the mountains of North Carolina. It is true, I’m a long way from Texas. However, I’m having trouble clearing my mind because they’ve decide to use songs with vocalists, which I think is a bad choice.

“Describe in one word how God feels about the world right now.”

The observer in my head has decided to take my mind off of the lyrics about Frosty by springing a pop quiz. This is what happens when you live inside of my brain.

Free Your Mind 1I don’t even hesitate. “Sad.” And then because I don’t like following rules, even my own, I add “very sad.”

There is silence while my memory replays current events. Perhaps I’ve been watching the news too much lately. It has started to disturb even my dreams. At the instructors prompting I move into a modified pigeon pose while a softer song croons “Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King. The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing.”

Yes, angels singing. My spiritual notions are vague, and I wonder why I’m asking myself questions about the emotional state of a deity in whom I have at best a non-traditional belief. Then I realize that it’s not God I’m thinking about. He, She or It may in fact be sad.The point is that I think God should be. Because I’m more sad everyday as I listen to the intolerance and fear around me whip itself into ever larger volumes.

Look people.Two thousand years ago, a child was born. He went on to say things that translated roughly as “love one another” and “whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” He even went so far as to suggest that “if anyone wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Yes, your whole coat. Whether you believe he was the Son of God, a great prophet, or just a wise man who was well quoted, his message of generosity, concern and love is quite clear. In my heart of hearts, that message is what I celebrate every Christmas. This is a holiday about love.

The voices answer. “Of course it’s about love, but ……… we’ve got to protect ourselves. But ……. they’re doing horrible things to us. But they started it. But they took it to a whole worse level. But they’re more animals than people. But I can’t have all the things God thinks I deserve if I share with others. But we need to take care of our own first. But God wants us to keep this nation great. But God wants everyone to believe what I believe. But if we pay attention to everyone’s suffering then, then, I don’t know what will happen.”

beautiful life7We’ve moved on to the restful savasana pose that signifies that class is almost over. “Silent Night” is playing softly and it brings back childhood memories of midnight mass out in the country in Western Kansas. “Sleep in heavenly peace,” it says. I have a lavender scented warm cloth draped over my eyes now, which is good because tears are rolling down my cheeks. Not that anyone in this class would be bothered by my emotions.

I remember being a child staring at a sky full of stars as we drove out to the small church my father grew up attending. I remember a feeling of magic as I realized that the whole world was seeing the very same stars that I was, and I remember believing that peace on earth was possible because surely tonight as everyone looked at this sky they understood deep in their hearts what this day was really about.

I wish I had been right. How did we ever get the idea that Christmas celebrates the hundreds of reasons to hold back from caring for each other. This holiday is not about “love, but.”

It is about love.

For other slightly offbeat thoughts about Christmas, see my posts “The Future of Christmas,”Duct Tape and Christmas Cards”and “The Women of Christmas.”

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in empathy, oneness, peace

 

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I live here

not in my nameI’ve watched the news in sorrow. News of deaths, of outpourings of sympathy, of despair that other deaths go relatively unmourned as people of all faiths and backgrounds flee in terror. Mostly they are running from those would kill them if they cannot control them. Sometimes, though, they are fleeing the bombs of those trying to stop the terror. Everyone runs from bombs, no matter what their source. And the hate and the fear and mistrust grows all around.

peace parisI write a blog about world peace. It’s an odd topic for a blog, but it grew out of the premise that if we all understood each other better, if we listened, if we could feel another’s pain and joy as our own, world peace would be achievable. I know how idealistic this is. But I believe it.

We have to harden our hearts, steel our minds against empathy in order to commit the sorts of atrocities that have filled the news. We have to lie to ourselves deep within to justify behavior that we know is wrong. It is easy to argue and point fingers and incite others to be afraid and angry with us. It takes so much more strength to soften and allow understanding. It is far more difficult to admit that, at our core, we are sisters and brothers.

parisYet here we are, throwing rocks at each other on this little playground that we call earth. The teachers and other adults appear to have left, and we seem like a bunch of rambunctious children, often dedicating ourselves to finding ways to make each other miserable. It’s time for us to grow up. The playground gets smaller every day. The calls to hate and hurt grow stronger, made more powerful by the technologies we have invented. Our “rocks” and other ways of harming each other have grown exponentially with our cleverness.

Most of us want better. Yes, the few who prefer chaos, or think they have a right to control others lives or end them if they cannot, must be won over to compassion, and they must be isolated and rendered harmless until they are. But as we do that, we must avoid becoming insensitized to the humanity of others, lest we become the very thing that we are trying to stop.

We need to fix this, not make it worse. It’s important. We are talking about our home here. herelive

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more on this subject see my post “And the Hate Goes On…“)

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in being better, empathy, peace

 

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