Winter Solstice. The dark time. It is cold. The garden sleeps under the snow. The nights are long, the days short, the sun low and slanting.
The wonder of Solstice is that at the moment of deepest darkness, the sun is born anew. Even if only for a few minutes at first, the days begin to lengthen. Spring will come again. Such is the promise of the solar cycle.
This is also a time of darkness for our planet. We humans continue being brutal to one another, waging endless wars, and compounding ecocide. Our Earth cries out—deforestation, radioactive waste, nuclear accidents, wetlands destruction, fishery depletion, toxic waste, pharmaceutical pollution, electromagnetic pollution, habitat destruction, oil spills, soil erosion, islands of plastic waste in the oceans, aquifer depletion and pollution, and many more atrocities to this rich, beautiful Earth given us as gift and upon which we depend.
We can trust that the sun will come back, but there is no promise that, if we destroy it, the Earth will be born again.
I have recently been touched by the book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, by Charles Eisenstein. He says we have reached the end of the Story of Separation, that our ways of relating to the Earth, to one another, our institutions, our money systems, our attitude of dominance are at the breaking point. We must find a new story. He presents the possibility of a Story of Interbeing. “That my being partakes of your being and of all beings.” How would we act if we believed in such a story?
Not long ago on Facebook, I saw a video that showed a circle of indigenous children. A white man put a big basket of fruit in the center of the circle and told the children whoever got to it first could have it all. The children took hands and ran to the basket together. When asked why they did, they answered that the fastest one could not enjoy the fruit if he did not share it.
If the Story of Interbeing is true, then perhaps our illnesses, addictions, suicides, depression are because we unknowingly feel the other parts of ourselves suffering. The Syrian refugees, the bees dying from pesticides, the coral reefs disintegrating, the many creatures losing habitat, the Earth groaning and shifting under the effects of climate change, and so much more.
What can we do? It is too big.
There is hope. In the darkness of our dying Story of Separation there are many threads of light, creating the tapestry of the new story of our oneness. Some of them have been weaving themselves into our culture since the 60‘s. There were protests against war. Make love not war. The influx of spiritual teachings from the East tempered our Western dogmas of dominance over the natural world, and the separation of body and spirit. Communes evolved in which small groups of people courageously explored how they might live together and care for each other, simplify, make decisions by consensus, and produce food in a sustainable manner. Descendants of those communes continue in co-ops and co-housing.
In a recent article, written after the election, Eisenstein speaks of these threads, “those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?”
Threads of light in the dark time, the time of confusion between stories. What if we begin with simple, daily acts of compassion? What if we see the opponent, the “other” as part of ourselves? What if we come to truly believe that we are part of all beings, that our own well-being depends on the well-being of the Earth, of all beings, even the “enemy?” Can we trust that if we all live in empathy, that it will make a difference, that we can be part of a shift toward “the more beautiful world?”
During the years I was part of a ceremonial circle, we often began our talking staff councils with the words, “Do you love yourself enough to listen with the ears of your heart to other voices of yourself speaking?”
What threads of light can we weave into our daily lives, what acts of compassion and empathy?