Friday, April 22, 2011

Every Day is Earth Day

I love to watch the sun rising, bursting forth in glorious proclamation of a fresh start; the commencement of a new day when all is possible. Birds chirp their morning serenade, the cat curls up on the patio after a night of prowling and all seems at peace with the world. But, unfortunately all isn’t in concord on Earth today and as dependent inhabitants we must take more positive steps to change our behaviour patterns to ensure the future sustainability of ecologically sound life on this beautiful planet.

Nature is a force that exists without us and doesn’t rely on our intervention, however much we interfere. In broad terms it means the universally recognised aspects of substance that informs and sustains being, both seen and unseen, and compels and restrains existence throughout all space and time – although commonly we think of this as the visible results of the spontaneously occurring environment on our planet. The natural world as we say, consists generally of animal, vegetable and mineral, although we could add gasses that make up atmosphere and phenomena such as gravity to that small list.

Over recent years science, or the established community that substantiates research into verifiable facts, has shifted its focus from the ‘natural order’ of classical systems toward chaos and dynamics to examine life as a continuum expressing varying degrees of repetitive form and uncertainty.

What they discover in most cases, for those that needed confirmation from others, is that deep within structures, regardless how seemingly chaotic on the surface, is logic of organisation and communication between various entities and components. There are recurring patterns in nature, from spiralling galaxies to water funnels, from the roots and branches of trees to the veins and arteries of the human circulatory system, from the ‘curve of space’ to the way we perceive time.

We can also look to the prevailing social order to see how patterns repeat and structures emerge. Festivals and holidays that are human inventions exist to mark special occasions and commemorate significant events and have been celebrated since the beginning of recorded time. We look to signs in the sky such as phases of the moon, the solstice and equinoxes or even the gathering clouds that announce the coming rainy months. These indicators of passing time coincide with the movement of the earth on its axis and through the heavens. We utilise change as reminders of the transformative power of the world we live on and the seasonal fluctuations that mark the grand procession of life as gauges for the eternal movement of being, and as good reasons for coming together in the spirit of sharing good food, conversation and of course the expression of love.

We keep note of those days that alter our lives in meaningful ways; wedding anniversaries, birth and death days, special days to remember our mothers or other loved ones, days to remember important people or historic victories in war, holy days that indicate a period of religious ritual and, since 1970, a particular day to think about the environment and our impact on the earth.

Interestingly, we humans can think of time on many levels simultaneously. We count chronologically, marking our age in numbers of years passed, while we think in cycles of seasons and months and weeks to maintain a regular and often repetitive pattern of activities. For generation upon generation we have divided our lives into recognisable segments of childhood and adolescence, adulthood and old age and usually expect that life will follow a certain plan of school, job or career, marriage, children and eventual retirement from work. All of this is changing in this new age of free expression and popular culture, and interestingly diverse examples for living and meaning within life are emerging from this changing world.

Many people don’t marry as young as in the past, and some have chosen to avoid that commitment completely. Some choose to raise children while others seek only career satisfaction. There are fewer ties proportionally to organised religion than in the past, but an awareness of personal spirituality is prevalent as people become increasingly conscious of the potential in their own lives and others seek sense in a chaotic world.

The advent of new technologies has not only enabled discourse between culturally and ethnically diverse people from around the globe, but also created a bizarre fusion of philosophies that pick and choose amongst many varied belief systems. A syncretism of religious ideas that often draw their inspiration from unrelated sources has generated an assortment of novel creeds but they generally share one thing, the idea that love of others and love of the earth is essential to spiritual progress. Neither of these ideas is new, what is unique is their manifestation in so many curious ways through an amalgamation of advanced technology and ancient rituals.

People seek to harness the confusion and instability, to gain control in their lives and make the technology work for them in a measurable way. Many of the so-called ‘new age’ religions, although they incorporate utilising computers or other mobile communication devices whilst simultaneously chanting mantras and waving crystals, are essentially guides to living in a harmonious way with the elemental forces of the earth and have been influenced by indigenous animistic beliefs and modern pragmatism. Perhaps more importantly, they combine knowledge of contemporary technology with magical rituals associated with influencing the spiritual realm creating an amalgamation of ideologies that attempts to unify apparently incongruent theories into an original paradigm for living in our world today.

If one reads the literature of the web then it is easy to suggest more people are becoming spiritual environmentalists, that is: individuals devoutly conscious of a connectedness with their surroundings and living in awareness of the influence their daily living has on the earth. In fact, the latest trend in developing self-help manuals to methods of better living is cashing in on the new consciousness of the ‘counter-culture’ of ecological thought. Personally I’m all for it, if it really helps the earth to heal from the disastrous consequences the past few hundred years of human progress has wrought. But, how many of these fashionably spiritual people actually follow these self-assured stated beliefs to their logical conclusion?

For a multitude of reasons it's a good thing to buy organic foods, but does it really matter if you are driving the over-sized 4x4 to the shopping centre to purchase these items? It’s great to buy natural cotton clothing, but will it help anyone if the material was produced in a crowded ‘sweatshop’ mill where children are working 14-hour days with barely a dollar to show for their effort? It’s wonderful to procure only energy saving light bulbs, but how much difference will it make if you leave the computer and television on stand-by all night? It seems to me that before we can mature as spiritual beings we must grow and evolve as truly earth-conscious creatures.

Many people aren’t keen on insects, they squish spiders, swat at bees and step on snails, cracking their stunning spiral shells. But most creepy-crawly creatures play a vital role in maintaining the cycle of pollination essential to the reproduction of plants, or sustain the equilibrium of soil rotation and even keep other species fed so they too can contribute to the delicate balance of life and death that we humans require though rarely acknowledge in daily life.

There are those insects we class as pestilence, and mosquitoes and flies are among that disease carrying breed that have evolved from our own waste. Increasing amounts of these strains along with a downturn in honeybee numbers signifies a hazardous new development in attempting to preserve our own healthy ecosystem.

Bees play an important role in nature’s way and also freely provide us with the deliciously sweet honey that so many around the world regularly enjoy. Spiders not only spin beautifully intricate webs but also help keep other more harmful insects from becoming too populous. Worms are great little ‘machines’ that plough the ground and refresh nutrients so necessary for plants to grow.

Most people, particularly in Western societies, are fond of eating meat, and few give serious thought to the damage rearing animals for food has on the environment, having themselves been raised simply to accept eating other mammals as part of an ordinary healthy diet in a normal life. But what are the consequences of cultivating livestock to feed a hungry world?

Did you know it takes about twenty-four pounds of grain for a cow to produce one pound of edible flesh? Are you aware how much soil erosion takes place due to stripping away trees for grazing land, not to mention the destruction of oxygen-producing plants that are burned off or chopped down to clear the land for cattle production? Do you know that cow manure gives off methane gas that harms the atmosphere? Many farm animals are also fed hormones and steroids that find their way through the food chain into your body. Yes, there is more to eating meat products than the heart disease you are giving yourself. Perhaps it’s time to think about some of these other effects.

Real changes have to start with individual behaviours that so many of us take for granted in our consumption-oriented western world. It isn’t just about buying low usage bulbs; it’s about turning the lights off when not using them. It’s not just about buying organically produced food, it’s about changing routines and thinking about how every thing we do affects the world around us. Do you need a monster truck to go to the shop, or will a bicycle or even walking be a more efficient method? As well as keeping your own body healthy and fit these simple things will make a difference.

Here’s an idea: support your local market trader instead of going to the big supermarket out of town. That way you cut down on petrol costs and pollution and you increase community spirit instead of helping large faceless conglomerates to enrich themselves – it might even make you a few friends as neighbourhood businesses are supported and the people who own these mom-and-pop enterprises get to know you as a person.

There are lots of ways to increase your impact on the earth in a positive manner. There are web sites and books and magazines out there to help you get started on this way of living. Take a few minutes from your hectic schedule to investigate an eco-friendly lifestyle; it will benefit you and the earth to make a few changes for the better, and you might even feel good about it. And who would argue with the notion that feeling good makes us think more optimistically, and being a happy person helps the spirit grow substantially too.

So, as the sun goes down on another beautiful day on our world, and the moon fills the sky with its reflective radiance, take a moment to think about all the blessings of the earth and the abundance of life that exists alongside us on this delicate and fragile planet.

All of life is connected in an ordered system of being in this fractal chaos, and everything depends on us doing the things that are essential to maintain this balance, a homeostatic relationship within our bodies and holistic understanding with the planet we need to survive. Think about your place in the scheme of things, and think about the future. We all need the planet to be healthy for us to be well and strong in body and mind. If everyone thought about this special ‘Earth Day’ to make one change to create a positive difference then perhaps all those modest life modifications could add up to a truly significant revolution, a spiritually focused and ecologically-centred lifestyle for all inhabitants of this globe, our Earth.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spring Hopes Eternal

.. some of my favourite things ..

Spring is a time of proverbial hope that presents us with the promise of originality and continuity. Flowers bloom and trees bud with fruit to remind us of the ceaseless cycle of nature with a rejuvenation of the earth in all its glory. The beautiful and endlessly variable creatures we share this world with emerge from their winter hibernation in hidden cocoons into startling beings of magnificent splendour in anticipation of a new season.

The sun pushes the dark clouds of winter aside to shine across the sapphire sea with the warmth of inspiration. The jagged peaks that rise high above the old town release their caps of frosted snow and sparkling rainbows of ice crystals melt in the gentle spring heat to form rivulets of sweet mountain streams that flow into the verdant valleys below.

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love
~ Sitting Bull

Those expressions of wonder and surprise as the strings untwine from the wrist of a child and a balloon bounces free to float skyward; the mixture of sad bewilderment and joyful excitement as she points to the pale blue heavens in anticipation of its journey.

A hundred pairs of smiling eyes track its progress on the tender breeze that carries it across the Sunday bustle of the harbour where families gather to lunch, and beyond the distant steeple of the old church, bells ringing out in anticipation of the faithful prayers of the multitudes as the Lenten season advances toward the celebration of Easter parades.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not 
~ Georgia O'Keefe

The effervescent rush of cool spring water, luxurious with minerals and served in a frosted glass accompanied by a crisp slice of tart lemon brings refreshment to throats parched by vigorous hillside walks in late afternoon sunshine. All around the buds of spring are growing swiftly on russet twigs, pushing through dark green leaves and fibrous stalks to reveal a splash of vibrant colour in announcement of brighter days ahead.

Marshes and ponds spring to life with the steady croaking of frogs and the impatient quack of ducks and brooks of clear water come alive with the splashing of mating fishes. Egrets, herons and flamingos hunt eagerly for morsels of briny shrimp and mussels amongst the rocks of tidal pools and shimmering wetlands.

The seasons are what a symphony ought to be:  four perfect movements in harmony with each other ~ Arthur Rubenstein

Early birds awaken with first light and begin a melodic harmony of songs and calls to companions around the fields and yards of fresh grass and odorous plants. Tunefully sounding the coming day the fluttering fauna initiate reciprocal refrains from the collection of domesticated cats and dogs that had slept in bins and under porches. Even now they rise with the sun for an enthusiastic but futile morning pursuit.

Lazy weekend laughter echoes across the street as children play games of chase and catch in imitation of the animal kingdom. Adults offer modest gestures of flirtation in a ritual of spring courting that the youngest and oldest alike appreciate as innocent pleasure, the passage of time becoming a circle of the joys of adolescent indulgence.

The year's at the spring and day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven; the hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing; the snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven - All's right with the world!
~ Robert Browning

Fresh coffee on the brew bubbles the sleep away from an early morn, its earthy odour, fragrant and rich simmers as the mouth-watering aroma of bread baking from the café next door wafts in with the first light through the shuttered window.

Youthful girls promenade in the latest fashion; accessories jingle on lithe limbs to sparkle in the evening sunset, a frivolous display of welcome for the young men gathered on corners striking poses of assumed masculinity. The mating dance of eons, the ritual of declaration, the strutting of cosmetic jewels and cloth fineries purchased from boutiques proclaims the spring as surely as the peacock’s tail suggests the dalliance of intimacy to come.

It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache,
you want it so! ~ Mark Twain

Breakfast becomes a feast of fruits and grains plucked from local farms, milled in local barns and provide sustenance to the hungry child of nature. Strawberries, ripe, plump and red coated with sweet cream grace the day to enliven thoughts and stimulate the mind.

Couples strolling leisurely in the evening cast long shadows; a poignant sundial of fading years edging along the avenue, turning sepia in the half-light like photographs gathered in boxes to be brought out on holidays to amuse the young with stories of past endeavours, and to touch the hearts of the aging with melancholic reminders of bright eyes and smooth skin.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain ~ T. S. Eliot

Some people spend their days planning for the future that never arrives and fail to live the present. The gift of life slips away as a hundred well-laid strategies for tomorrow flutter into oblivion of alcohol-induced fantasies and regret paints the colours of moody storms on the canvas of hopeless dreams. Taken by dwelling on the misery of daily problems they resent the journey and blame those who have the spirit of adventure for the challenges they seize and begrudge the opportunities others take as they allow imagination to recede in sorrowful days of hazy recollections.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies ~ Nadine Stair

Sweet drops of honey drip from lightly toasted bread onto my anxious tongue like the sticky dew clings to the tall reeds along the banks of the pond in my view outside the backdoor. Streaking my chin with golden nectar the tacky substance sends shivers of delight across my taste buds. I lick at the moist juice gathered from the combs of nearby hives and wish dreams of love eternal could stay as sweet.

For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours ~ Pam Brown

Elderly folk amble peacefully along the boardwalk, arm in arm with grandchildren pushing strollers and waving to friends, stopping to exchange greetings and fleeting conversations that embrace tight bonds between common acquaintances. A moment’s respite on a bench along the harbour with light kisses on rose-tinted cheeks maintains a ring of memories linking paths along the road in a state of togetherness and hopeful continuance through generations.

The greening vegetation that bushes up as shrubs and cabbage-leafed foliage on every vacant lot and tended garden provides a cure for the passing bleakness of unpleasantly cold days. Manicured lawns and the hope of surrounding themselves with the colour of extravagant blossoms give meaning and reason to those who huddled through the past chilly months with their foggy and overcast billows of grey clouds and drizzling days of dank puddles.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade
~ Charles Dickens

Jealous hearts and secret mercenaries, those whose thoughts are of material things, the acquisition of industry’s metal monsters, pilfering the birthright of naïve wonderers whose travels are honest and filled only with hope, they will find their darkened deliberations swallowed by truth. Mother's children will be rewarded with honourable compensation in due course, for honesty and compassion is greater triumph than clandestine deeds of the envious unimaginative dwellers in sinister schemes.

That knowledge of love within a tightly knit community of associates and companions that continues the strength of shared history throughout the years of forgotten anxieties. The same faces, the same stories told again as friends meet over drinks in the dusky twilight, the same old dreams now departed as time forces acceptance of age and place. Those who never leave tell tales of lands they hint at as if talk would satisfy ambition and discuss those who left as if they betrayed a bargain that was never sealed with any more than the silly thoughts of childish expectation.

And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, sweet as jellied fruit, sometimes in the form of modern jazz or occasionally a rendition of a soft-rock classic, but almost always tinged and spiced with indigenous instruments and the parodic accompaniment of a heavily accented singer, oozes from dim alleys like a tantalising come-on to the sedated tourists. The thumping bassline beat of contemporary dance tunes bounce along cobbled stones in late night bars and discotheques where women in impossibly high heels and improbably short skirts sit staring at the sea sipping incredibly large and powerfully intoxicating cocktails.

The setting sun kisses the beach, a token of love, a forget-me-not for its brief departure, a gesture of separation that reminds us all of the beautiful relationship connecting soul to spirit and body to mind. This wink of adoration is but a hopeful proposition of reunion on the other side of the night. The rising moon a reflection of the brightest star in sky, its brilliance a souvenir of the sun that returns each morning with an affectionate caress, like the lover who brought you toast with cherry jam and coffee.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils ~ William Wordsworth

The distant clouds that still obscure the sun with shadows on its trail to the sea are not quite gone for the season. They hark back to cooler nights as if afraid to release the winter and wed the spring with its clement enthusiasm of longer days. Those mementos of time’s eternal passage adhere to the souls of the thankful as distinction of character, a reminder of that struggle through the darker days of adversity when loneliness surrounded the body as a veil shields painted ruby lips from the casual kisses of potential admirers.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome
~ Anne Bradstreet

But, like a promise in the future, with its endless surprises, its novel prospects, hope continues to dream in the spring of another fruitful year of adventure and joy in the simple pleasures of free will and integrity of purpose.

I explore life as one who thrives on liberty and the determination to believe that faith is a timeless fountain. True love trusts in a deliverance of the reward of genuine happiness to those loyal to its cause, and I preserve devotion to hope in the eternal spring.

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