“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” ~Henri Nouwen
It’s hard to stand at the edge of someone else’s grief.
There’s the awkwardness. You always feel a little like an uninvited guest who arrived late and missed the first half of the conversation—a conversation that turns out to be a wrestle between another person and the deepest parts of their own soul.
What can you say when you realize you’ve barged in on an interaction so intimate, so personal that you just want to avert your eyes and slink quietly away?
Assuming there are 400 billion galaxies and about 250 billion stars in each galaxy in the universe, it is not too far-fetched to imagine there is not only life on many planets circling stars throughout the universe but also “thoughtful life”. If so, it might also be possible that a Community of Universal Thoughtful Species might send the following letter to the people of the Earth….
Good day, I am your representative from the Community of Universal Thoughtful Species, and I bring you greetings from Us All. As you are interested in sharing our Cumulative Knowledge, we have a couple of questions to ask you first, questions that would be obvious to any responsible membership manager.
How are you going to get along with 10 trillion other species in our community if you do not respect even your own? If you permit yourselves to treat your own kind so despicably, why would we grant you the power and reach to treat others as badly?
Moreover, if you do not have the highest respect for the natural bounty that has befallen you, if you do not protect and nurture it for all you are worth, why would we afford to you the means to abuse as badly similar treasures elsewhere?
I introduced the quotes below from Dr. Edward DeBono’s book, The Use of Lateral Thinking, at a 1988 conference exploring the role of university faculty in dealing with the new concept (at that time) of sustainability. Universities that ridiculed the idea of sustainability have now accepted sustainability as a primary objective, at best, or perhaps an advertising tactic, at worse. In 1988, sustainability was a “new idea” and like many new ideas it was rejected by most university faculty.
While it has been asserted that the function of the public university is the creation of new knowledge (through research) and dissemination of knowledge (through teaching Continue reading Digging for new ideas→
The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.
This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a “new world order” and a “new economy” that would “grow” on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be “unprecedented”.
The most effective change-makers in our society aren’t waiting around for a new president to make their lives better, they’re planting seeds, quite literally, and through the revolutionary act of gardening, they’re rebuilding their communities while growing their own independence.
Individual consumer choices in the global north, about what to eat, won’t be enough to get rid of a bad system, nor will they be enough to build a just transition to a better one.
While much of the media coverage of the new IPCC report on land and agriculture focus on diet, the report needs to be understood as saying this: we (in protein-rich countries, at the very least),must replace our current large-scale industrialized systems of agriculture and food production with those based on agroecological and regenerative practices. Food Continue reading Climate Change Report calls for a New Agricultural System→
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has been practising meditation and mindfulness for 70 years and radiates an extraordinary sense of calm and peace. This is a man who on a fundamental level walks his talk, and whom Buddhists revere as a Bodhisattva; seeking the highest level of being in order to help others.
Ever since being caught up in the horrors of the Vietnam war, the 86-year-old monk has committed his life to reconciling conflict and in 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “his ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.” Continue reading We are apart of – not a part from Mother Nature→
This morning I prayed….. in fact, I pray every morning. I pray for the knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry it out. I pray to a God that is beyond my understanding. I pray because doing so has resulted in long periods of serenity, moments of clarity, and the chance to practice using spiritual tools that allow me to get through the difficult times and dark periods. I pray for peace – and I work for a more sustainable world that will be free from want and fear – for all.
In ancient eras, there was no mechanical time since there were no human-made clocks. The ringing of a bell, the setting of the sun, or the changing of the seasons marked time. When the clock was created, it was a marvelous invention but soon became more than a tool, it became a model for the entire universe. This mechanical model of the world supported the belief that living systems were easy to take apart, adjust, and fix. Humans, as part of the world could also be “fixed” when something was wrong. Humans were perceived as “nothing but” machines.
The mechanistic model of the world was useful since it allowed thinkers to break away from the tyranny of the church in the 17th century. A world that could be measured might not be subject to the authority of the church. However a new authority emerged, a science of reductionism, which allowed humans to control their environment. This new authority produced modern medicine, modern technology, and modern destruction of natural systems. Today we need a new model, a new way to frame our understanding of the universe – new way to “see” the earth.
Systems thinking is a new way of looking at things that will help us overcome the crisis of perception left us by Descartes. The systems framework for thinking can encourage personal empowerment and a better understanding of the world. Systems thinkers begin with understanding processes and structures. Instead of starting to look at complex systems such as organisms, ecosystems and organizations by focusing on the components of the system, systems thinkers look at the whole and then examine key relationships within the whole.
A biologist who breaks a tree into its component pieces, such as roots, leaves, and bark will never understand the tree entirely. A systems thinker might see the seasonal exchange between the tree and the earth, between the earth and the sky, and between people as observers of the tree and the universe. A systems thinker might see the life of the tree in relation to the life of the whole forest; the habitat for insects and birds and ask, “why does a tree produce millions of seeds and only produce few offspring.” While a biologist might assume the world is a difficult place to survive and hence millions of seeds are needed, a systems thinker might speculate that because the tree is part of the web of life, the millions of seeds might be important for the entire ecosystem not just an individual tree or even tree species. The tree might have co-evolved with the system of which it is a component part, thus making the ecosystem as much as the ecosystem makes the tree.