Friday, July 08, 2005

From Tiny Seeds

My heart is full today after the news of yesterday's terrorist attacks in London. And while I try to steer clear of politics and world news in this forum (unless it has a direct relationship to food), I cannot remain silent today.

My heart goes out to those courageous Londoners who, in their grand tradition of soldiering on with a stiff upper lip, continued to work through the day yesterday, managed to bring their urban transportation back up (for the most part) by the end of the work day, and found other ways to help support each other in their evening commute. And my heart goes out especially those in London's Muslim community, who may feel especially afraid of the reaction not only from any of their fellow Britons but also from the extremists and terrorists who disagree with the choices they have made in living in a Western society.

But I also have to ask myself: since the tragedy of 9/11 nearly four years ago, have we truly learned anything?

Let me be absolutely clear. I condemn terrorism wholeheartedly, and these attacks on random, faceless groups of people who simply wanted to go about their daily routine were unconscionable. There is no valid reason for the wanton destruction of life... and blind hatred of a collective group is an especially despicable excuse.

But when the response of our leaders boils down to "you cannot scare us into changing how we live"... I have to stop and wonder.

Should the random violence of terrorists cause us to spend our lives in fear and keep us from living our lives as fully as we can? No, of course not.

But are we living our lives fully? And are we helping others to live their lives fully? That's where I have my doubts.

The current G-8 summit has focused on the key issues of global warming (and our response to it) and debt relief to African nations, two items that desperately need our attention and our action. And so far, the response to each by some leaders has been, "oh yes, we need to do something about that, buuuuuut we don't really want to be tied to specific figures and timetables and guidelines." And the longer we wait to do anything constructive about these issues, the more other people will have to suffer.

Those of my Dear Readers who know me well know that I have tried to keep my eyes open about our Western lifestyle and to be aware of the global impact that it has. Here in the U. S. especially, so many of us are so wrapped up in having more and better and bigger things than anybody else that we don't see how our rampant consumption and consumerism in turn inflict deprivation on others. Poverty is still widespread in this world, even in our own country, and it walks hand in hand with disease, illiteracy, malnutrition... and yes, in extreme cases, intolerance and hatred of others.

Please don't turn my words around to think that I am saying that Western society is to blame for terrorism... terrorists are to blame for terrorism. What I want to know is, what are we in Western society doing to help others in this world, to make an attempt at spreading around the Earth's resources, so that people are treated more fairly and are given a chance to flourish? In the face of such hatred and intolerance and violence, will our response be more anger and the digging in of our heels, or will we choose the path of compassion, looking at ourselves and others with clarity and trying to find the ways to help the world become a better place?

Events like yesterday's bombings make me stop and count my blessings. I may not be wealthy by Western standards, and there are still days when I have to stretch to pay the bills. But in the world's eyes, I am very rich, indeed... I have a roof over my head, clean running water, central heat, a little land on which to grow some of my own food, a job that pays well enough to support me, good health, access to good food through the farmers' market, and the freedom to live as I choose. And sometimes I look at this life and think that though I am grateful for these blessings, I could do more to help others, to reduce my impact on the earth.

And so, I try to live a little more simply. (Doesn't always work, but I try.) I try to give to organizations that share my beliefs and help to nourish other people, body and soul, both here and elsewhere in the world. I try to keep my mind open and to see other people as individuals from whom I can learn something. (Again, I don't always, but I try.)

And when my government fails to act on its purported compassion and concern for others, choosing instead to push a self-serving agenda in order to maintain the "American way of life"... and let me be clear, I think both major parties are guilty of this... then I try to speak up and to find away to change that view.

I know all too well that I'm not perfect. But I'm trying my best, as are many other people... and that gives me hope, slight though it may be in times like these. And that tiny seed of hope lies within all of us, waiting to find a way to take root and grow.

One thing I've learned about my garden over the years is that no matter what I do, the weeds will always grow. But if I take the time to nurture those seeds that I have planted, those that I want to grow, they will find a way to flourish, even around the weeds.

Let's all choose to nurture the seeds of hope and compassion, even now.

Especially now.

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