LET US CHOOSE WISELY
We are an inseparable part of Nature in that how we participate with Her in creating our environment is a choice of motives, thoughts, and actions. That we have ample freedom with which to choose our motives, thoughts, and actions can be the saving grace of human society. But we must reevaluate our current choices, because we too often assign a price to something and thereby come to know its material cost and loose sight of its intrinsic value. In so doing, we are learning the cost of everything and the value of nothing. A thing’s intrinsic value thus becomes its imprisoned splendor.
I have, for example, heard people express their awed at the use some early American Indians made of the English language, and wonder why they can’t speak in their own tongue with such eloquence. The answer seems simple enough. The Indians were not speaking English. They were speaking their own language—the thoughts of their hearts—through English words. They were speaking of sacred participation with the Earth, while the European invaders were speaking about exploitation, ownership, and monetary gains. Put another way, the Europeans spoke of peace on Earth and good will toward men, whereas the Indians spoke of peace in and among people and good will toward the Earth.
What makes our union with Nature and life either sacred or profane is how we choose to participate—our attitude. It’s not, in this sense, so much what we say and do but how we say it and do it. The sacred is the expression of value enthroned in one’s heart, which is straight, open, and simple. The profane is the cost/benefit rationalization of the intellect, which is convoluted, guarded, and nebulous. Where the sacred shines with the crystalline purity of intent and an innocence of execution, the profane is clouded with murky undercurrents and the jagged edges of greed and competition.
Although we have no choice but to participate with Nature simply because we exist in and of Her, we can and must choose how we participate, because participation is the active part of relationship. And everything exists in relationship.
That we are the products of our motives, thoughts, and actions, those elements of our behavior that determine the quality of our participation with life and Nature, is illustrated by an old man talking to a youth who had treated him rudely because the youth saw little to value in the wrinkles of age. “Son,” said the old man, “as you now are so I once was. As I now am so you shall one day be.” This is but saying that how we treat something or someone to which we are related in the act of life so we shall one day be treated.
The sacredness of our participation with Nature and life is based on the level of consciousness we have of our relationship with both Nature and life. We can, for example, built our cultures to exploit Nature or to help oversee the welfare of Nature through understanding, enjoyment, appreciation, respect, and caring for Nature and Her processes.
Whatever we do, we cannot simply bestow value on Nature without Nature also conveying value to us. After all, when we speak of valuing Nature we really mean that we find an array of values in Nature—values such as: live support, economic, recreational, scientific, aesthetic, medicinal, and spiritual.
In addition, we are, so far as we know, the only creatures that can survey the world as a whole. As such, we may be the only creatures in the world that must make a distinction between a moral response and a behavioral reaction. Instinct is not morality. If we therefore continue to insist that nonhumans react only out of instinct, they cannot be held accountable for their behavior, regardless of what it is. If we, on the other hand, reserve the notion of morality exclusively for ourselves, then we, by definition, are morally accountable for our every action.
Therefore, we dare not assume that what is good for a nation is necessarily good for the whole of the world any more than we can assume that what is good for a company is necessarily good for the nation. In this sense, morality must exceed legality because morality infuses the whole, be it a nation’s security or a company’s bottom line profits, with our duty as trustees of planet Earth as a living trust for all generations—present and future. Neither a nation’s security or a company’s profits can be gained at the expense of Nature’s health and evolutionary adaptability to changing conditions if human society is to survive with any degree of dignity and well-being.
If we accept the above notion about morality, then everything in Nature must be “good,” because we enter into an impartial relationship with Nature, where morality is solely a human commitment. Then, if morality is extended into spirituality, as we enter one of Nature’s surrounding scenes, it enters us. There is a two-way entrance and resulting fulfillment. A scene may spiritually uplift us even as we give it conscious acknowledgment. Such awareness is part of the whole, not apart from it, because Nature triggers imaginative thoughts of discovery and, depending on our cultural preconditioning, an adventuresome openness, all of which constitutes the reciprocity of partnership.
Consider also that God (however you choose to think of “God”) is the Spirit that moves in and through all things, be it a rock, a mountain, a fire, a building, a bridge, or a human being. If the rock contains radioactive uranium, it is the impartial outworking of Nature. But if the uranium is extracted from the rock and used to make a bomb to kill people, it is the purposeful outwork of human morality. If the bomb is dropped, it wounds the Earth and murders millions of living beings beside the people the bomb is intended to kill. We chose to make the bomb and to drop it; we are therefore solely responsible for the outcome.
Ours is the moral choice of how we participate with Nature and with one another—in a manner that is sacred or profane. Let us choose wisely.
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.