The sun was shining, for the first time in many days. Outdoor chores were calling, the necessary late autumn clean up before the first major snow. The overgrown mass of vegetation close to my cellar door especially needs clearing, so that the cords of wood soon to be delivered can be tossed down the steps and stacked inside. I still have wood left from last year because of a mild winter. They say the upcoming winter will be tough.
In a world of uncertainty, weather is the least certain of all, particularly as weather patterns are changing radically because of climate change. The widespread resistance to accepting the latter reality has dumbfounded me through many years, since the initial signs and warnings first were made known, yet mostly denied and ignored.
Denial and ignorance no longer are options, given the latest `perfect storm,’ “perfect” in its uncontrollable wrath and infliction on the most stubborn and willful species on the planet – humans. More storms similar to Hurricane Sandy will happen, as day follows night. How coastal cities and island nations will cope is an open question.
Among the recent beacons of hope, to address the fact of climate change squarely, was a bluntly titled cover story, November 1st, in Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” Paul M.Barrett’s feature article represents, by its very publication, a solid awakening in the business community, beyond boardroom debates.
The Businessweek article includes intelligent research that covers various bases that one would think state the obvious. We no longer can blame just corporations or government policies. Barrett cites author/journalist David Owen that “as long as the West places high and unquestioning value on economic growth and consumer gratification – with China and the rest of the developing world right behind – we will continue to burn fossil fuels whose emissions trap heat in the atmosphere.”
Barrett’s article exists, because the most elementary facts seem to continue to get struck out of the playing field of visibility. Continuing the baseball metaphor, we are holding the ball in our mitt, collectively, as individuals alive at a historic moment in which developed countries are consumed by consumerism, while developing countries aspire to that type of future (according to news media owned by multinational corporations which depend on the present economic system).
Among those of us who are in the developed world, we have the ethical responsibility to change our extravagant way of life instead of looking like the type of `promised land’ which the developing world is being misled to follow. Each and every one of us needs to ensure the continuation of freedoms that we take for granted, by acting now less selfishly for the larger good in daily choices about how we interpret `quality of life.’
Otherwise, freedoms such as breathing clean air, free accessibility to uncontaminated water (or any water at all), and sustainable food and shelter will be seriously diminished in the so-called `developed world,’ as they already are elsewhere. Such freedoms do not exist in the `developing world’ for reasons that reside in corporate greed and willful denial of moral responsibility not just by corporations. For all of us are complicit by not examining the global costs of our own comforts and conveniences that we demand.
My goodness, once again, here I am on a podium. I initially intended this blog post to be a lighthearted interlude, taking a break from the serious issues of our time. What I love about blogging, however, is to speak my truth as a person who genuinely cares about humanity and this beautiful planet, upon which I have enjoyed travels to different places in the world.
I take the gift of being alive very seriously, perhaps because I have come too close to losing it more than once. My first blog post, “The Gift of Being Alive,” in fact, focused on the aftermath of what could have been a fatal car accident a few years ago.
Travel can be the best education of all, when the traveller makes the effort to walk among the people who are `native’ to each land. It boggles the mind to know that a certain breed of `tourist’ chooses only those hotels anywhere they travel that offer all the comforts of home, and may not even step outside the hotel property (except from and to the airport) to broaden their mind nor deepen their soul. They experience nothing of the authentic culture, but instead witness merely stereotyped constructions of non-Western cultures, for entertainment.
Aside from my own more adventurous trips abroad, I have been blessed most of all to visit among the `native’ or Aboriginal people of my own land, Canada – First Nations, Metis and Inuit. I have stayed in their homes and communities, being trusted as they shared knowledge from their respective authentic cultures – not as entertainment. Instead, their generosity helped me to learn and respect the depth and breadth of a land-based way of life enriched by experientially lived ecological awareness, an awareness, moreover, honoured in spiritual traditions. Such travels changed my life forever.
Indeed, they were instrumental in reinforcing my childhood dream to live immersed in Nature later in life, and get far away from the city, while still strong enough to chop wood and experience a simple way of life close to the earth, before I die. The joy and inner peace that I have found in countryside living is the most precious gift of all, to me far more valuable than what was, for me, a soulfully impoverished urban lifestyle.
How can I write about reverence for the earth and all species, unless I am `walking the talk’ through lived experience? How can I speak to the need for human beings to seek teachings and practices to bring more balance into their lives, unless I can demonstrate my own efforts? Some people, bless you, can create a soulful balance within the city. My soul journey took me elsewhere.
For anyone who assumes I have run away from a major city to escape the world’s problems, nothing could be further from the reality. Instead, I mustered the courage to run towards a deeper reality, to discover who I can be, and grapple with new and unfamiliar challenges that would sorely test me. They have done so.
Rural living is not easy, and definitely has its own environmental issues to address. Yet living here also has its own rewards through the pursuit to understand what actually makes being alive joyful.
Here I come full circle to the initial theme of this blog post – roughing it at the farmhouse. The paradoxical yin-yang of it is that the rough, pioneer-style labour required to attain (not readily accessible) bodily comforts, such as keeping warm, is precisely where the joy and inner peace awaken, serendipitously.
Sometimes confronted by awesome, if not bizarre, situations, also is where the comedy of life can surface. Comedy transports me to a realm away from the mundane stresses of life such as finding work to pay the bills and other similar realities to negotiate.
The latest comedy of errors yesterday was trying to eliminate the chaotic vegetation close to my cellar steps, totally covering over the flagstones. First, I assembled a new electric trimmer, after trying to interpret the instructions. I next needed to access an outdoor plug. But, before doing so, I had to traverse an incredible tangle of vines that blocked my way up the porch steps to the plug. Hacking away with large clippers, I found myself in stitches, in wonder at the vine’s resilient, and numerous, intertwining offshoots.
The day closed with me still unable to see the flagstones. Alas, today it is raining. In this season, prone to wetness, will I ever clear up the cellar entrance and areas of the porch where various plants have grown through the boards? Truth be told, part of me is tempted to let them be.
This domestic adventure has reminded me about something vitally important to my well-being. In fact, I will be so bold as to suggest that it speaks to what provides well-being and wholeness to human life, and needs to be rediscovered by individuals of any generation allowing themselves to have every waking moment consumed by technological gadgets.
Ever since my childhood days of running freely in woods and wide-open fields – that are my happiest memories – I am reminded that what makes being alive joyful for me is the wildness of Nature. For it speaks to that wild, untamed aspect of the human soul.
The vitality of the soul is the life force that I believe exists within each of us, and essential to carry us across the valleys, forging of rivers, and mountains, that our life journey confronts. I speak here to our inner landscape there to discover and traverse, and not solely the inevitable outer world challenges.
The pursuit of that journey of self-discovery is where we awaken the joy and find the inner peace. Our purpose in being alive is not based superficially on the pursuit of happiness, but instead coming to the recognition, as my late friend Everett Soop once said: “tragedy and comedy actually hold hands,” and developing the grace to accept that reality.