On diminishment

Posted September 15th, 2008 in Blog 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

What a remarkable couple of weeks since I last posted. Drawing close to the dying and death of a loved one is a life-changing experience. How can it not be?

Especially in such a death-denying culture as this one?

When my Father died 20 years ago, my family first encountered home hospice. It was then still a relatively novel choice about how to die. 20 years later, the choice is mainstream enough to be covered by Medicare. Clearly, within the culture there is now a growing network of folks who do not want to deny death any longer, but come closer to it to see what it has to teach us. (See Vitas, which is the agency we used — they were remarkable and have our gratitude!)

Aging and dying is about diminishment — of what? Of being in control, of thinking oneself more powerful than nature, of false senses of identity, of what is important and not in this life. It is a stripping down to the bare realities of being human, and therefore a rearranging of what matters in life, of what is meaningful.

Because, if a powerful fit body, a vast store of material possessions, great riches and power are the things that give life meaning, then there is no meaning in life’s end. But if humans embrace meaning right to the end, then what is left in the end strips those other things of meaning.

For thousands of years, the wise ones of our world from a long list of spiritual traditions have tried to teach us about the wisdom found in dying. It is hard, for me impossible, to rise from such an intimate and personal encounter with that wisdom and go back to the superficialities of the world in which we live.

Meanwhile, all around me, as we ponder these things within my family, is the diminishment of our world, of the vast biodiversity that gave birth to us and that has sustained us, of the human community torn by false separations of religion, ethnicities, power struggles, and class warfare (it does exist, class warfare — and it has never been so successful for the rich of our world as in this generation).

While I was accompanying my Mother in these final days of our Earthbound relationship, and then preparing the funeral and burial with my family, both events so tender and beautiful, I was aware of stories like these: rapid-retreat-ice-southern-wardhunt-nasa-earth-observatory.png the record melting in the Arctic; the financial meltdown on Wall Street; the hurricanes that once again highlight our dependence on oil; the predictions of high heating costs this winter; the moral scandal of the lack of an adequate response on the part of this country to the desperation in Haiti after the hurricanes CEOs who have destroyed the life savings of millions of us taking home multi-million dollar severance packages while people trample over each other to try to get their first food in several days in Haiti…

I could go on, of course. A long list.

It has been impossible for me to separate this story of my Mother’s dying and death from the story of my planet. And in the same way that so many in my family set aside self-oriented concerns to come back to Wisconsin to be with my Mother in these years of her diminishment, the least we could do for our source of life and sustenance that blue-planet-earth-observatory-nasa.jpg is our planet is put aside some of our self-oriented, indeed selfish, concerns to be with our Earth in these years of its diminishment.

Some folks are beginning to suggest that we cannot keep the dying from happening and that we should consider beginning palliative care for the planet. This era of evolution may just be playing itself out, and perhaps the best we can do is find a way to live with integrity, compassion, generosity, and love as it falls apart around us, preparing the ground for the new that will emerge.

Well, maybe. I’m not quite there yet. I still believe that if we could strip ourselves of our hubris, our false values, our human self-centeredness, our delusions that our own human ingenuity will save us without our having to change our lives drastically, there is still time to regenerate life with us instead of without us.

There is diminishment as a spiritual journey. That was my Mother’s path, and I along with her.

There is the diminishment of our rich and generous planet. That is the result of hubris, greed, selfishness, and ignorance.

There is the diminishment of the human, of our spiritual center, of our true and deeper meaning, because of how we live here.

The first diminishment can teach us a lot about how to restore and heal the others.

So I am learning from this death. It brings me closer to this topic of ours in our project, Spirituality and Ecological Hope:

What kind of human beings will we be as we go through the crises already unfolding on the planet? What kind of human beings will we be here in this country, in this culture of the U.S., as we go through this?

Haiti does not offer much encouragement at the moment.

As we prepare now to launch the website and really get this project, the reflection on this question, moving forward, I welcome your thoughts, reactions, insights. We need to begin taking seriously this question of how we can recreate human life in an enriching and sustaining way on the planet. We will not be able to do this without struggle, or painlessly, or in a way that protects our ‘way of life.’

But that is what faith is for, real faith — to bring the spiritual wisdom and strength that will make this new act of creation possible. From the dying of what no longer works, what no longer serves — like the body of an ailing 90-year-old women — comes a new burst of energy, a regeneration, a fulfillment of something more.

It is time to let this heavy old world — weighted down, broken, demented, wasted by our errant ways on this precious Earth — to let that world crumble, and out of the ashes, the tomb, the dirt poured over the grave, let the new life emerge.


Rapid Retreat Ice, NASA Earth Observatory
Earth, the Blue Marble, NASA Earth Observatory


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. D.Bheemeswar

    Dear Margaret,

    It is true that we can not stop the death only what we can do is to try to get air breathing time. It just like taking birth, what ever we do if it has to take birth it come same the death is inevtable to any form of life. At least during that short span we can do wonders to the earths life, only if are careful and constructive in nature. All waht ever is happening because of the fear of that inevitable, somany become victims of this fear of death and try to gain materialistic aspects and do nothing for them selves or to society. Thats where such people employ all the methods to gain that extra and make a mess everybody. Thats where we are presently living, it has become hell day by day for any living creature, this all becuase of devouring nature and other lives for that some thing extra. Now because of the present atmopspheric conditions this planet is doomed totally only becuase of those greedy and creedy persons.