The subject of climate change seems to hit a dead nerve with many people. We know we are headed for disaster if we don’t change what we are doing, but we are so overwhelmed by guilt and fear that lectures and statistics only drive us deeper into our numbness. Is there any way to wake us up in time?
Whenever we human beings go into denial about something, there is usually a deep conflict going on far below our level of awareness. Perhaps the problems that keep us from confronting environmental degradation go much deeper than discussions of carbon foot prints. Perhaps there is a wound in our deep unconscious sense of who we are in relation to the earth. Perhaps the way to reawaken our dead nerve tissue is to reanimate our sense of belonging to the earth. Perhaps if we can feel our roots we will find the courage to make the sacrifices that will save us.
Psalm 19 is a song of the earth that says the stars make manifest their sacred source. The Psalmist says we ourselves feel that same law written within ourselves. Immanuel Kant said the same thing when he asserted that the two things that eternally fill the human mind with wonder are “the starred heavens above, and the moral law within. “ We emerge from the earth and bear its fingerprint in every part of our being.
We in the west have been taught a myth of creation that haunts theist and atheist alike. We tend to see ourselves as objects placed in the cosmos rather than emanations coming out of it. We see matter as inert material only good for building something else. If we emerge out of the earth like a flower from the soil, then nature is more than our raw lumber. It is the “parent” out of which we emerge into consciousness. It is the “guide” that whispers to us throughout life. And it is the “home” to which we return at death. Humankind is not a tree house built onto the tree of life, we are a branch of that tree.
In speaking of entropy Jeremy Rifkin said that such basic physical laws must be felt as well as understood. Perhaps the Psalmist is saying the way to awaken our species is to sing the song of the Earth. Perhaps we need to think of environmentalism not merely as an issue of survival, but also as dancing to the pulse of life beating in our blood and in the blood of a whale, in the heart of a humming bird. Perhaps when we look at the periodic chart not as a chemical formula, but as the sheet music of a cosmic hymn.