Just over a year ago while boarding a flight from Bozeman to San Francisco, I met a woman in service with Radio Bible Class Ministries (RBC). I informed her of my relationship with giant sequoia and she recalled the work of Julia Butterfly Hill, handing me an RBC pamphlet that celebrates Julia’s message with Luna.
The pamphlet includes a section ‘Let’s Climb Higher’, which references God’s love for all of creation while holding “the life of man above the life of creation itself,” cautioning against losing “sight of God’s affection for field and forest by exalting our human needs”. I recovered this pamphlet days ago on the heels of William Cronon’s presidential lecture at the University of Montana, ‘The Riddle of Sustainability: a surprisingly short history of the future’.
During the question and answer period, William spoke what I have heard so many near and dear speak in response to the challenges we face. This is that life will go on once human ignorance has run its course; we are out to save or transform humanity and if we fail, Earth will recover in some recognizable form; life will go on.
This assumption is comforting. Nonetheless, an assumption.
There is no certainty that the ocean will survive exploitation. And we do not know what it means for the ocean to die.
And to suggest that the ocean will survive whatever we serve is akin to suggesting that one can abuse a child relentlessly without everlasting consequence. This assumption unfortunately places faith in the mind's propensity for resilience, which is little in the absence of care.
Past experience shows that, even if the body survives extreme trauma, the essence of soul may be stripped from the mind for good and spirit darkened. When spirit is absent of soul, the mind is severed from the body's intelligence - severed from the senses - and the body is dismissed and destroyed.
For continued physical existence in light of abuse, there is no guarantee. Human beings have not the knowledge to foretell the consequence of our actions revealed in hindsight.
We live with uncertainty. One thing we can be certain of is that love is real and lasting as light. Human beings belong to Earth as much as any other group. We have an intelligence and awareness that humbles when we remember others.
A thousand times we have witnessed both the saint and the tyrant within us work the deeds without. When attentive, these tendencies are readily noticed and disciplined. We can choose to feed either one to any degree.
The tendency to exist for others (saint) is fed when we remember that we too are loved. The tendency to exist for oneself (tyrant) is fed when we forget that we are loved and feel abandoned.
The quality of attention and where the attention is placed determines the difference.
Let a humble attention be placed on generosity and genius.
Let us know unconditional benevolent love through the understanding and generosity of our fellows.