Winter is my favorite time of year; I love the journey to the year’s shortest day and the new pilgrimage for the year’s longest day. Precious the light of day and the warmth of the sun; most welcome is the night when blessed with a good book by the fire and my cat curled sleeping in my lap.
On Christmas Eve, I walked the landscape of Drakes Estero and Limantour Beach with my beloved wife and dear friend. Just a few days past the solstice the day remained short, and to commemorate the day, I made a watercolor sketch and reflected on darkness and light asking myself what can well-meaning souls do to make the world a better place?
And by a better place I mean: end the rapacious exploitation of the earth’s flora and fauna; take measures to resolve the increasing disparity between rich and poor; respect the diversity of global cultures; and stop the egregious use of violence. No small challenge. No simple answer. In fact, it sounds so impossible to resolve, I might as well give up and run away. Run as far away as possible from the suffering and the death, building tall strong walls to protect me from the pain.
It takes great courage to sit and listen to the suffering, the death, and the pain: within yourself and in others. Many of us feel compelled to fix the problems, and when we can’t we give up and salve our pain with whatever money can buy. Not knowing what to do or how to fix a problem is impossibly hard. But through my Buddhist studies, I have learned that there is a place to begin: listen, stay open minded and be generous. This is how the suffering ends and the healing starts. We are not born knowing all things, and will never learn all there is to know. Mitchell Thomashow writes in his essay Nature. Love. Medicine. Reciprocity. Generosity. “…we can cultivate generosity, open-mindedness, graciousness, and humility in the space of that glorious unknowing. I don’t have the capacity to love every species and every person, but I can develop the capacity to be more generous with those people and species that I do encounter.” Blessings on us all for this New Year!
2 thoughts on “awaken at the beach”
Somehow the phrase “glorious unknowing” just grates in one of those stretch ways. Think of the difference between learning a new algebra concept and applying it correctly on a quiz. Thanks for the new year’s reality check and encouragement. May your winter season ahead good as well.
Hello my friend. Thanks for your thoughts! My intention by providing the quote was not to “grate” but to bring forth a sense of humility twined with a understanding that my good intentions are not simply not enough. Mitchell Thomashow’s quote is best contextualized in the article, but to try and summarize, he speaks to the challenges we humans who love the earth face in these early days of the Anthropocene. He writes: “it’s not enough to love the place. That love must be translated into healing (solving it’s many problems), reciprocity (deriving mutual benefit), and generosity (giving yourself to the common good).” He goes on to say this isn’t going to be easy — there are so many struggles and conflicts to actually try to do the work to save the planet — but that a model to explore is Communities of Interest (COIs), and he provides an example – the Puyallup Watershed Initiative in Puget Sound. Thomashow writes that “the most successful COIs have been those that are willing to coordinate their specific interests, understand the broader spectrum of community issues, and demonstrate multiple forms of generosity, in terms of the time they spend on the project, their willingness to listen to and respect multiple points of view, and their desire to contribute their social capital to the well-being of the watershed.”