Making Peace seems like an effort. It appears as if we have to pull opposing forces together and try to get them to shake hands. It assumes that opposition and even strife are inevitable. If we want peace, we have to somehow reconcile things—daunting work. And, it is a tough world out there: survival of the fittest; dog eat dog; loggers vs. spotted owls; clean energy vs. jobs. Yet that is the kind of binary, either-or, winner-loser thinking that is not at all what the natural world offers us to contemplate.
When we humans use words, we have to break an experience down into little parts to explain what we mean. When we are in the natural world, our senses experience everything as a whole: sounds and smells, tactile impressions, visions close up and distant all coming into us and we are adding our own selves to the reality. We are not humans “on” the Earth, we are beings of the Earth. We owe our in-breath to the plants and they accept the gift of our out-breath for their growth. We share DNA with every living thing and our bones carry the minerals spewed by the explosions of stars. Not at some early dawning of creation but here and now. Whether we realize or acknowledge it, we are inextricably connected to everything. As John Muir wrote:
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
Muir wasn’t just being poetic; he was being scientific. It is as true on a molecular level as it is on a biological level, as it is on the spiritual plane—as if those realities were somehow distinct! One of the results of our Western philosophical heritage is that we are not holistic. This has influenced our science, education and even our religious thinking to break everything down into its parts and examine them as if each were a distinct and un-related object unto itself. We miss the deeper—and now scientifically measurable—truth: it is all connected.
So air and water, soils and plants, mountains and the creatures enfolded in their vast ecosystems are a whole. They cannot exist in isolation, nor can we exist without them. Our souls need thunder to realize how small we are. Our minds need to be expanded beyond our ability to comprehend to glimpse the magnitude of reality. Our hearts need the tender unfurling of a spring blossom to taste what love wants to express.
If we want to “make peace with the Earth,” it cannot be a part-time diversion from the “real” work of “making a living.” Besides, we do not make our living, we receive it as a precious gift. Our living is contingent upon so many other beings. We are called to be far more than “good stewards of Earth’s resources” as if the splendor of the Universe were somehow a bank account that we must spend wisely. Let’s turn that thinking around to recognize the oneness of all that is. Let’s be attuned to the sacred revelation that speaks far truer and eloquently than words. Let’s breathe in the gift of life and breathe out the thanks of our own gifted life. Water that is sacred will not be wasted or polluted or sold. Soils teeming with nutrient rich microscopic organisms need not be blasted with deadly chemicals. Yes, what we do to Earth, we do to ourselves. We need to love ourselves far better than we may have yet known how to do. Then we will indeed be at peace—with all that is.