[The words of this sonnet are printed below.]
We have a task that is of the highest priority. It will take us all giving our all to accomplish it. It will also take a cultural change of consciousness, maturing to a new Enlightenment, in order to have the wisdom, commitment and courage we need.
Elections are part of the task, Friday climate strikes and Black Lives Matter protests are part of it, the Poor People’s Campaign and all the liberation movements—they are different means to reaching the same goal, a world that is livable, lovable, sustainable and worth giving our all to save.
David Attenborough has produced an extraordinary film, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, that includes both his witness to the existential crisis that humanity has created and his vision of how we could still change course and reverse the damage and restore the stable planet that humanity has enjoyed for millennia. (You can see the film’s trailer below and find ways to watch it on YouTube or Netflix.)
His perspective is specifically focused on the biodiversity that we are rapidly destroying without which we may well become extinct, but the hopeful task he gives us is essentially the same in every crisis of injustice and abuse that we face, whether social, economic or environmental. Whatever issue concerns you most, listen to his words and see how they apply:
“The living world will endure. We humans cannot presume the same. We’ve come this far because we are the smartest creatures that have ever lived. But to continue we require more than intelligence. We require wisdom…. There’s a chance for us to make amends, to complete our journey of development, manage our impact and once again become a species in balance with nature. All we need is the will to do so. We now have the opportunity to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the rich, healthy and wonderful world that we inherited. Just imagine that.”
Imagine a world that finally lives by the common sense wisdom of all spiritual traditions of the past 2500 years—do unto others as you would have them do unto you, don’t do to anyone what you would not want done to you; love your neighbor as yourself, including the creatures and ecosystems of the earth; and have compassion for all, especially those who are most vulnerable or oppressed.
We each have our own gifts to bring to this task, and some of us are in a position to give more than others, but we all need to have the wisdom and the will to do it. Maybe someday we will develop the ability to reach other planets like earth, but for now, this is our one chance, and our survival depends on us accepting the harder task of making it a true, loving and beautiful home for all.
The Harder Task
Plop a banana peel into the compost
and watch the fruit-flies scatter through the room.
The bucket is their world, all else, the moon
and Mars and distant planets that will host
them till they can return. What distant post
can we fly to when our world meets its doom—
when asteroid zooms in, or human plume
or magma ash turns earth to ice or toast?
It seems we have two tasks to undertake:
first, finding places that will serve as well,
and how to get there. That task is unnerving.
The next one’s worse. Somehow we have to make
our life more worth the saving—learn to dwell
in kindness, love and beauty worth preserving.