Monday, October 20, 2014

A Seven Generation Decision

"Rocks of Ages"

Now that the cooler weather has arrived, I find myself spending a lot more time outdoors walking on the many wilderness trails near our desert home. The other day as my wife and I walked in the wilderness, amazed once again at the beauty and splendor of the desert on a refreshing morning in autumn, we came across a sight that literally "stopped me in my tracks." 

In the middle of the trail lay a rumpled trash bag along with a discarded empty wine bottle - for some reason this sight had a deep visceral effect on me. It felt like such a sacrilege, such a violation of sacred space. I also felt that somehow I had been personally violated and stained by this disgrace. 

It all made me realize just how sacred and holy is this world of nature in which we live and just how very interconnected we human beings are with it. What happens to the earth does indeed happen to all of us human beings. Indeed, If the earth is trashed, polluted and dies, we are all polluted and we all "quite literally" die.

As I gazed at that trash bag and empty bottle I imagined someone who had eaten their lunch along the trail and then, once they had been satisfied treated the earth as a garbage can with not even a thought about how their carelessness might affect others who might come along on the trail after them.  It was such a powerful icon of the way so many people live today - immediate self-gratification with little concern for the welfare of others.

I especially thought about how that scene of the trash bag and discarded bottle is "played out" over and over again every day. The sacred earth is treated like a garbage can, oceans poisoned, air polluted,  forests laid waste. All done for the purpose of self-satisfaction, in the name of making a profit, and who cares about the generations that may come after.

I have been reading a beautiful new book by Buddhist author and teacher, Susan Murphy. In her book, Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis, Ms. Murphy takes a lesson from the Hopi tribe of North American Indians who believed that the "Great Spirit" flows in and through everything that lives and moves and has being. So they treated the earth as sacred and offered it the same respect as they offered to one another. Murphy writes: 

The North American Hopi way of approaching any big communal decision about how to treat Mother Earth is one that will seem strange, and strangely beautiful, to ears like ours so attuned to the urgent din of 'growth at all costs.' They would gather together and ask the question, 'What will this mean for the next seven generations?'

To fully ponder this question, the Hopi would close their eyes and reach deep inside to visualize the faces of those downstream from themselves - those unknown stewards of the earth yet to be born.

I have been thinking a good deal about this "seven generation decision," especially with regard to how we treat the sacred earth to which we all belong.  

Just imagine if the leaders in oil companies and the tycoons of mega industry would sit down together in making their big decisions. Imagine them looking deep inside and instead of thinking "growth at all costs," instead of strategizing over how they might "immediately" maximize the profit margin, they visualized what their decisions might mean for the next seven generations who might walk in the forests, drink from the rivers or swim in the oceans. Just imagine!

Who knows,  if they actually did this,  our offspring in the generations yet to come may actually have a planet to inhabit.

On our walk yesterday, we picked up the trash and cleaned up the trail, lots of people would be walking on it after us - just trying to do our part. 

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