Gaia. Mother Earth. The planet. Nature. Outside. Habitat. Whatever you want to call this place, this conglomerate of matter, this energy field where millions of beings live out their lives — this very important element of human life is angry this week. Maybe she has been for a while, or maybe she was just sad and exasperated before. Maybe her soul has run the gamut of emotion and is as confused as we are. But however she’s been feeling the last few years, this week she is angry. You can see it in the brittle, dusty ground of a Minnesota spring, parched for moisture three months earlier than usual. You can see it in the dry leaves, in how they writhe in the breeze, casting her irritation out over the ground. And you can see it in the tsunamis and hurricanes and tornadoes that have increased in power and frequency over the last year years. You can see it in the way the earth shook in Nepal five days ago, leaving part of her surface re-formed and thousands reeling in the aftermath. Her anguish flows out over the cities in their concrete jackets, over the lakes and their expensive waterfronts, over the mountains that have been stripped of their peaks, over the garbage that floods her waterways, and over the corn and strawberry fields that are toxic wastelands due to pesticides. Perhaps she is tired of waiting for people to come around, to wake up and own what’s happening and to see her, to acknowledge — to remember– that she is here and that her wellbeing matters just as much as any human’s does.
Of course, there are many who do see her and who do what they can to support her in supporting them. There is a part of her that is still whole and calm: the ancient rocks and rivers, the wise old trees and the depths of the ocean aren’t easily swayed. But they aren’t content, and as we see by the events of earlier this week, they can be swayed, too. They can crumble and buckle under the weight of the world. There is a huge multitude of humanity who look past and through her, who have turned away from her and who have lost sight of what’s important and real. For that, she is angry.
I don’t know what that means exactly. She isn’t giving up or giving in to “progress.” She isn’t going to lay down wait to die — she is too strong for that. There have been rampant wildfires, excessive floods, extreme droughts and everything in between. She is stirred up, to be sure. Maybe she is reacting to what’s being done to her. Maybe these things would have happened no matter what the state of the world. Maybe things have to run this course before they can get better. I don’t know anyone who knows that answer. I don’t think the current trajectory can continue forever. I think something is shifting, even as the deep plates in her crust shift. There is suffering in Nepal this week just as there is suffering in the island nations that not longer have land to call home because the ocean has swallowed it up. There is suffering in the rural poor of hundreds of nations who have done nothing to contribute to the culture that has invited such hardship into so many areas of the world. And then there are those of us who wait, across the world from the suffering we see on the news, for things to get better even as we do little to change our ways, wondering what would even make a difference. I think there is suffering in that, too, but of a much different kind.
Suffering, like waiting, is indefinite and hard to define. There is always something to wait for, and there is always something that could cause suffering if we choose to let it. So maybe it’s time to stop waiting. Those of us who live in a world where buildings are intact, fresh water is abundant and food is so many times taken for granted can only imagine what it’s like to have a world crumble around us. We can only marvel at the power of the earth and her fury and what it can do, from afar while we donate to the cause. I don’t know what action or ‘not waiting’ looks like. Not yet. What I do know is that I can see the earth and acknowledge that things are not how they should be. I can start living outside of the machine that is industrialization and modern society, even though that seems daunting, risky, and goes against what we are taught to strive for. I can put my energy into living on this earth in such a way that I honor what she is, and hope that is enough. I can bear witness to the suffering of those who live in the rubble of my actions, no matter how far removed.
And now the earth is calling. I can sense it in the early morning, in the white flashing of the egret’s wings, in the fragrance of the wild roses. The earth needs us to remember its divine nature: it needs our prayers. Something sacred in the world …needs our attention. How long can it survive our culture’s desecration, our pillage and pollution, our deep neglect of its divine nature? Just as the world helps me to awaken every morning, we are needed to help the world awaken from this nightmare we call materialism. The soul of the world is calling to us. Our prayers for the earth are needed. –Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
Please keep Nepal and everyone impacted by the recent earthquake, from the rural poor to the city dwellers to the sherpas and climbers of Everest to the creatures and plants of the hills in your thoughts and prayers. And more importantly, donate to the relief efforts if you are able. One thing to remember is that the region will need support long after most donations have slowed down, so perhaps make yourself a reminder to donate again in 6 months time to keep the aid coming when it’s needed. For donation information: visit OXFAM International, SEVA Foundation, Lutheran World Relief, or visit PRI for a list of several other vetted charities doing relief work in the region.