Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Pagan community here.
There is this amazingly complex puzzle called All-Things. Humans are a part. Energy and mass and desire for connection and consumption and sacrifice are the dynamic pieces which constantly exert themselves on each other. The movement of one thing changes how all the rest fit. It is impossible to ever grasp it all. Rooted in time and place, we mortals see the parts we need to exist safely and soundly within it. But because we are human, we choose *how* we see those parts.
As Pagans, many of us cultivate the art of listening. We choose to open our psychic channels, become aware of all the places and people that have touched a thing before us. In my mind, this is crucial. We become willing to not turn away from what is true. Our ‘sensitivities’ open us to the world’s pain.
We learn to hear the falling of the rainforests, cut down in favor of cheap cattle. We listen to the cries of the children slaving in the cacao fields so we can have our sacred chocolate. We see in our mind’s eye the tribes going deeper and deeper into the forest that is disappearing all around them.
Closer to home, there are bald eagles dying from eating prey that’s full of lead shot, left by irresponsible hunters. There is the pain of the women who miscarry because their drinking water is full of poisonous by-products of the coal industry. We get a glimpse of the heartbreak of a fisherman selling his family’s beloved boat because another oil spill finally killed off his catch for good.
We can learn to open to these things, to breathe them in and back out again. We can allow our heart to break in love and heal again, over and over. For the health of our own souls and the health of the world’s soul, we can make conscious choices. Change our habits. Send a check. March on the capitol. Light a candle. Say a prayer.
Reusable bag or plastic is an easy choice. Less so is whether it’s more important to go to the farmers’ market, or take that time to tutor a child in reading. How about deciding between growing your own food and leading non-violent communication workshops? Or spending that money on hand-killed meat vs. medicine for your neighbor? What serves more or better? There are an infinite variety of needs; at some point we have to trust that what we love and are good at are the things that are required where we are.
There are at least two effects from every action: one is a change within us; the other is a change in our world(s). The traces of everything we do are left on our souls. We act on our micro- or macro-environment, not only so we make a better habitat, but so the quality of the energy within us is good and strong.
As humans in our human world, there are pieces of the puzzle that we will never connect with. There are powers that cannot, will not, be mediated into the world of refrigerators and books; those who remember us before the planting of crops, when we struggled to survive on what was given us. At some point, if we need to, possibly we can find them again. Possibly, out of pity, they will help us.
Meanwhile, we will continue to take the bus to work and stop by the library on the way home, and borrow some CDs so we can listen to some lovely, lovely Ludwig Van while we cook dinner. We’ll wash our clothes in a machine. Our brains made these intricate things! Curiosity and creativity and love of beauty are part of what makes us wonderfully human. We do have a place here.
The world we live in now is the one we’ve made. Empires have risen and they will fall. We have spread like wildfire over the Earth and each tiny one of us is continuing to shape our internal and external landscape. We go on. Creatures who adapt, this is our gift. We change to accommodate new conditions. We store a few months’ worth of food and water in case the storm gets worse. We stop eating the crawdads out of the creek. Or the wild plums along the roadway. Or the peaches from the store. We quit leaving the dog outside at night because the wolves are coming back.
Has environmentalism “failed”? Who cares? Does knowing that climate change is inevitable give us permission to further foul our nest? We may have varying degrees of success at shifting the course of the Worlds, but we can always seek balance. The practice is important, as is the result. When you are tired, rest. Conserve your resources.
Do the good you can.