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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

We often get side tracked or misdirected in our efforts to create a better world. Sometimes it is by listening to others instead of trusting our inherent wisdom. Occasionally we find out too late that certain actions were at odds with desired outcomes. Whatever the reason, what is needed is grace. Accepting our successes as well as our failures is, in part, a good way to keep one's inertia. This grace not only helps us to overcome obstacles, learning from them and creating positive outcomes in the face of potential loss, but also to reap more of the benefits when they come as well. In life, the way forward is often beset with slippery slopes and distractions that leave us spinning our wheels, careening out of control or creating nothing but smoke and acrid fumes. Some of the most minor occurrences can reduce our ability to gain traction, slide off course and/or lose either inertia or stability.
The tenacity it takes to get a grip in the face of these forces or conditions is akin to the amazing powers of insects to climb walls, or that of barnacles to attach themselves to ship hulls. The unique thing about our stick-to-itiveness is that we must keep changing up, sticking to one thing after another, creating direction and purpose for our lives. We also have to release our grip from time to time, if not to establish a new footfall, to step back enough to gain perspective. The same firm grip we have that amounts to traction also obscures what lies both in the past and in the future. Dreams and learning become impossible if we cling too securely to one thing. Like the rock climber, clinging desperately to a handhold, no progress can be made if we hold too tightly, each point which we grasp must be abandoned if progress is to be made.
To function fully, we need to develop skill in both grasping and releasing, otherwise we fall prey to our own limited perspective and slowly ossify or else we drift without direction or purpose. Grasp, release, grasp, release, grasp release. Like Laurie Anderson's Walking and falling, we ideally cycle along our paths in a state of change from one phase to another. Complicating the matter is the issue of timing. As we move along our unique paths, certain times are better for others for each and every grasp and for each and every release, knowing when can often be as important as knowing what needs doing. When I was young and certainly more impulsive, it bothered me to no end when land owners would say things like, "That's not a creek, that's a ditch." or "That field has been in hay for twenty years, it is some of the healthiest soil on my farm." I had a hard time letting go. I had grasped the fact that we all live under the highest point in the local watershed, our roof and that wherever water collects and drains is as important as any other. I also knew that their treating their part of the watershed like a ditch was behind the tragic costs and consequences that degrade the water that flows past my house. Additionally, I understood the need for cycling both nutrients and carbon through a living soil. Soil health cannot be assured just because we think that hay produced, and removed for an entire generation magically grows out of thin air.
We cycle through thoughts and ideas much like a tire spins, picking up bits of debris, leaving them somewhere else. In life, we have the ability to renew our vitality and composition as tires do not, but whether or not we make forward progress is often determined by what we pick up and what we leave behind. Once we make good decisions, we must also learn how to move them forward into actions that have the power to outlive us, inspire others and move our culture in positive directions.                                  

1 comment:

  1. Twenty-five years ago, Earthday had nearly ceased to be celebrated. We were in a mood around the world that seemed completely disillusioned and hopeless. The yuppies were in power across the nations and the dual-income, no kids (DINKS)seemed more interested in building drywall castles in the country to get their own fresh air rather than trying to improve the environment for everyone as we had during the preceding generation. It seemed that the idealistic youths that spurred many of the positive changes that came out of the hippy years had aged into complacency and apathy.
    Luckily, there were those who refused to give in to corporate domination, the demands of human resource management and the ideals of the business as usual MBA philosophy that trusts experts in suits rather than science geeks or granola eating tree huggers.
    There was still a strong environmental urge, but it was papered over by in-fighting, the pressures of the day and industry representatives chanting jobs vs. environment ad nauseum. Even today, I get self-conscious apologies from old hippies that are now professionals. "I don't have energy to get involved." they say, "After my week of twelve hour days is done, I just want to rest for a while before doing it all over again." Back in the day, these same people had no house payment, no degree, no investments. The more intimately we tie ourselves to the existing system, it seems, the less we care about the the general direction it is going. The stresses that accompany "the good life" seem to take the wind out of the sails of many of us and few seem willing to put effort into what seems, at first glance, to be a losing battle.
    Even under our current social order, we are often told that if we just don't trow our gum wrappers and soda bottles in the street, if we recycle and make sure our waste oil ends up in the right place, all will be well. We are willing, for the most part, to do what we are told is the right thing to do, but to actually put our busy lives on hold long enough to stand up, write a letter to our representatives or the newspaper, to take the time to study, learn or understand what others are doing to destroy the integrity of nature, or hold a protest sign in a rally, that simply takes too long. Especially in this age of instant communication and Tevo, it just seems easier to take in our favorite distractions than participate in a movement to change the world for the better.
    We have the right and responsibility to ourselves and future generations to stop the madness and reverse the negative impacts of modern life, there is a growing awareness that these changes will not wait until next Earthday. Please keep "spinning the wheel" as many of my friends are fond of saying. As we leave the company of loving and supportive friends, we must remind them to keep their hearts and spirits in the game, demanding the participation of everyone in solving the multifaceted crisis that has been unleashed on the planet. Walk and ride bike more, drive less, write letters, join with others to protest, go to meetings, get involved. It may take energy that you feel that you don't have, but the alternative is continuing to get the short end of the stick while CEOs across the world take the lion's share of the wealth and leave us the bitter water, the tainted air that we have become used to and the contaminated soil that will not support life. We have seen the results of no action being taken, let us try a different path to making positive change in the world around us. The results of getting involved might just surprise you!