01 Sep, 2015

How Then Shall We Live?

01 Sep, 2015

Tell me, Grandfather: What did you do once you knew?

It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake…

because my great great grandchildren won’t let me sleep.

My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams,

What did you do while the planet was plundered?

What did you do when the earth was unraveling?

surely you did something?

…When the seasons started failing?

surely you did something?

As the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?

surely you did something?

What did you do once you knew?

Tell me that story.

(Excerpted and adapted from Hieroglyphic Stairway, by Drew Dellinger)

This lump in my throat is my heart crying. These tears that fall silently and then not-so-silently are insufficient motions for an inexpressible grief: One more White Rhino has been slaughtered for its horn made from keratin – the same stuff as my finger nails; another female and her tiny calf walk dazedly, a gaping wound where her anterior horn used to be when walking under the full moon only hours ago.

I have seen the photo. I have seen many. They make me want to turn away. They make me want to scream or rage at what appears to me a stupid and senseless Asian cultural belief that a Rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. Instantly, I want to share this new photo that I’ve seen on Facebook through the noble work of the Chipembere Rhino Foundation. (http://www.chipembere.org/)

I will add this question: “What have we done?”

And then — I will feel compelled, people-pleaser that I am, to explain in an apologetic way why I am the cause of such unpleasant postings amid our other nicely distracting photos of full moon beach parties and jauntily-dressed children heading off to school. When I post it, I will want to answer the question posed to me by someone as close to my heart as my own breath. Someone who carelessly asked me once, “Why are you posting all those things about Rhinos? I mean, WHO CARES?”

I will write as if writing some sort of defense, “These beings are part of God’s Creation. Therefore, they are Divine. Therefore, they matter. Therefore, my heart demands that I take a stand on their behalf, and on behalf of all voiceless beings.”

And then, I will bring in credible sources, like Pope Francis, whose recent Encyclical rocked the world with its clear and direct call to right the imbalance we humans have created on the planet.

~     ~     ~

Excerpt: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si:

1. “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).

……My appeal

13. The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change….Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share. Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.

14. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. The worldwide ecological movement has already made considerable progress and led to the establishment of numerous organizations committed to raising awareness of these challenges. Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”.

~     ~      ~

And only after persuading with these credible sources, will I confide, “It’s personal. Because Rhino came to me in my dreams. She revealed herself to me as power animal. In the dream she was nuzzling her horn against my chin, and I was saying, ‘Hey, that kinda’ hurts.’ (I smile wryly at how nonplussed I was about it all in dreaming.)

And I cannot in good conscience have had a dream like that and do nothing.”

Then I will talk about my other dreams – the ones that have come inexplicably, and with exquisite detail and ferocious intensity since January 2013. The dreams in which many, many animals and birds and bees have come to me for sanctuary. The dreams that seem to carry urgent messages for the global community. And especially, the dreams where the Divine, as some know Jesus to be, appears.

Like this dream snippet I had on Sunday May 10th, 2015:

Jesus is standing in front of me, and He is holding a blue plastic bucket.

He hands me the bucket, looks at another person next to me and says,

“Have the ‘other’ fill this bucket with water from your taps and your rivers, and I will drink from your creation.”


“Have the ‘other’ fill this bucket with water from your taps and your rivers, and I will drink from your creation.”

And it was quite clear to me in the dream that there was no “other” – that I am as guilty for the destruction of the earth as anyone else I might blame – because we are all One. And it was quite clear that he was not saying HIS creation; he was saying OUR creation. The world we have created, in which our rivers run swiftly with herbicides and pesticides, waste water and fracking fluid. The oceans we have spoilt by the cruise-ships that systematically open their valves and dump all their black (toilet) water into them, or by the ravenous trawling nets of over-fishing, or from the North Pacific garbage vortex, filled with chemical sludge, plastic and debris that is larger than the state of Texas.

So I ask the question, “What IF? What IF we humans were to treat our waters everywhere as though Jesus, the Divine Being, was going to drink from them?” And then I have another thought: “Isn’t a deer Divine? Isn’t a bee Divine? Isn’t all of Creation Divine? How have we lost this fundamental view of the sacredness of Creation, and its ultimate Life Force – water?”

~     ~     ~

I feel the longing in our hearts — for some unnamed solution that will bring us serenity and peace. More than ever we ask ourselves what or why or how or who is responsible for the state of our world today? We seem to want to find a label that nicely applies, that is nicely “not us”. And yet, at the most meta-level, it is we who are responsible. We, the species called “homo sapien”; we human beings. I believe we have tragically lost our way.

When a friend of mine revealed she had given up hope on humanity, and was only looking herself in the mirror; when another friend told me he has always believed that the human species would not last on this earth, and would destroy so much of it before becoming extinct itself, it gave me pause. I long for a moment to possess that fatalistic view, for it feels like a delicious cop out. But then I think of the beautiful sentiment that Martin Luther King expressed, “Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree.”

And then I think of Deena Metzger (http://deenametzger.net), warrior for the earth and her beings, who says, “Despair is not an option.” And then I think of the beautiful poem by Drew Dellinger (http://drewdellinger.org/) whose excerpt — What did you do once you knew — is written above. And it propels me to write this blog.

How then shall we live, embracing all the terrible beauty of our reality today? I know the knowing that I must speak up or die the slow death of a soul.

I realize now why Rhino is the right power animal for me – she of thick skin, who is committed, and willing to be solitary in doing so; she who expresses earth-bound power, and teaches how to use it to great effect. She of poor eyesight, who sees intuitively instead; she who is generous and collaborative, living in harmony with All, and allowing the Oxpecker bird to feed off the ticks on her ears and back. I can see that in the end, I will need all the gifts of her Mighty Medicine.

In the end, I decided to share an inspirational post on Facebook instead of an “unpleasant” one. I choose that of a beautiful piece of art by Alberto Rojas of ARTE TOLTECA, posted originally by Curanderismo, the Healing Art of Mexico. With this accompanying poem, by Ganga White.

What if our religion was each other
If our practice was our life
If prayer, our words.
What if the temple was the earth
If forests were our church
If holy water, the rivers, lakes, and oceans
What if meditation was our relationships
If the Teacher was life
If wisdom was self-knowledge
If love was the center of our being.

— Ganga White (Founder, White Lotus Yoga)


Maybe I turned away. Maybe I copped out for not sharing the brutal photo on Facebook. Maybe I need still acquire the thick skin of a Rhino. In the end, I cannot allow the day to lapse into evening without honoring Rhino with this blog post.

And the question lingers and haunts: Tell me, Grandfather: What did you do once you knew?

How then shall we live?

###  (c) 2015, Jennifer Comeau



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