Readers of this site need no motivation to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2017 or to care for our beloved Mother Earth. This year, I think my blog about Earth Day requires suggestions for dealing with the negativity our current politic reality elicits in us and that challenges the compassion we want to maintain for all interconnected beings. How can we best deal with our reactions to Earth’s suffering life-systems and populations in today’s political climate that so seriously threatens everything we care about?
I can’t pretend to solve everyone’s upsets, but I offer insights from Cynthia Bourgeault that help me. I also can’t pretend to totally understand my treasured copy of her book, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three. Thus I am very grateful to Cynthia for her clarifications in what follows:
Consider the Law Of Three: According to the 20th century spiritual teacher G. I. Gurdjieff (as laid out by Cynthia Bourgeault in the book listed above) the universe’s foundational evolutionary principles — otherwise known as the Law of Three — require the participation of three independent forces, or lines of action: affirming, denying, and reconciling. These are not to be read through moral lenses; they are simply energetic lines of action. You might think of the second force as a catalyst. The reconciling force can sometimes be love, but it can just as easily be whatever breaks the impasse and lets a new configuration emerge.
From these three arise the fourth: a genuinely new “something” that has never before been seen. For example, in the case of a newly sprouting plant, the seed is the affirming force. It provides the necessary “how to” in its DNA and the impetus for action. The moist ground is the equally necessary “denying” or resisting force, providing the “womb” in which the seed can quicken. Sunlight reconciles the two, resulting in something new: the sprout.
I find this theory extremely liberating. I can trace its truth throughout history and it convinces me that today’s opposing force (our current political situation), far from being the total “oppositionality” we often judge it to be in a dualistic framework of good-evil/ either-or, is actually required in this evolutionary scheme of three! Being aware that a reconciling force exists, and helping to “incarnate” (my word) this “principle of self-emptying love” (Cynthia’s words) are vitally important to prevent the story from ending with the negative. Cynthia writes: “With a spiritual practice, you gradually develop the heart as an organ of alignment with God” that results in conscious attention to the third force, to reconciliation and new life. Cynthia also uses the verb “midwife” to describe what we do as we deepen contemplative skills. (This reconciliation is not related to capitulation!)
Note the Law of Three in 1. the on-going story of creation and 2. our religious stories:
1. Historical Perspective: Our current situation can feel overwhelming, but it’s far from the first major challenge Mother Earth has faced and solved in her multi-billion year story. One very oversimplified example: More than 2.3 billion years ago multicellular forms began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. After about 200 million years, the overproduction of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere set Earth’s original atmosphere dangerously off balance. Very bad news! But, lo!, Earth evolved aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen and thus created a positive equilibrium. All evolution on Earth followed, and this balance still keeps us alive (at least so far).
Over the billions of years of her lifetime, Earth has shown the eagerness and creativity she needs for her survival. Do you see signs now that she is creating something new? E.g., think of the millions of people gathering simultaneously in multiple countries to support better policies. This never happened, never could have happened, on Earth before our time. Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how we will respond to current challenges. But, being part of the human species, we can deepen our ability to see in wholes and tap into the Love that lives and acts in us and in all creation in order to go beyond a binary dead end.
2. Religious Traditions: Without ever knowing what science would reveal about constant change, evolution, chaos preceding order, or the Law of Three, Scripture shows over and over that 1. affirmatives, confronted with 2. denial and hatred, and 3. reconciled by love and new insights, can result in new life. Take, for example, the birth of a beautiful boy in Egypt, the decision to kill Jewish babies, but his dilemma, reconciled by love, resulting in Israel’s heroic new leader. Or, as this season reminds us, Jesus’ vision and practice of inclusive love, met with rejection and crucifixion by the powers that be, but reconciled by his consummate self-emptying love — resulted in new life.
Suggestions: I hope one or two of the ideas below will empower anyone in need to find, activate, and “midwife” a reconciling force in the midst of upsetting news from DC. Please share in “Comments” ideas that have helped you.
. Recognize and accept your reality — shock; denial; pain; guilt; anger; bargaining; depression; loneliness — and be gentle with yourself. Decide whether where you are is where you want to stay and if it contributes positively to improving what upsets you.
. Deepen belief in our sacred, interconnected world; deepen awareness of the Love available throughout it. This changes not just our personal consciousness, but contributes positively to universal/ cosmic consciousness.
. Remember, in spite of everything, we are all interconnected. Whether or not they understand or agree, everyone — even in political leadership — is part of the sacred whole and deserves our basic respect.
. Limit consumption of negative news, alternative facts, and rumors — but stay informed of real facts.
. Savor beauty and good news. E.g., courts in New Zealand and in Northern India each granted major rivers their rights to legal personhood, reinstating them to their ancient status as beloved members of the Universe community. As persons, they may speak to protect themselves against the overwhelming industrial assaults and desecration that threaten their survival. (For insights into “personhood,” remember St. Francis and sister/ mother Earth. See Are Mountains Forever? A Lenten Reflection.) Rejoice that Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si’ that fosters values dismissed by the current U.S government.
. Eliminate time spent vilifying people with whom we disagree. Don’t get caught in the quicksand of negativity.
. Take a break. Maybe some thoughtful deep breathing. Maybe a walk. Maybe some laughter. Maybe relish something that brings you smiles. Maybe grieve as needed. We can always find something that is awesome and gratitude-inspiring.
. Join action groups. Depending on circumstances, support them financially, sign (and add your own words to) their letters and calls to legislators and meetings with them, share statements from groups with which you agree, join in marches and meetings …. Your efforts are not solitary!
. Note the planks in our own eyes. What we don’t like in others can be a clue to what we don’t notice in ourselves. E.g., Dislike how Trump stereotypes Muslims, Mexicans, etc.? Any chance we stereotype his followers?
. Listen carefully to the Spirit within yourself and all others. Challenging as it is, do this especially with those with whom we disagree. Learn people’s opposing viewpoints without trying to enlighten or change them. If people hear what they think, they might make their own changes!
. Keep in our prayers everyone and everything currently suffering from or threatened by current policies, as well as those who sponsor and approve them. (possible Earth Day Prayer, from the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus: Click here.)
. Own this quotes: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
. While celebrating Earth Day, visualize Earth’s potential new life! Such imaginings can become third forces!