"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, July 11, 2011

Living Sustainably with the Earth, Compassionately with Each Other & Creatively with the Universe Itself

Social scientist and author, Duane Elgin, is an activist who advocates for our establishing a "more sustainable and spiritual culture." Winner of Japan's Goi International Peace Award for his global vision of sustainability, Elgin envisions a renewed culture in which humanity will build upon the fundamental unity that we have with the Earth, each other, and with the universe itself.

"As a species for the last 35,000 years we have been pulling back from nature," he observes, "we've been differentiating ourselves, we have been cultivating our ability to stand apart from nature (and) to know our own power and uniqueness. And we've been doing that as hunter-gatherers, as farmers and then as industrialists for 35,000 years. But now," he points out, "our power is so great that we are on the verge of undermining the ecological foundations (of civilization) for the foreseeable future. "

"So we have to turn then from separation to communion, to connection, to union, to Oneness with the Earth and with the universe. . . .There is," Elgin posits, "only one time in the life of a planet that a species comes to full wakefulness and dominates the life of the entire planet, and begins then to create climate change, species extinction and all the rest, that will forever change the evolutionary direction of the planet. And that," he points out, "is what is happening in our lifetimes, right now."

"We are beginning to see that the world is an integrated living system," says Elgin (in the video below), "not just the human system, but the Earth system of water, air, and earth. So we have to learn how to live sustainably within the Earth system, and we need to learn to live compassionately within the human system, and then . . . we have to learn to live at home within the cosmic system, the universal system - because that's where we come from, and when we die, that's where we go."

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Elgin's viewpoint of seeing and developing our universal sustainability, while utterly necessary, is not in and of itself unique, either to this culture or to this time. The seeming separation from the beauty of all that is has been apparent to mystics and sages for thousands of years.

Says Jalalludin Rumi, the great 13th-century Sufi poet, jurist and teacher:
The universe is a form of divine law,
your reasonable father.

When you feel ungrateful to him,
the shapes of the world seem mean and ugly.

Make peace with that father, the elegant patterning,
and every experience will fill with immediacy.

Because I love this, I am never bored.
Beauty constantly wells up, a noise of springwater
in my ear and in my inner being.

Tree limbs rise and fall like the ecstatic arms
of those who have submitted to the mystical life.

Leaf sounds talk together
like poets making fresh metaphors.
The green felt cover slips,
and we get a flash of the mirror underneath.

Think how it will be when the whole thing
is pulled away! I tell only one one-thousandth
of what I see, because there is doubt everywhere.

The conventional opinion of this poetry is,
it shows great optimism for the future.

But Father Reason says,
No need to announce the future!
This now is it. This. Your deepest need and desire
is satisfied by this moment's energy
here in your hand.
"It may be," says Rumi's masterful translator, Coleman Barks, "that the clarity Rumi calls "reason" is a brilliant lawfulness that ecologists and astronomers examine as the coherence in any system, and that the mystic and the scientist both attend the same layered intelligence: the grand and precise artistry of existence."
[Coleman Barks, "The Essential Rumi," pp. 145-146.]
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