Alas, we are “only human” and struggle at best to get a broad or long range view of our relative importance to the scheme of things. How futile it is to be a selfish species when in reality, we are only self-centered (like infants) – there is a whole universe of connectedness within which we are just a tiny part.
Because we’re only human, we often fall prey to our limited human perspective and take action on what we see as our self-interest. Really the fate of one is the fate of us all. We see this clearly in how sectarian conflicts in Syria send civil muslims from their once peaceful homes to seek refuge in Europe and America. Their desperate situation sends ripples of discord, displacement, and discomfort around the globe. Deforestation due to drought and development in South America, Africa, and the American West exacerbates polar ice melt and threatens seacoasts around the globe.
Likewise, I see this same “me first” tendency right at home where people who live adjacent to the golf course want to keep it viable, but don’t want to pay for roads on the mountain and people living on the mountain want well-maintained roads, but don’t want to pitch in to support the golf course. Of course the beauty and value of our community as a whole is enhanced by all these investments, and our quality of life can only be improved by toning down the “sectarian” bitterness that flows through the planning and budgeting process.
OK, I can’t leave you on a downer. Let me tell you that the vast majority of my neighbors not only take care of their own homesteads, but volunteer time and effort to enhance life overall in the network of lanes and cul-de-sacs that we share. I’ll also point out that many of the young people I know travel, work, and have friends internationally; they are less provincial than we were, considering themselves citizens of the world. Thankfully many, like Chris Soderquist, are systems thinkers, creatively developing big picture approaches to complex problems. Even national leaders, whose job descriptions require them to be protective of their citizens’ well-being before others’, demonstrated their recognition that we’re all in this together by signing the recent Paris Agreement on Climate.
The Climate Reality Project tells us, “Negotiators from 195 countries with very different agendas and interests involved, signed on to a goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing actions to stay under 1.5 degrees and, in not so many words, reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of the century. The contract made sends a clear message to markets and investors worldwide that the future of energy is not in fossil fuels, but in renewables like wind and solar.” Hooray for our planet – we can win by thinking of ourselves as one system of unique, intricately connected parts.
Because we humans have decided to keep a calendar, we get to flip to a new year now, pushing the old one out of sight, out of mind. Although the weather has been somewhat gloomy and the media continues to focus on mayhem and murder, let’s you and I focus on the best of our humanity – the generous, inclusive instincts of children, our imagination, adaptability, and resilience. Here’s to the manifestation of all your desires in 2016, for yourself and the world.
Tennyson’s “Ring Out, Wild Bells.”
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (published in 1850)