PERSONAL RESPONSES TO WHAT IS GOING ON
Letter to my Younger Self
Dear self: Your secret, lonely knowledge is true. Despite all you have been told, the world that has been offered to you as normal is anything but normal. It is a pale semblance of the intimacy, connection, authenticity, community, joy and grief that lie just beneath the surface of society's habits and routines.
Dear self: You have a magnificent contribution to make to the more beautiful world your heart knows is possible. It may not make you famous, but you have an important gift, an indispensable gift, and it demands you to apply it to something you care about. Unless you do, you will feel like you aren't really living your life. You will live the life someone pays you to live, caring about things you are paid to care about. You can make a different choice.
Dear self: Do not believe the cynical voice, masquerading as the realistic voice, that says that nothing much can change. That voice will call your dreams by many names: naïve, unrealistic, immature, and irresponsible. Trust your knowledge that the world can be different, can be better. You needn't sell out and live a life complicit in maintaining the status quo.
Dear self: You carry a deep yearning to contribute to the healing of the world and fulfillment of its possibilities. This is your deepest desire, and if you abandon it you will feel like a ghost inhabiting the mere shell of a life. Instead, trust that desire and follow it toward whatever service it calls you to, however small and insignificant it might seem.
Dear self: The most reliable guide to choice is to follow whatever makes you feel happy and excited to get out of bed in the morning. Life is not supposed to be a grim slog of discipline and sacrifice. You practiced for such a life in school, tearing yourself out of bed for days of tedium, bribed with trivial rewards called grades, intimidated by artificial consequences, proceeding through a curriculum designed by faraway authorities, asking permission to use the toilet. It is time to undo those habits. Let your compass instead be joy, love, and whatever makes you feel alive.
Dear self: When you follow your passion and come fully alive, your choices will feel threatening to anyone who abides in the dominant story of normal. You will be reminding them of the path they didn't follow, and awaken in them the suppressed yearning to devote their gifts to something beautiful. Rather than face that grief, they may suppress it - and suppress you as well.
Dear self: At a certain moment it will become necessary for you to go on a journey. It isn't to escape forever. It is to find yourself outside of whomever your conditioning trained you to be. You must put yourself in a situation where you don't know who you are anymore. This is called an initiation. Who you were becomes inoperative; then, who you will be can emerge.
Dear self: Powerful forces will attempt to make you conform to society's normality. These will take the form of social pressure, parental pressure, and very likely, economic pressure. When you encounter them, please understand that they are giving you the opportunity to define yourself. When push comes to shove, who are you?
Dear self: The old maps do not apply in these times of transition. Even if you try to follow them, even if you accept their bribes and heed their threats, there is no guarantee you'll reap the promised rewards. The university graduates washing dishes and the Ph.D.'s driving taxis attest to this. We are entering new territory. Trust your guidance. It is OK to make mistakes, because in uncharted territory, even the wrong path is part of finding the right path.
Dear self: On this path, you are sure to get lost. But you are held, watched, and guided by a vast organic intelligence. It will become visible when things fall apart - as surely they must, in the transition between worlds. You will stumble, only to find overlooked treasure beneath your feet. You'll despair of finding the answer - and then the answer will find you. Breakdown clears the space for synchronicity, for help unimagined and unearned.
Dear self: None of this advice can be sustainably implemented by a heroic effort on your part. You need help. Seek out other people who reinforce your perception that a more beautiful world is possible, and that life's first priority is not security, but rather to give of your gifts, to play, to love and be loved, to learn, to explore. When those people (your tribe) are in crisis, you can hold them in the knowing of what you know. And they can do the same for you.
No one can do this alone.
Pope Francis' Encyclical: Hearing the Cry of the Earth
A commentary by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
The Earth "now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her." So begins Pope Francis in his powerful and long-awaited encyclical on ecology. "The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor."
Pope Francis chose to be called after a saint for whom love for all of God's creation was central to his life, and all creatures were his brothers and sisters. Speaking in the voice of this saint "who loved and protects creation," he calls for a moral response to prevent the "unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem,"--that we urgently need to recognize the consequences of, and changes required in our way of life. He reflects on our abuse, the violence creating "the symptoms of illness that we see in the Earth, the water, the air and in living things." And describing how climate change most adversely affects the poor, he combines ecological and social justice, that we "hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."
The state of the Earth is our most pressing concern. Our present ecological crisis is the greatest man-made disaster this planet has ever faced: the signs of global imbalance, climate change, and species depletion are all around us. The monster of materialism is ravaging the Earth, its rapacious greed destroying the ecosystem, the fragile web of life that supports and nourishes all of life's myriad creatures. We are part of a world of wonder and beauty which we are systematically sacrificing to feed our ever-increasing desires. We need to remember the simple wonder of the natural world around us, which St. Francis celebrated in his beautiful Canticle of Brother Sun:
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Yesterday, when I went to my small vegetable patch to pick a few zucchinis for supper, I was once again amazed at the Earth's generosity, how one plant could give so many vegetables. I had to look carefully under the spreading leaves to discover a zucchini unexpectedly growing almost too large. This is the sacred life that sustains us, part of the creation we desperately need to "love and protect," just as it loves and protects us.
A central but rarely addressed aspect of this crisis is our forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, and how this affects our relationship to the environment. Pope Francis speaks of the pressing need to articulate a spiritual response to this ecological crisis and to "feel intimately united with all that exists." Today's world is dominated by a divisiveness that encourages exploitation and greed, and we need to return to a sense of wholeness, reflecting the living unity of all of creation and its myriad inhabitants.
The Earth needs both physical and spiritual attention and awareness, our acts and prayers, our hands and hearts. Life is a self-sustaining organic whole of which we are a part, and once we reconnect with this whole we can find a different way to live--one that is not based upon a need for continual distraction and the illusions of material fulfillment, but rather a way to live that is sustaining for the whole.
Each in our own way we can turn away from the patterns of consumerism that drain our money and our life energy. We can aspire to live a simpler life, learning how to live in a more sustainable way, and not be drawn into unnecessary materialism--filling our life with love and care rather than "stuff." A simple meal of vegetables and grains cooked with love and attention can nourish our body and soul.
But, to speak more with the voice of St. Francis, the Earth also needs our prayers, our spiritual attention. Many of us know the effectiveness of prayers for others, how healing and help is given, even in the most unexpected ways. It can be helpful first to acknowledge that the Earth is not "unfeeling matter," but a living being that has given us life. And then we can "hear its cry," sense its suffering: the physical suffering we see in the dying species and polluted waters--the deeper suffering of our collective disregard for its sacred nature.
Pope Francis ends his encyclical with two prayers for our Earth. There is also the simple prayer of placing the world as a living being within our hearts when we inwardly offer our self to the Divine. In this prayer we remember the sorrow and suffering of the Earth in our hearts, and ask that that the world be remembered, that divine love and mercy flow where it is needed; that even though we continue to treat the world so badly, divine grace will help us and help the world--help to bring the Earth back into balance. We need to remember that the power of the Divine is more than that of all the global corporations that continue to make the world a wasteland, even more than the global forces of consumerism that demand the life-blood of the planet. We pray that the Divine of which we are all a part can redeem and heal this beautiful and suffering world.
Sometimes it is easier to pray when we feel the earth in our hands, when we work in the garden tending our flowers or vegetables. Or when we cook, preparing the vegetables that the Earth has given us, mixing in the herbs and spices that give us pleasure. There are many ways to pray, and we will each find our own way of tending the Earth within our own hearts. Just as the song of St. Francis calls us to praise the Earth, and to praise God "through all your creatures."
As Pope Francis's message reminds us, we each need to be the person who "loves and protects creation," who remembers its sacred nature. We need to bring this song of love into our hearts and hands. Through our love for the Earth we can honor the call to climate action that comes from all faiths and from the single voice that is within all of humanity. We are all part of one living being we call the Earth and it desperately needs our love and attention.
May the divine feminine rule until balance is achieved. We are lost without your kindness and wisdom. The ways of the egoic and armoured masculine are dead. We are tripping over our weaponry and hurting innocents. We are bloated by egoic flatulence and congealed rage. We are clamoring for empty power. We are competing and accumulating without purpose. We are running on dead patterns. We don’t know what we are doing. Down on my knees with tears in my eyes, I ask Goddess to rule. You were right all along. We are alienated from the heartstring. Many of us are gun-toting warriors run amok. Hand the keys to the Kingdom to the women. It’s time for a Queendom. Let women make the laws. Let them abolish the guns. Let them create the heartfelt template we aspire to. Let them show us the way. I am sick and bloody tired of the damage my brothers do to innocents. May the divine feminine rule before its too late.