Earth Day is a opportunity to think big, as big as a planet, to let our thoughts unfurl into the still lovely expanses of this earth. It is a chance to remember our kinship, all our relations, to this extended family of ours, Life on Earth. It is an opportunity to remember that the most essential thing about us is that we are alive, as animals among animals, connected to plants, winds and rain. And to contemplate what an astonishing blessing and mystery it is to be alive on a living planet.
We become so caught up in the dreams we have spun that we call culture – in our intricate symbolic worlds of language, art, music, dance, story, artifact, architecture, technology, religion, science, government, and business. Amidst the dramas and crises, the tragedies, the uncertainty and the fear, there is the simple fact that we are alive, that we have had a chance to be in the sunlight, to struggle and search, a chance to be faced with questions bigger than we can answer but to try to answer them anyway, a chance to put ourselves in service to this big, beautiful, blue Earth.
In ages past we could more or less take for granted we would be supported by a resilient and generous Earth, but those days are past. We have a responsibility to outgrow that ingratitude, that incredible and perhaps quite natural self- and species- centeredness that thoughtlessly expects the Earth be a good and hospitable place, even as we do all we can to render it inhospitable.
We have got plenty of work to do. Paradoxically, the work that confronts us is to figure out how to do less work, or very different kinds of work, without completely crashing the economic and social systems that we have spent so many centuries building. It is a time of considerable peril and challenge. It is a time when we may well have to reinvent our most basic institutions – money, science, business, governance and not least the stories we tell ourselves, collectively and individually, about what success is, what our purpose might be.
But most of all, we need to take the opportunity today to slow down and savor the wonder of being alive amidst so much beauty here on Earth.
As the great Mvskoke/Creek poet Joy Harjo says:
We stop all of our talking, quit thinking, to drink the mystery.
We listen to the breathing beneath our breathing.*
*Joy Harjo, “Itʻs Raining in Honolulu” in Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, 2015.