Are We Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution?

Gibbous Earth rising over moon
Earthrise, Apollo 8, Dec 24th, 1963

We stand on the edge of the abyss. Humanity is the scourge of the planet, some say. The Earth will be better off without us say others. We are causing our own extinction.

I think we’re the child, throwing toys out of the cradle, not caring what breaks as we rage at our own actions. We’re magnificent in our anger, our sorrow and our guilt are expressions of our deep goodness, the power we have yet to grow into. Our actions really do matter, and we have all the tools we need to save ourselves and become the planetary guardians we long to be.

We have already jumped out of the cradle. We are the only animals on this planet who have managed to climb out of the gravity well. Can you hear the voice of Neil Armstrong in your head? I can. Can you see the face of Earth, shining blue-green in space? I can. Our footprints are on the Moon. Our technology is flying through space. Our human images are blazoned on a golden tablet, the sounds of our voices etched on a disk. Whether other intelligent beings ever see any of these things or not is immaterial. We have managed to create a record of our existence that might remain beyond the death of our solar system.

Isn’t that achievement inspiring enough to rouse us to live up to our own magnificence? Isn’t it worth doing the hard work of cleaning up the scattered mess of our childhood? If we can figure out how to explore our solar system, can’t we learn how to live together in peace, to share the riches we have, to recognize what true wealth really is?

Money is for suckers. It causes more problems than it solves. It can be useful, but like LSD, it’s a quick fix, a glimpse of enlightenment, not the real deal. It’s dessert, not the main course. True wealth is food on the table, clothes on our backs, a roof over our heads. It’s being able to drink clean, clear water from the river that runs through our town and being able to look up at the stars above our heads. It’s having neighbors we trust, whose names we know, people we can count on when we’re in trouble, people we break bread with. It’s getting to a place where we see race, and want our children to grow up in a place where they live with people of many creeds, colors, genders. It’s a place where we feel impoverished when we don’t have all those different points of view to call upon when we have a problem to solve or we’re planning a party. It’s a place where our children play in the street and can go to any house in the neighborhood when they need help.

It’s a place where we don’t see children starving in Yemen or neighborhoods bombed out of existence. I’m heartsick at seeing the faces of people gunned down at a bar, soldiers lost in war, burned out cars in a forest ravaged by fire. I’m scared to turn the news on at night. Aren’t you?

What we pay attention to grows. So many good things are happening in this world. We can start on so many more any time we choose to give our time and energy to them. It feels good to be part of the solution, to give ourselves to life. It’s all around us.

Here are two of these good things:

Trees For Life: Saving the Caledonian Forest

Yes Magazine

Every workday morning I walk across town to catch the train. I walk through my quiet neighborhood and give thanks that I have a secure job, a house to come home to, a beautiful, loving partner. Peace begins with me, and I share it, silently, as I walk. I spend that walk thinking of what the world would look like if everyone had this peace. Magical thinking? You bet. I’ve done it for 18 years now. It doesn’t matter what you believe, it has an effect. It makes me look for and nurture the good around me. It makes me feel better, and the extra energy I have available to do the right thing, to not fall apart at the awful things the world around me shows me every. single. day. is in itself worth the energy expended. Since I believe that humanity can be better than we are I act like a member of my magnificent, flawed species. I walk to work instead of drive. I get enough exercise in that commute to feel good and have the strength to carry groceries, pick up trash, stand in front of City Hall. My polling place is on my way to the train, so voting is easy. Since I’m lucky enough to be able to vote easily I do it every single time. It goes on from there.

I’ll bet you do the right thing every day too. I’ll bet many of you don’t notice all the ways you are part of the solution instead of the problem. I also think, that if you took a moment or two to think about what you do, and let yourself feel good about it you’d be able to think of a few things you could add to that list, new habits you can begin to create.

I’d love to hear about them, and I’ll bet that I’m not the only one who will find them inspiring. Please! Comment! Feel free to share this post, or make one of your own and share it here. Let’s see what this might lead to!