Together, in community, or not at all

Posted May 20th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, Zine Comments Off on Together, in community, or not at all

That’s how “creation” does it. That’s how life unfolds – in community. The evolution of life on this planet, unique as far as we know in all the universe, happens only in the places of dynamic connection. Over hundreds of millions of years, living forms have come and gone as the process continued. And no living form is free of the process, or can rip itself free from all those connections – from community.TRAVEL

Not if it wants to live.

We are IN it. That is part of the fundamental truth of the evolution from which this human species emerged.

As we have said so many times in our work – if we do not care for the places of connection, the places where we interact with all that is around us and all that is around us interacts with us, our own lives begin to fall apart. We are completely dependent beings when it comes to water, air, soil, food, other creatures… Let the forests and the bees and the worms go extinct, we die off. Let the humans go extinct, the worms and the bees thrive. Who needs whom?

Yet we live in a culture fiercely bent on defending individual self-interest and that views development of the self as some singular entity as the goal in life. Capitalism loves this because the “individual” consumer is the most profitable kind of consumer. The culture and all its advertisers put the stress on using consumption of stuff and standards of living as ways to create that “self,” to express individuality, even as it puts at the service of that personal goal a monoculture in which true diversity and creative expression withers.

Put the common good and community sharing at the forefront of our economic lives, and that system collapses.

A worthy goal, methinks. Because, since the truth of life and evolution is in the dynamisms of our interconnections, any system that frays those connections – the myth that if I purchase a new thing, a smart phone, a weekend in Las Vegas, a fuel-efficient car, it has no impact on that common good, on the welfare of the community – is also breaking down the living systems that support our very existence.

Rare earth mineral mine, where computers and smart phones originate

Rare earth mineral mine, where computers and smart phones originate

And the evidence of that cultural lie is now all around us in the deterioration of virtually every aspect of those systems, within the atmosphere and biosphere. Imagine how we have made a world in which, instead of giving life, both the atmosphere and biosphere have been so degraded that they also threaten our health and well-being. They also make us sick – with cancer, respiratory diseases, and various neurological diseases, among other things.

We make the community of life lethally sick, yet we cannot live outside that community no matter how hard we try.

When material possessions or extravagant lifestyles become more important to us than the health of the atmosphere and biosphere, and our own bodies, then we have reached a point of true “disconnection from reality,” a pathological breakdown. We have been cut off from our source. And this cannot go well, right?

This is not the news most people want to hear, but the reality is that every object we buy, every commute, every fancy vacation, uses energy, water, and soil, involves metals, oil and gas, habitat destruction, and pollution, somewhere along the chain of life before our point of consumption. And when 7.3 billion humans are all headed in this same direction, with another 2-3 billion more to come by mid-century, the ecology of this becomes completely impossible if the point is to inhabit a planet that can support abundant biodiverse life.

We can get by as “consumers” (eating, drinking, having shelter, singing, dancing, reading books, etc.) as long as we are not using more than the Earth has to offer, more than can be healed, absorbed, replenished. But we are now so wildly beyond those limits that we have brought our own future as a species into question. The Earth is delivering that message in vast changes to climate systems, desertification of broad swaths of the planet, contamination and waste that permeates our land, air and water, that invades our bodies, and in wars and other forms of violent desperation – the list is long.

Pipeline protest at Burnaby Mountain, Canada

Pipeline protest at Burnaby Mountain, Canada

This is happening in community. This is occurring because the community of life is very, very sick.

This culture of individual gain and consumption, this economic model of gouging more and more from the planet for those purposes, and then whatever it is inside we humans that created this culture and keeps it in place no matter the evidence of the harm it’s doing – there, deep within us, is the underlying pathology of anti-creation that must be addressed, overcome, cured, if we are to become a healthy community of life again.

This is a deep spiritual, psychological work. It does not take place in a therapist’s office or a church focused on the isolated soul in personal, individual need of salvation. The healers of our time must be fully conscious of the webs in which we live and help the human community to become healers of those webs. This is the true healing work of our time.

This does not mean we don’t have deeply “individual” work to do, because all of us suffer trauma living in this kind of world, brutal as it is, brutal to self-esteem, to the spirit, to life. Inner work is very important for us to be able to identify the places of our own injury, to see through them to the real causes (not our parents, for example, because they were traumatized, too), and to free ourselves from the effects of those causes, to find release, or to allow ourselves to be released from that chain of suffering. Then we can be of real service in response to the ecological urgencies of this generation.

Banner from the August Community Days

At Villa Maria, PA, Sisters of the Humility of Mary

From this work and witness new healing cultures can emerge. New communities of life can come into being committed to living in the truth of creation, instead of living in ways that are shredding it. From that release comes a sense of deep, deep freedom. We find our own ecological wisdom, in body and spirit. We can begin to trust ourselves and life as we reconnect with the energy, the dynamism, that is at the heart of the evolutionary unfolding.

But we cannot do it alone, or in isolation. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to learn these things but stay in our old lives that fit into that culture of individualism, whether as persons, nuclear families, old ethnic, racist or nationalist identities within which we feel safe and enclosed. We are being deeply challenged by the ecological crises of our times to burst out of these small places and to fully identify as planetary beings – as we are now rapidly discovering ourselves to be.

This is a hard time, yes, but it is also an extraordinary time. In this larger context, what we begin to experience about ourselves is enormous, the gifts we have to give, each of us, no matter what they may be, potentially meaningful contributions to the whole of what is needed now. As we come to fully recognize our “place” within the whole, instead of measuring our worth and dignity by what we are winning or losing within the dominant economic system, what we have and possess, we begin to see the inherent richness and uniqueness of each of us where there is no measure of worth because we are all worthy, all part of this, all able to contribute to what holds us together rather than what drives us apart.

We do this together, or not at all – because that is the way it works, that is truth of Nature. And that’s why this theme has become central to the work we do in this project. It is why supporting “communities of new creation” has become a key aspect of our mission.

~ Margaret Swedish

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