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Journal Nature Spiritual Connection Stewardship

While It Lasts

Erimo Light
Sunset off Cape Erimo, Hokkaido, Japan, 1997

Lately I can’t shake the feeling that we are witnessing the end of our world. Too much seems to be unhinging and the very fragility of the mechanism kicking into play. Look at the strange weather, the nutty lopsidedness of our world politics, the unscrupulousness of big business, the obliteration of other creatures, the greater and greater focus on having more and more, and the constant, constant bad news. CNN seems to think the world consists of the American election campaign… For a four-year presidency, doesn’t it seem a little counterproductive and not a little dangerous to be spending a whole year exclusively focusing on winning the next election? Isn’t the leader supposed to be working on more important issues?

When I heard the report about the Pentagon predicting that by 2006 the first big effects of global warming will cause massive worldwide environmental catastrophes, all I could think was that the American government is weighing the wrong dangers. Iraq is nothing compared to the peril of our planet’s environmental collapse. What are we thinking? Why is it so hard for us to pay heed to the health and stability of our world? Is it the very nature of our inhabiting the sphere rather than looking down at it that makes it impossible for us to see it other than immensely big and inexhaustible? If so, then we are no different from mice in an overcrowded box.

On my way by train to a one day hike of Mount Takao west of Tokyo yesterday, I watched a mentally handicapped young man shuttle back and forth between train doors, excitedly pointing at passing trains and views of the scenery flicking by. His clear enjoyment of the world he was witnessing drew my attention throughout the 50 minute ride, and no one else on the train payed so much homage to the wonder and beauty of existing in this jewel of a world we live in. I wondered why it was that a man who supposedly understood less than the rest of us, could appreciate without prejudice what all of us are blessed with. Why is wonder necessarily the domain of the childlike?

It is what we are taught and the way we learn to see that instills the kernel of insight into our world and how we choose to interact with it. On my way home from the mountain, stepping up to the ticket vending machine at the train station, a Japanese boy of about 5 or 6 was sitting on the counter in front of the machine. I leaned in to buy a ticket and he, suddenly realizing that I was a foreigner appearing right beside to him, almost toppled off the counter. His eyes went wide as he exclaimed, “Whoa!”, an involuntary, ingrained reaction to foreigners that everyone around him has always taught him is the only reaction to foreigners that a Japanese should have. It was his education of the world and likely to follow him throughout his life. I laughed at the sheer irony of this boy and the earlier young man, that they should both carry such young minds, but be so different in their clarity.

Such a prejudice toward the world grows in many forms. Without being able to distinguish the structure and mechanism that keeps it all running there is no way for us to overcome our folly in destroying the very thing that sustains us.

I look out my window and it is all there, the world, our home, the mirage of our existence. The picture is getting cloudy, though. Soon there may be no more eyes to see it all.

Categories
America: Society Art of Living Iraq War Journal Nature Society Stewardship

Statement

Winter Cherry
Bare branches of a cherry tree in a kindergarten near my home, Chofu, Tokyo, Japan, 2004

I’ve had a lot of time to think. And the conclusions are not quite so cut and dried that I can claim enlightenment, but there have been some tightening of convictions and brushes with clarity. Here are some of the pebbles of insight into myself that I found:

• I love the Earth. Ever since I can remember it has been a more than average, deep anima within me. When close to the natural world, when interacting with other living things, when walking between the ground and the heavens and no human intervention to obscure the view, when the childlike excitement and fascination envelopes me while I crawl through thickets or wade up to my waist in swamp water or climb a tree to get a closer look at a nest or walk for days and days along a mountain ridge, those are the times I always feel most alive. I live in the heart of Tokyo now and am denied these things. It goes against my nature. Like Dersu Uzala (from Kurosawa’s film and the book by V.K. Arseniev) something dies within me when cities are the only connection to life that I have access to. For those who love cities this is impossible to explain.

• I love the human race. People can be capable of so much beauty and grace and generosity. When they open their minds and care for one another and the places they live in, our imaginations are limitless. As a integral participant in the dance of the natural world, our role is as the steward of this world, with the means and awareness to protect all that is around us. Other animals have their place in the scheme, ours is to protect. And therefore I want to see that I position myself within my own life to fulfill my role as steward. And to resist with all my heart and intellect and abilities those who would destroy our world.

• The planet is in danger. How long are we going to sit around squabbling about this? It is not some parlor room debate where the “winner” gets to make a toast. It is the lives of millions and millions of our fellow creatures and our very own survival that is at stake. The danger is NOW! And yet we sit around like crash victims, staring with disbelief out the window. Meanwhile we play like fools with our weapons, our chemicals, our water, our air as if there isn’t a care in the world. The whole scenario seems to be following, step-by-step, Kim Stanley Robinson’s warning, from his Mars series books, where the Earth falls into worldwide catastrophe. We are on the verge of meltdown and still denying it. The planet cannot take this abuse any more.

• My anger is not impotent or inconsequential. When I react with anger to what the United States and Bush are doing it is out of pain and love for the planet and for all people. I cannot sit idly by while there are those who would destroy it all. Meditation and a letting go of self is all important of course, but what self will there be to let go of if there are no people to examine themselves? Before Hitler took control so many people had opportunities to voice their anger and prevent him from coming to power. If the Blacks in America had not voiced their anger at and opposition to their suppression, where would they be today? Certainly much worse off than they are. Or the Indians. If Gandhi had not seized upon the strength of his anger with Britain, where would the Indians be today? No, I will not back down and whimper in a closet. I am angry. I am opposed to what is happening and, though I am but a small voice and cannot do much, I will do what I can to oppose the world order that the United States is forcing on everyone. This in no way means that I am not angry about other countries and what they are doing, or that I think other places are perfect, but the United States poses the biggest threat to the world today. If the United States cannot learn to live in harmony with the rest of the world, if they continually shake the tree without thinking of others or the tree itself, then I will work to oppose it.

• Bush is a criminal. Not just a local criminal within the U.S. itself, but an international war criminal. He has attacked and murdered thousands upon thousands of people. He has started two wars, based on lies, and defied the international community. He has upset the balance of the entire world, possibly putting the stability of the world’s economy in jeopardy. Personally, I believe that he was responsible for the New York tragedy… there are just too many coincidences, lies, and sleights of hand to see it any other way, much as Americans are just too horror-struck to admit the possibility of such a heinous act on the part of their own president. Almost no one in America has even entertained the possibility of this, in spite of the awful lies and acts that Bush has already committed. The fixed election; denying access to the information about what happened before the New York tragedy; tripping up the investigations; planning the attack on Iraq long before the tragedy; the inability to find bin Laden (who was in the employ of the CIA for many years…which is suspicious in itself); the convenient death of Senator Paul Wellstone; the illegal and humiliating internment of people denied even the most basic human rights at Guantanamo; the backing of Sharon’s atrocious subjugation of the Palestinian people… just how many more outrageous and “evil” acts must cross the television screen before people wake up and inquire into the goings on behind all these things? Bush should be subjected to an investigation at least… really he should be facing trial in an international court.

I am certainly not going to back down and quietly “accept” the state of affairs. Bush losing the election this year allows a great criminal to get away without answering for his crimes. That simply is not enough for me. Someone has got to say something, even if the outcry is ineffective. At least I am trying and not simpering in some cage. If Bush manages to get you to cower, then he has won. He’s managed to gain the crown without even really making much of an effort.

• I will find peace. If I hold fast to my convictions and practice loving what I love, if I get out there and protect the world and people who mean so much to me, if I don’t let someone bully and intimidate me, I will find the steadfastness within me and know who I am. THAT is what I will meditate upon, not some wilted stem that forgets who and what it is.

But it would certainly be easier and the going a little lighter if others of you would join me, if we would join hands and stand up together. Many small voices can chorus into a roar. Even mice have strength in numbers.