“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” ~ Martin Luther
We have been living in difficult times for years now, and for any sensitive person, it can all feel like too much. Having an open heart full of care and concern is a recipe for depression at the very least, and at the worst, addiction or even suicide. The news on any given day holds so many horror stories, and in these times, our government is lacking in even the most basic sense of human decency and responsibility. Indeed, it seems that with this current administration, we are reaching a new low. Nothing is sacred. Everything is fair game. Whereas in the past, self-interest and greed in government were balanced by at least a few token attempts to do the right thing in the name of social and environmental progress, now there is little effort to mask the ultimate intentions of America’s most wealthy and powerful tyrants. The ship was already sinking, for sure, and now they’re lighting fire to the deck, and pouring on the gasoline. For anyone with open eyes and a heart, despair is the new normal, and it’s hard to know how to go forward in the midst of such confusion and overwhelm.
How does one care about everything? About fair and just treatment of those who are Jewish and Muslim and every other religion, or none? About people with all colors of skin? About those speaking every single language and none at all? About all genders, and the particularities of discrimination that come with each one? About people of all ages, and of all socioeconomic brackets? About people from every single culture and way of life? About all life forms, animals, plants, forests, deserts, oceans, rivers, skies, and more? How is it possible to keep one’s heart so open that it is wide enough to carry love and concern for the living interdependence of all things, open wide enough to not only care in the heart and mind, but also in speaking and acting on their behalf?
And what a contrast it is! On one end of the spectrum, people honestly believe that nothing is their problem, and feel no need to care for anything or anyone but themselves and their own people. And at the other end of the spectrum, people whose hearts are shattered, whose minds are raging, and whose deepest prayers are for guidance about how to love and serve every single part of existence.
As one whose heart is shattered, I struggle to comprehend how humans have gone so far away from care. How have so many of us come to be ruled by fear and judgment, and by entitlement? Fear and judgment of those who are different in some way – fear of the unknown other – is being fueled in an unprecedented way by our current administration. With so many blind and ignorant people following in support, there is a strong belief that certain ones of us are superior to others, and superior to all other life and systems on this beautiful planet. That we can act like bullies and bratty children, doing as we please, taking whatever we want with no repercussions. How have we come so far from the ways of our ancestors, who valued living in balance, respect, and harmony with each other and the world? How have we come to create so much suffering and devastation, utterly without remorse or the least interest in what we have done?
It seems to me that care has fallen out of fashion in America. It has become somehow weak or piteous to look at the world around us and be moved. Somewhere in the unfolding of this post-industrial world, the capacity to feel has become inconvenient, foolish, and even pathologized. With the wealthy pharmaceutical industry lending its support in the way of antidepressants and other mood altering drugs, there are more and more ways to avoid feeling much of anything. In a culture that values productivity, busyness, and working toward economic prosperity as its markers of success, feeling is messy and bothersome, and it gets in the way of the demands of speeding through the day as planned. But the further we move from feeling, the further we move from our essential human nature, with its discerning intelligence and deep well of compassion.
Among those of us who are feeling people, it is immensely challenging to wake up and face the day. How many times a day can we handle having our hearts broken? How long can we continue feeling powerless in the face of injustice, suffering, and devastation on personal, cultural, and global levels? It’s so much easier to become numb, and drug and alcohol addiction has soared in the US in recent years. Most of us don’t know how to keep opening and loving and feeling and striving to make change day after day in times like these. And yet, that is what is most needed if any real change is to happen.
There is a glimmer of hope within the knowing that no one person can do it all, and that it takes many open hearts and brilliant minds to transform our world. In fact, it MUST take many open hearts and brilliant minds – for if the world is to change, we humans must change along with it. In our diversity we find our strength. As we each survey the current state of things, considering what we love, and what we stand to lose, we are free to choose which piece of the puzzle to claim as our own. And in doing this, we hold the space of trust that others,too, will find their piece of the puzzle, giving their hearts and minds to compassionate care of this beautiful world. I like to imagine this like a spiderweb, sparkling with the dew of morning: each intersection of silken threads is necessary to hold the entire web together in its magnificence.
The truth of this world is that all parts are inseparable from all other parts. There is no individual that exists on its own, free from the reality of interdependence. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, and the food we eat, we humans are dependent on the flow of the natural world for our very existence. And now, as the American government is willfully attempting to remove every bit of responsibility for our human place in the web of life, the only way we will be able to fully stand for the healing of our world is by reconnecting with the essential truth of interdependence. As we fall in love with the beauty of the interconnectedness of all things, we will find new inspiration and a deep sense of resilience, beckoning us to show up and keep showing up with open hearts and minds, ready to lead the way to living in balance once more.
We are in the midst of uncertain times, for sure. With the environmental destruction that is escalating every day, there is truly no guarantee that humans will endure as a species long enough to fix the damage we have done. But when we connect to a sense of deep and abiding care for not only ourselves and our families, but for all people and families, and for all living systems, we know that we have no other choice but to show up, push back our sleeves, and begin from wherever we are.
There are many choices we are faced with right now. Will we collapse in despair, and allow whatever has begun to continue on its course? Or will we take a stand for what we love, and do our very best to care for this beautiful world and all her living systems? What I know for myself is that I’ve spent far too long with my eyes averted, my head in the sand. I know that my care counts, and that I can show up with an able body, a strong voice, and enduring trust that I, along with many others, will find the strength and guidance to do what is needed now. I know that my gifts have a place in the healing and transformation of this culture, and this world, and I know that my gifts will be met by the gifts of many others. Together we can create so much more than any of us can create alone. We can co-create a Culture of Care, and step into our true roles as wise stewards and compassionate caretakers of this beautiful little planet we call Earth.
And so, I invite you to join me in contemplating these questions:
What do you CARE about?
What will you give a piece of your heart and life toward protecting?