The Five Earth Remembrances

The Five Earth Remembrances

Discussion date: Thu, Jul 17, 2008 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

My innate reaction to adversity, particularly emotional pain, is to treat it like a weed and cut it off or bury it. I’m expert with the various tools I can use to push it down, ignore it, or distract myself from it. These tools range from the lightweight hand trowels like TV and newspapers to more sturdy pruning shears like alcohol, drugs, and casual sex to the ultimate weapon in my garden shed—depression. No matter what tools I use or how often I use them, however, none is effective in the long run. As we all know, that pain will always come back. As we also all know, once I finally face the pain and work my way through it, joy and freedom become possible. That’s the only way to get at the root.

There’s a collective pain that we’re dealing with today, even if we don’t want to or really know how to. If our scientific models and scientific consensus are accurate, human-induced climate change will bring tremendous suffering that will mostly be visited upon our children, poorer people, and virtually all species. Dramatic social disruptions and mass extinctions are likely under our present course. What is a practitioner to do? How should mindfulness practice cope with and respond to climate change?

The question may sound academic, but both it and the answer are highly personal. Climate change is caused by and will be solved by our individual action, from decisions about how we live to the guidance we give to our elected leaders.

The first step is to make climate change real on terms we both understand and relate to. Only by coming to understand our own personal role in climate change can we find the freedom to respond without blaming or anger and in a manner that invites our neighbors to join us in responding constructively.

The second step is to see all the opportunities that are made real by our present circumstances—the potential for tremendous international cooperation on a common threat; the potential for a new, sustainable economy to take root; and the possibility of finding ways of life that respond more completely to our own natural rhythm and the carrying capacity of Earth. From this adversity, there is the promise of many good things to come if we take mindful, compassionate action.

This Thursday we’ll do a guided meditation called the Five Earth Remembrances. It is designed to bring us more in touch with the suffering of our ecosystem and our place within it. We’ll discuss our personal understandings of how we relate to our Earth and to this crisis, and just what the role of adversity is in our lives as mindfulness practitioners.

We hope you can join us,

Scott Schang


A Land Ethic
by Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac (1949).

All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).

 The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively, the land.

This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave?  Yes, but just what and whom do we love?  Certainly not the soil, which We are sending helter-skelter downriver.  Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage.  Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye.  Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species.  A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these “resources,” but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a
natural state.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.  It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.



Discussion Date: Thu, Jul 17, 2008