Renewal

I’m not much of an eco-warrior these days. When I started thinking about blogging again, it was with kind, easy going posts in mind. My mantra lately has been being gentle to the earth begins with being gentle to ourselves. I know how much we’ve all got going on– how hard it can be to find the time or the money or the inspiration to do the things we feel we should do or simply want to do. It makes me want to say hey, we’re all doing our best, we do what we can, fudge here and there, but it’s enough. Right?

Well, yes. Of course. But also, as you know, of course not.

Especially not on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement that came and went not long ago. Not yesterday, Michaelmas, when the time turned ripe to look inward at the dragons we need to slay and to feed our resolve and inner strength in order to more fully live a life of integrity. The fiery spirit of these holy days and the season and the flaming  trees has caught hold of me, and I mean to let it burn away any excess of apathy or carelessness I’ve over-indulged in that way humans have a tendency of doing.

I believe in cycles. I believe that we have fallow times and productive times, time to be warriors and time to take naps. Time to grow mung bean sprouts and time to eat frito pie. It is an essential part of life, the give and take. We don’t need to feel guilty about that. The seasons guide us through these cycles. To me, autumn is about awakening. It’s about bringing the fading light inside to brighten the soul during the darkness of winter and remembering the connection between all things.

It reminds me that when I’m not being gentle to the earth, I’m really not being gentle with myself. That whatever my excellent reasons might be, it is is my own soul that is harmed the most when I don’t live with the integrity I aspire to.

According to my very progressive Jewish friends, Yom Kippur is a reminder to look at where we’ve not been living up to our deepest values, to ritually proclaim the ways in which we’ve missed the mark in order to cleanse ourselves in preparation for the new year. It’s not about guilt, but acknowledging the ways in which we can do better. Of helping us to return to who we are–or want to be–in relationship with the earth. At Yom Kippur transgressions against the earth are collectively recited, while the right hand knocks on the gate of the heart, opening it to change. Afterward, the list can be burned, fed to the dragon and symbolically slayed.

This is taken from the ALEPH Alliance for Jewish Renewal. They have a very progressive approach that involves the idea of eco-kashrut, or guidelines for living in a good way on the earth:

Please forgive us for the ways we’ve missed the mark in relating with the sacred earth. Forgive us for our many misdeeds:

For accumulating more than we need.

For the times we’ve listened to our head and ignored our heart.

For the times we believed the voice that said “One person can’t make a difference, so I won’t even start.”

For feeling so overwhelmed or insignificant we forget that change begins with one person, and one step.

For ignoring the potential in our own backyards.

For not minimizing what we discard by composting, reusing, and recycling all that we could.

For disregarding the health of our children’s sons and daughters.

For how much we don’t know about our own watershed.

For the many beings and species our ignorance and inaction has left for dead.

For putting comfort, cost, and convenience first.

For being unwilling to change our lifestyle in order to protect the earth.

For each way we’ve neglected the health of animals, plants, air, trees, soil, and rivers.

For this and so much more, Compassionate Creator, we plead for your forgiveness.

::

And so we start anew.

Living the Questions

I’ll confess I’ve lain awake at night (well, once, after eating too much chocolate) wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into. What are the “rules?” How will we keep to them? And why, exactly, are we doing this? Depending on my mood this scheme to go plastic free can seem anything from absurd to impossible to the best thing we’ve ever done. That we are sharing it here, well, that adds an edge. What if we “fail” in front of everyone?

Of course, there’s nothing to fail at. This isn’t a contest or a dictate that we must follow Or Else. It is simply an experiment in simple living. What will happen when we stop buying plastic, I can’t say. We’ve made this commitment in order to find out. Rather than worrying over the details of how we’re going to pull this off, or what it is we’re attempting, I’d like to share two of the larger questions that have guided me on my journey thus far.

In her book The Open Space of Democracy Terry Tempest Williams confronts ecological complacency by asking, “At what point do we finally lay our bodies down to say this blatant disregard for biology and wild lives is no longer acceptable?” She also asks, “If I am committed to seeing the direction of our country [world] change, how must I change myself?” Folks, I have no idea what the answers are. All I can say is that I’ve reached that point and am setting out on a journey of change, curious to find out.

In fact, you might say that if we’re making any kind of a New Year’s resolution, it’s to live those questions more fully and more fearlessly.