Earth Etude for Elul 13: A Tall Order
by Hattie Nestel
~ Creating the earth and all within was the gift of G-d.
Opening our eyes to see the situation the world is in, and in particular the destruction of all G-d gave us, is the work of the people.
How shall we begin the job of righting the wrongs done not only to the environment but to people dependent on the environment going through catastrophic changes. Daily we hear of forest fires burning thousands of acres and untold numbers of trees and wildlife. It takes thousands of firefighters to stop such fires. How can we imagine consequences of those lost trees and heat escaping into the atmosphere. We have droughts and floods of unprecedented strength, record-breaking heat waves, violent storms, failing crops, starving and thirsting people, refugees, species going extinct. All can result in a whirlwind of confusion and despair about human ability to alter even the smallest of the problems.
Where to turn? How to effect even a modicum of change?
Abraham Heschel explores the prophets. Can we learn something here? “The Prophet is an individual who said No to society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism,” Heschel says.
The prophet’s fundamental objective is to reconcile man and G-d. About Jeremiah, Heschel says, “It was not his vested interest, honor, or prestige that the prophet was fighting for. He was fighting for the physical survival of his people.”
Isaiah describes the type of person who will survive the ordeals of history as one “ . . . who walks righteously and speaks uprightly: who despises the gain of oppressions . . . “ And beyond the hope that a remnant will survive lies the ultimate hope that the whole world will be transformed.
What a tall order! Still, when we look down at a riverbed, we see the smooth round stones the result of years of being gently washed by water. When I look at a flower, I sometimes see the tiniest hummingbird eating the nectar. How does that hummingbird know where the nectar for its sustenance resides? How many times do we see a rainbow beyond breathtaking spanning the sky over horizons far and wide, and suddenly beauty overcomes us and faith is restored. And what about the wonder of a baby? A miracle and a blessing for sure!
We face spiritual and physical emergency. What is our vision for the future? Where do we start? What is each of us personally called to do? Has a lightbulb come on in our heads to direct us to a course of right action?
When I asked the question of what to do to the late Philip Berrigan, he replied, simply, “Scrutinize your life.”
My heart sank. It was the hardest thing he might have said to me.
Over the years, as I proceed down that path of self-scrutiny, I see myself weeding my personal garden. I find I no longer have time to do things I now categorize as trivial. My emerging life is busy doing things I feel are meaningful. The values I believe in to save our beloved planet become more accessible. I began meeting more people trying in a multitude of meaningful ways to create earth more hospitable.
This is my message as we again scrutinize our lives and enter the New Year with determination to have eyes that see, ears that hear, and resolve to make the world a better place.
Longtime civil resister, peace walker, and organic gardener Hattie Nestel works to save the world by defying war, weapons, and environmental outrages. She currently focuses on stopping pipelines that carry fracked gas. She lives in Athol, MA.
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