29 February 2008

Earth matters

While India froze this winter, much of Europe seemed to bask in unseasonably warm temperatures – another sign that the climate is breaking free of its old patterns and we are drifting into an unpredictable future – a future that is very much of our own making.

With the onset of industrialisation and the ability it gave homo sapiens to punch so far above his weight, the delicately balanced eco-system of our earthly home began to slide out of kilter. For generations, this slow tipping of the balance remained imperceptible, but as the village slowly slowly became global, the dots were gradually joined up and the picture they reveal is finally emerging in all its stark darkness.

Our species has turned into a malignant cancer on the Earth’s once beautiful surface, multiplying uncontrollably and eating away at finite resources without regard for the wellbeing of the host. Now that surface is everywhere seared and scarred and rutted and pitted and potholed and polluted and poisoned, burned and ravaged and left for dead by the fevered activity of its most industrious inhabitants. Nature is the real treasure is a reminder of the ultimate relative values of the things humans have destroyed the Earth to obtain – jewels and riches – and the things without which we cannot survive – water and nature itself.

Once exuberant and seemingly endlessly bountiful nature is forced back into ever smaller pockets and corridors across this ruined landscape. Pushed to its limits, nature is economising – eradicating species and letting go of vast areas into wasteland populated by unlovely pariah species – weeds, cockroaches, crows etc, or by nothing at all. Birds who have flown expresses this fragility of the natural environment; looked at from a distance, it appears like a soap bubble whose surface is perishing, becoming pitted with holes, fading away.

If most of us feel powerless when faced with this reality, it is not surprising – each of us is so small against the whole, and whatever actions we may take so puny, so far away from addressing the problem in all its magnitude. And yet, every small action must ultimately count, and small actions are all we can each of us do. Simply to create an inner connection with the natural world, so that we are really aware of its beauty and preciousness, helps to strengthen it, as it in turn strengthens us – this is the feeling evoked in Herbal cure from paradise and The spring of my lord.

If we become aware of the deeper implications of what we do and how we live, the way in which everything connects in one vast web of being, from which nobody can separate himself or his actions, then, too, we become less and less able to act in ways that are harmful to other parts of that whole. The time of reintegration conveys a sense of this web of interconnection between all things everywhere, including the natural world on which we all depend absolutely for our continued existence on Earth.

This subject is so vast and so vital that these few words can only skim the surface of its substance. Perhaps the mandalas may help to give deeper expression to our feelings of love and respect for our earthly home.