This post was originally written in May 2017 around the time the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Agreement and mysteriously it was not posted. As I revisited this post in light of our current roiling planet, it made sense that I publish it now.
In the last few weeks many of us have been experiencing an apocalyptic foreboding as fires rage through brittle dry trees creating falling ash and dark skies filled with smoke resulting in unbreathable air; violent hurricanes dismantle islands and pummel cities — storm surges create overwhelming deluges as hurricanes, one after the other, batter our cities tearing up lives and structures as if they are weightless toothpicks to be tossed aside; earthquakes flattened areas in Mexico and we watched all of these events with deepening alarm. One could not help but feel the climate chaos and our sustained blindness to planetary suffering. (See: This Season, Western Wildfires Are Close By and Running Free; New York Times, 9/16/17.)
My son, Kyle Lemle, published a potent and psychologically provocative article titled in June 2017: Beyond America & The Paris Agreement: Eco-Cultural Regeneration as Climate Justice.
Kyle writes of our country’s climate denial: our contactless relationship to planet earth, our habit of squandering vital resources as it relates to our historic and current American psychology of consumption, manifest destiny and chronic absence of collective responsibility. Currently, American leadership is but an exaggerated parody of our enduring American style of plundering the weaker; a culture that preserves selfishness, self-centeredness and greed and harbors a delusional, non-inclusive attitude that we are not all in this together. We have always lacked reciprocity, “the process of giving back what we have taken.” Kyle reminds us that this has been a continuous cultural mandate and we must not deny and fall into the current blame game. Rather, we must look deeply within to alter the ways we interact within our environment. I encourage you to read his article.
Since writing the above mentioned article, Kyle has been chosen as one of the 16 delegates to attend the Cop23 annual Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany in November with Sustain Us, a non-profit national organization that gives young people a voice in advocating for justice, sustainability and climate change. As many of our youth experience our severely compromised planet, their activism is ignited to make a difference; the problems have been laid at their feet and the responsibility to advocate for change falls burdensomely on their generation as well. At the root, their passion emanates from a deep respect and care for all living beings throughout our global community and the eco-systems that support all life.
Reich advocated that all humans increase their ability to make contact with each other, the environment and the cosmos. What did he mean? He was suggesting a level of mental and physical health that permits us to feel the earth under our feet; hear the birds and experience a thrill as they sing; sense the moisture and sun on our skin; hear the wind as it wafts through the trees and surrender to the pulsation of life in all its forms. This way of experiencing creates reverence, respect and an abiding sense that all of life is sacred.
Can we learn how to touch the earth, touch our life-giving trees, smell the flowers, as we walk and simply live on our planet? This access to full sensation and perception is alive in the unarmored individual.
Without dense defenses, we can absorb all dimensions including the cosmic dimension. It is contact that inevitably leads us to feeling responsible and protective; we can’t be otherwise, as we feel and empathize with all life — animate as well as what appears inanimate.
Watching Thich Nhat Hanh in walking meditation, moving as if floating – slowly, carefully – his imprint barely felt on the back of our dear sweet mother earth, one sees a living example of contact and connectedness. Delicately walking, sensing and feeling the plants, trees and insects is an act of profound tenderness. This relationship to life’s textures, sounds, movements, smells, these acute sensations, are available to all of us if we open ourselves to our environment.
Contact: open eyes that see, open ears that hear subtle sounds, skin that shivers with a slight breeze, a body that can move lightly and consciously on the earth. We are in contact, not armored with defenses that blind us to who and what we are.
Shake off your tense hard muscles, squinty, fearful, vigilant eyes, stuck smile and hard mouth. Open your lips, your eyes, your heart and let your whole being absorb the life that is offered to you.
We must get healthier as individuals, then we will feel and understand the hurt and pain, which is a consequence of the abuse we cause all living beings. The violating chemicals, the dead sea mammals and fish, the lost birds, the killed elephants, the absence of water, flooding, the poverty, spreading deserts, the destruction of the land – causing suffering for everyone, everywhere across our globe.
If we get healthier we can stop bullying, stop hurting, stop devouring, and move to our rightful place on our earth as lover and protector. Each and every day walk softly on our earth, honor each and every person and element — appreciate the rocks and pebbles that speak to us if we listen. Fight for what is right; make a difference.
Our planet is suffering.