As Near to the Heart of This World…

"...to make its acquaintance and hear what it had to tell."

If you haven’t seen the Ken Burns series on the National Parks, they are more than eye candy. In them lies the story of both tragedy and glory, of mankind’s temptation to control and his willingness to be smitten by nature.

The second installment we just completed ends in a wonderful quote from John Muir, whose death has just been described–on the heels of the apparent defeat against those who would dam his cherished Hetch Hetchy valley–and yet, in that defeat was planted the seeds of what would become the National Park Service, so that (ostensibly) such insults of convenience over irreplaceable beauty and grandeur would never happen again.

I was struck by Muir’s words, because I think I have been infected by the same great spirits that bore him along all his life. And for that, I can never express adequate gratitude.

“Muir said, ‘As long as I live I’ll hear the birds and the winds and the waterfalls sing. I’ll interpret the rocks and learn the language of flood and storm and avalanche. I’ll make the acquaintance of the wild gardens and the glaciers and get as near to the heart of this world as I could. And so I did. I sauntered about from rock to rock, from grove to grove, from stream to stream, and whenever I met a new plant I would sit down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance, hear what it had to tell. I asked the boulders where they had been and whither they were going, and when night found me, there I camped. I took no more heed to save time or to make haste than did the trees or the stars. This is true freedom, a good, practical sort of immortality.”

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There’s Still Time To Change the Road We’re On

Our Road Goes Both Ways with Only A Few Places to Turn Around

At the convergence of several paths, I find myself looking at the guidelines at NPR for the “This I Believe” essay. This is partly due to the fact that these guidelines are easy to find and submission is direct (even if acceptance chances are slim) while general essay submission to National Public Radio are nowhere to be found, and several who might know basically said don’t bother looking.

The other line that leads me here is a general sense of needing to re-establish my own connections with what is important, what is urgent, and what is possible with regards to our present and future as a species and as a society. We’re entering a very precarious point in our history, and what we do in our lifetimes, this year included, will find its place on one side or the other of the balance–tipping it towards a return to healthy relationships, or towards the slide into social and ecological chaos.

I don’t imagine I’ll attempt to write towards the 500 word 3-minute limit for This I Believe, and I’ll be surprised if in the end, I’m satisfied enough with my “statement” to submit it. But even so, I recommend this as an exercise–admittedly, one of the most difficult and agonizing you might ever take on. But we all need to know what it is that sustains and motivates us day to day and over the generations. What DO you believe? Here are the guidelines.

And here are two middle paragraphs from what is now 700 words, and I’ll be darned if I can let go of 200 of them to make NPR happy. I’ll post the finished piece soon, and hope if you write one, that you’ll share your links here. We could aggregate, compare, learn from each other, make a difference. Ya think? Nah!

…In this “cathedral made without hands” as John Muir called this unspeakably magnificent world of stone and flesh, of water and of blood, let us confess that we are out of fellowship with each other and with the earth. We have put other gods before us: the consumptive engines of our opulence in all its forms;  the terrible weapons of power and disempowerment we wield against those at home and abroad who would stand in the way of a counterfeit progress; the electronic noise and light that have become our prayers without ceasing; the false god of personal comfort while others go to bed hungry and thirsty.

We have not put the well-being of others before our own, nor the well-being of the storehouse of nature’s goods that should be cared for to sustain not just our household here and now, not only our state or to secure our “homeland.” We have come to believe in our selves, our nation, our way of life as sacred, our blessings as ordained entitlements, and in this, we have strayed from the path, and urgently require conversion—an about face, with remorse, and with a pledge that we can and that we will find the better way forward. It is a way we know.

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