On the fourth Sunday of every month my Quaker Meeting organises for someone, usually a member, to give us a brief talk on a topic which obviously is of interest to the speaker and of interest to others.
This past Sunday I gave the talk and here it is in textual form:
Let me start by saying that I do not intend to talk about humanity’s destructive impact on the rest of creation and the particular things that we can do about it. Although such things are important I want to focus instead on what seems to me to be at the root of the problem.
Ever since my childhood, during which I grew up on a dairy farm in KZN, I have always been very conscious of the rest of creation and of our dependence on it.
As I have grown older this consciousness has been expanded through gathering more and more bits of knowledge.
This has been particularly so in recent years as humankind’s unthinking destruction of the rest of creation has become more public and thus more environmental knowledge, particularly about environmental destruction, has been absorbed by me.
A recent knowledge gathering event left me particularly disturbed about the possible future of life on earth as we know it. This came from attending the SAFCEI AGM and Conference in April. Much of what I learnt there was about humankind’s persistent and ever increasing destruction of the environment right here in South Africa.
As I struggled with this knowledge often discussing the whole issue with others the following understandings begun to emerge into my consciousness and I would like to share them with you.
Firstly the rest of creation is responding appropriately to what humanity is doing to our planet. It can do no other.
Secondly the environmental problems being generated by human beings are so complex, so vast and so overwhelming that I am sure that the very best thing that we can do is to turn in to the Light, humbly seeking its guidance on actions that we can each take in respect of this destruction. The Light knows what is right for us individually even if we do not.
For Friends this is nothing new it is how we understand that we need to live our lives anyway. It is therefore not a strange or unusual approach to all matters that deeply concern us. It is just that now we need to recognise the severity of the ongoing environmental destruction by ourselves and actively seek to include it in our prayers for guidance from the Light.
Thirdly the main reason why I think that humanity has got itself into this dreadful pickle is that Western Culture has triumphed over the other cultures on earth. Now all of humankind is striving, through the same means as the West used, to achieve the same levels of material wealth as those reached in the West.
The striving is not a problem it is the means that are the problem. Why is this?
Historically and up until this point in time the West’s attitude to the rest of creation has been fundamentally and arrogantly exploitative rather than humbly cooperative. We have seen ourselves as somehow above the rest of creation which we perceive as being there for us to exploit as we please.
The reality is that we are just a part of creation like everything else and are therefore equally subject to its rules and regulations. Where we perhaps differ from the rest of creation is that we have consciousness and can therefore, if we so desire, enter into a conscious relationship with the ‘All’, the ‘Spirit’ the ‘Light’, whatever you might want to call it, and can therefore be guided in a good way in our relating to the rest of creation.
For this to happen however we have each got to humbly seek the guidance of the Light in all our relating with the rest of creation.
For millennia we in the West have not done any such thing as was so clearly perceived by an Amerindian, Chief Seattle [1786-1866] of the Squamish, when he said with respect to the European settlers in Washington State USA:
--- What is the white man without beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected.
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.
If men spit on the ground, they spit on themselves.
This we know: The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth.
This we know: All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. --
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