Does the ‘New Year’ mean anything?

Posted December 29th, 2007 in Blog 5 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

It’s only we humans that make such a big deal out of midnight on the last day of our measured calendars. Other cultures have or have had different calendars with different new year’s days. Animals, the weather, nature, could care less about our human measurements.

Maybe if we lived like that for a while, instead of with this distortion of measured linear time, we might find once again the rhythms of nature within our own beings. earthrise_from_apollo_8.pngI often think that our linear measurements are part of how we have distanced ourselves from our true nature as beings evolved from this wonderous process on the planet Earth. And that has aided in our alienation from nature until we think it to be at the service of us, something to exploit for our comfort and wealth.

We are going to lose both soon given the future we have made by this very mode of being. One of the moral issues for this culture is whether or not we are willing to let go wealth voluntarily, and the quest for it, so that as the uncomfortable time envelopes more of our world, we learn how to share what, back in my Central America solidarity days, we called ‘the same fate as the poor.’

Can we connect with the suffering of the lands already altered forever by the combination of climate change and ecological overshoot (living beyond the means of the planet to support us)? If we can’t, the injustice that peace and justice activists have struggled towards for generations will be a hopeless endeavor.

But more than connecting with the suffering of human beings, we must reconnect our bodies with the ecosystems in which we human beings exist — within which we live and move and have our being. Because if we do not, if we do not begin immediately to cherish and live within those systems in a way that respects their integrity, that hope for peace and justice among humans will also be a hopeless endeavor.

There will be no peace or justice in a world running out of fresh water sources, arable lands, renewable energy sources that do not destroy those ecosystems, and where diseases and hunger will be rampant around the globe.

In case any of us have not yet noticed, such conditions are already rampant around the globe, and they are touching the lives of more and more of us — everywhere.

I, like all of you I am sure, were stricken by what just happened in Pakistan. I fear that this world will become only more violent unless we humans, and especially we affluent humans, figure out how to live differently.

Does this new year mean anything? In linear terms, not much at all, the passing of a midnight amidst our artificial measurements of time (essential to organizing life, undoubtedly, but also given to that distortion and alientation from the natural world).

It also can mean everything if we use the moment to ponder our journeys as persons, cultures, nations, to ponder the real meaning of being alive on this planet.

I invite us to this meditation: contemplate 13 billion years of cosmological chaos and creation, formation of galaxies and planets, our own planet spinning through all that chaos on the outer edges of the Milky Way galaxy, on which, over millions of years, snipshot_1cdm3bl1e0.jpgwe humans came to be. Think of all that energy seething forward to new and greater bursts of consciousness, until, on this one small planet, the whole cosmos began to be conscious of itself.

Think, then, of how small our culture — this culture of consumption and acquisition of wealth and goods — has made this awesome act of creation. Think of how small a space we have tried to squeeze this miracle of creation into by forcing it into shopping malls and bigger houses and ever-growing stock portfolios as the basis for the meaning of life.

If we are to make this new year, in our human terms, mean anything, let’s make it a year when we stop fooling ourselves that there is a cheap, easy and comfortable way out of our planetary crisis. We can begin to fill our lives with profound meaning by restoring the intimacy of our own beings within the natural world of which we are an integral part, and then entering into the greatest work human beings have ever confronted — restoring the balance of life on this planet in time so that that balance can hold the lives of future generations of our own precious species.

I look forward to walking that journey with friends and visitors in the new year.

[tags] new year, balance of life, earth’s ecosystems, planetary crisis, meaning of life[/tags]


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5 Responses

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    Dear Margaret,

    Very best for the New Year.

    What, dear friend, do you expect that we will say to our children at this same time next year when they ask us the two following questions?

    Question One:

    When did you know your generation was foolhardy and selfish, inadvertently precipitating the massive extinction of life as we know it and ravaging the Earth?

    Question Two:

    Why did you and your leaders not stop the fools’ errands in which you were so righteously engaged and at least try to do something different, that might have given life as we know it a chance for a good enough future rather than keep charging ahead, down the “primrose path” of endless human over-growth activities, the ones you could see would lead humankind to confront some kind of colossal wreckage, the likes of which only Ozymandias has seen?



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  2. Steven Earl Salmony

    Please understand that I am concerned my generation of elders could be “selling a bill of goods” to our young people today; but we have no intention of fulfilling our promises and will fail to deliver the goods. In part, these unfortunate circumstances result from my generation’s unbridled over-consumption of Earth’s finite capacity to sustain life as well as from our reckless and unrestrained dissipation of limited natural resources bound up in the huge scale and growth rate of economic globalization.

    My not-so-great generation appears to be mortgaging and threatening the future of its children by remaining religiously focused upon the endless accumulation of material wealth, the unchecked increase in per capita consumption of scarce resources, and the continuous consolidation of political power. Despite all our high-minded rhetoric to the contrary, we need not look far to see that money, power and privilege for ourselves, for our bought-and-paid-for politicians, and for our newly-made rich minions in the mass media are the primary objects of our desire. Regardless of the human-driven calamities that might befall coming generations, the leadership in my generation advises us to live long, and live large, in a patently unsustainable world of idle comforts, effortless ease, conspicuous consumption, secret handshakes, exclusive clubs, exotic hideaways and thousands of private jets, having abandoned our regard for the less fortunate among us, for the maintenance of life as we know it, and for the preservation of the integrity of Earth. Please, now, recognize the single-minded pursuit of dollars, political power and privileges to profligately consume, and to magnificently ignore the practical requirements of biophysical reality, as our raison d’etre, come what may for the children.

    When my not-so-great generation completes its unsavory ‘mission’ on Earth, I fear young people will look back in anger and utter disbelief at the things we have done and failed to do…..all things we proclaim loudly now as evidence of our many virtues.

    Yes, of course, there is an ecological debt….. but, please, let us get real for a moment and understand what my generation does not want its children to know: your elders have determined to let the ecological debt and looming threats to human and environmental health, for which we are clearly responsible, fall into your lap, come what may.



    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population

  3. D.Bheemeswar

    Indian Sashtra’s(Spirituality)
    by SOPnewswire

    Posted December 29, 2007

    From ages sashtra gnanam was never separated from spirituality in India. When this sashtram was started tobe termed as science, the problems started. What Sri Ravi Shankar has said is that in India there is no doubt about the science as sashtram. But few wested interested people have, have created ill meanings of the sashtras, since they could not understand the meanings of these great relevant books. All the Vedas do tell about life sciences, how to improve the once own life. Even UPA+ANU+SHATS (UPANISHADS); ( truths of life) meaning the ways for making ones life healthy, peaceful, harmonious and serene, Describe the same. All these books were brought out only after greater understanding and observations. The power of the human beings lies in the control of the mind from all sorts of distractions including once own body. All these texts tell only one thing that how to make once body and mind free of distractions, that is how to be more human being. Present days miserable conditions all over the world are due to Man’s brain problems. Even in India even though we are all well aware of the Vedas still the problems are many fold because of the wested interests that are purely materialistic. Simple a person who cannot conquer his/her own brain how he/she can lead so many people from misery to prosperous. Here prosperous means not money to healthy ways of life, which can make this world peaceful, harmonious and serene.

    Om Bhoorbhuvasvah Om Tatsat viturvarenyam Bargo
    Devasya Dheemahi Diyo yonah Prachodyath

    O God. Let the mind of humans open for betterment from the darkness, let it give a ray of hope for the other humans towards the path of peace, Harmony and serenity.

    There is no race that is superior, nor there is no religion that is superior, nor there is no place/region where the ray of hope can not reach. Every life on this earth struggles for it’s survival. Only humans because of the brain create all the mess, they discriminate others by religion/race/region/sect/sub-sect etc.

    Source: vishali anuradha

    Source: vishali anuradha

  4. ecologicalhope


    The generation to come after us will have a right to their anger at our own — as we certainly did about things like the holocaust. Will we learn? Will we be courageous before our children and their children’s children?

    I worry at times about the singular focus on global warming as the crisis we must address. Clean energy will, therefore, solve our problems. Cut greenhouse gas emissions, then go on about our lives.

    Reminds me of that gospel verse about getting the splinter out of our eye while there is a giant beam in there. The beam is ecological overshoot, the exploitation of our precious planet for material gain, for wealth, comfort and power. That beam blinds us to the reality in which we actually live, the integral, deeply interrelated ecosystems that make us possible, hold us, nurture us. How to explain the human compulsion to destroy that which holds our very lives?

    But we are far from alone in our fears and concerns. Love of the planet and awareness of the crisis is rising all across the globe. It may be too late to save the world from a great deal of discomfort and suffering; but it is not too late to commit to getting through the hard time to a different world — altered, but healed.

    I cling to that hope as we begin the new year.


  5. Steven Earl Salmony

    Dear Margaret,

    I share both your vision of the future, including a recognition of hard times ahead, and your fundamental optimism and hopes for a good enough future for our children and coming generations.

    Very best to you for a happy and healthy 2008,