“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations.” (George Bernard Shaw)
On October 24th—United Nations Day—people around the planet performed hundreds of actions, stunts and demonstrations of earth stewardship as part of the largest climate awareness day in history. The goal was to build an international campaign that visibly joined science, action and justice to advocate for climate protection.
The day focused on “350,” the number that scientists have determined to be the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. It can seem a bit overwhelming, I know, but breathe with me for one geeky moment: CO2 gets measured in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350 ppm is the number we must get below globally to sustain ourselves safely on the planet.
For many of us, if we don’t understand what’s behind a number, we’re likely to forget it or brush it off as “someone else’s math problem.” Cleverly, 350.org (the non-profit behind the campaign) decided to de-bunk the scientific complexity by creating a different kind of PPM—a “people powered movement.”
So, beginning at dawn in Australia and straight on ‘til twilight in Hawaii, people around the world put a human face on 350: aerial photographs captured large 3-5-0s formed by sailboats in the ocean and by humans clustered on land ravaged by clear-cutting; 350 flags were raised on mountaintops from Mongolia to Antarctica to Yosemite. Trees were planted, church bells rung (350 times!), clowns paraded, and yogis meditated in great imaginative surges of collective vision for all who would receive it.
I spent that morning in the Oregon woods, with a child, named Eliana. Ellie, as she’s called, is nearly two. Together with her Mom, we walked through the crisp air, pausing often—enchanted by the hush of the forest and halted by the golden, red and amber leaves. It was, most certainly, the best climate awareness prayer I could offer at that moment.
“Ellie, do you see how big this leaf is?” I inquired.
Instinctively, she took it in her small hand, as one might a small banner. With one in each hand and with focused fascination, Ellie tottered down the path, flapping her butterfly-leaf wings. The leaves were so big that they wrapped about her torso. In the autumnal light, their color was nearly iridescent.
How do leaves attain this annual greatness and why, then, do they fall? … I’m not really asking for the how or why. Yet I do feel beyond-grateful for nature’s senseless beauty, generosity and surrender.
A great love for our precious, priceless, precarious earth fueled 5,200 events in 181 countries last Saturday.
Thai Buddhist teacher,AjahnChah, instructed, “Do everything with a mind that lets go. Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”
Botany does everything with a mind that lets go. Flowers don’t hold back or wait for the hummingbird’s praise. Have you ever seen a zucchini in August “think small”? And now, the leaves. They are not self-consciously withholding; rather, they let go…lavishly so!
In this way Nature shows us to let go, to pour forth, to share our fullest “leaf-selves” generously without fear, expectation, or reservation. Upon reaching the ground, each leaf, thoroughly used up, is received by greater fecundity still. A rich regenerative cycle will support it on its way to re-birth and fruition once more.
Similarly, when our own practice of letting go releases us from thinking small and crawls up from our Divine root system, we can spend our lives and our love freely, faithfully letting go, without attachment to outcomes. We can join withGeorgeBernardShawand, “rejoice in life for its own sake….and burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
So…let it go! The planet is inviting humans everywhere to act.
How will you serve the people powered “350”?
Surrender your beauty; give it away and use it up. There is plenty more where it came from.
NOTE: To see nature’s beauty, generosity and surrender in action in the human form, you might enjoy the slideshow waiting for you at: http://www.350.org.
And if those photos feel too global, go local by spending some time with Mother Earth and your favorite child.