Today is earth day. I remember my first awareness of earth day. Back in the late 80's, I was in college in New York City. There was a huge concert in Central Park that left many of us feeling inspired and awakened. The event also left the park trashed. Literally.
There continue to be many levels of irony in earth day and the way it is celebrated. Seems to me that it would be more meaningful if we all gave ourselves one day to completely trash the earth, and then every other day becomes a day of conservation and awareness. On earth day you should use disposables, let the water run, keep the lights on, drive to the corner store, get it out of your system. Then the other 364 days of the year you live responsibly. I like that balance a bit better than merely having a single day devoted to awareness of our shrinking resources and irreplaceable habitats, with the rest of the year . . . what? Un-earth day?
Alas, I have not yet started the movement dedicated to reversing the way we celebrate earth day (and the rest of the year). So I won't trash the earth today, and I'll do my best to reduce, reuse and recycle. Day in and day out.
It is difficult for me (and for all - or most - of us) to separate ourselves from a feeling of crisis right now. This plays into earth day, of course. Environmentally, the momentum is increasing simultaneously in the right direction and the wrong direction. But whether you are seeing the positive change or the downward spiral, the stakes are epic. The current economic crisis (god, I am getting to HATE that phrase) has thrown a big ol' wrench into the work of environmentalists and conservationists - public sentiment was supporting a shift of resources and a dedication to green products until none of us had any disposable income. Ultimately, it seems, the state of the world economy may really benefit conservation efforts insofar as many of us are more open to a completely new paradigm. Maybe we've jumped past the debate between traditional automobiles and hybrid cars, or past the focus on buying green products, and we're finally talking about not driving and not consuming so fucking much
A few months ago, when the banks were failing and foreclosures were rippling through communities like the common cold and it was all anyone talked about, I had a moment of pure envy for a cliff.
I was driving home after finishing a weird business meeting of questionable promise. I had driven too far, and taken too much time out of my work day, to go to this weird meeting, and the whole prospect of trying to make a living felt shaky and depressing.
My meeting was in Marin County, and, coming back to San Francisco, I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge . It is easy to be awestruck at that spot - it is a place of enormous natural beauty. Plus the iconic bridge and picturesque city. Monumentally gorgeous. Often, the drive across the bridge fills me with such gratitude for where I live, and for life as I know it. That day, however, when I looked to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the mouth of the bay, I was filled with jealousy. The cliffs have it easy. Yes, they are forced to endure wind and cold and fog, but they are not worried about money. Or war. Society as we know it can collapse, but the cliffs will remain. Even if an earthquake or natural disaster takes the cliffs down, they will not feel pain but will continue to exist as dirt and rocks. They do not feel fear and do not fear death. If only I could say the same for myself.
I wished, at that moment, that I could enjoy the cliffs' freedom from fear, freedom from economic vulnerability, and, even, freedom from consciousness.
Of course I would not really trade my life as a human for existence as a geological fixture, but some wisdom from that moment has stayed with me. Somehow, in my jealousy, I caught a wafting awareness of the act simply being, of standing against forces much stronger than myself or my mind, of letting wind or fog or bankruptcy or hunger beat themselves against my edges and, ultimately, not fearing whether I stand or fall, knowing that if I fall, I will remain rocks and dirt but in a different form.
The funny thing is that I really believe in the corporeal, in its importance and wisdom. The key, I think, to making that a livable philosophy is in seeing its context. Fundamentally, this life, this time here, is the most important thing because now is the only time for it. The afterworld, the energetic level of existence, whatever - that shit is timeless. But the here and now - well, they don't call it the here and now for nothing. However, as much as it matters, right here and right now, it is over when it is over. Not much we can do about that.
This is what the cliff instructs: I am only this cliff, I am only here (can't be in two places at once!), I am here to endure.
Fuck, if it were only that easy.
I value this planet, and I will act and vote and speak with my mind and heart committed to not destroying it. I am not a cliff - I do have consciousness, and I can do more than just endure. But today - this earth day - I will let the cliffs be my teachers, and, in so doing, I will learn something about how to be very grounded.