Thursday, November 12, 2009

2nd What You See is What You'll Get-- Greed Vs Need

"Great God of Truth, we grieve for the wounds of your beautiful earth, wounds inflicted by our own carelessness, ignorance, and greed. Merciful God, open our ears to the groaning of creation: glaciers melting into a rising sea, polar bears swimming to exhaustion in search of ice, wetlands drying to parched cracks, songbirds seeking ancient sanctuaries in vain, coral reefs bleaching in polluted waters, whales beaching themselves in despair.
Awaken us, Good Lord, to our responsibility for this earth over which you made us stewards. Give us your spirit of compassion for all you have made ... Help us to know deeply the truth of our interconnection with all creatures (and) perceive how the limited store of earth's elements cycle round from age to age, that we may keep committed to keep them clean and pure ... Teach us to so value our vocation as caretakers of creation that the earth and every thread of her living fabric may, as you have promised, come to share in the very freedom of the children of God."
Prayers for The New Social Wakening, edited by Christian Iosso and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty.
Excerpted from a prayer by Marjorie J. Thompson.

Winston Churchill is reported to have said, "Americans always do the right thing, but not until they have exhausted every possible alternative." I'm not sure Churchill is right about always but it does seem we're often prone do the right thing as a last resort. Why is that? No doubt there are many reasons. I propose that a primary one is that we don't feel the pinch of the consequences of our procrastination, self-preoccupation and bumbling until some kind of disaster happens -- such as the present economic crisis. It's a crisis caused in large measure by the seduction of not "right" alternatives to which we all too readily succumbed. Basically it was the seduction of greed and the misguided proposition that greed is good. The crisis was/is a painful way to learn that greed isn't good at all, but rather is corrupting and destructive.

Yet maybe that lesson still isn't painful enough for a majority of us to learn it. Consider that most of the talk about economic recovery centers on getting back as quickly as possible, with only minor adjustment here and there, to the way it was before the crisis. And who isn't looking forward to that -- to more shopping, more jobs making things and consuming them, making the wheels of commerce spin faster, having things which supposedly define our status and promote our self-esteem? Too many of us have participated a rerun of the story of Adam and Eve in Eden, namely willingly letting ourselves be seduced into trading one piece of fruit for the whole garden, as if that would make us like gods.

Of course, that is understandable. It was a way of exhausting alternatives. And it had some benefit, such as beginning an industries of making clothes and farming and other supporting businesses. But was it the right thing? Is it the right thing now? What do we really need to live well enough as human beings in a human family? Need is about what's sufficient and greed is about what's excessive. And that isn't just a subjective or personal choice, as many would argue it is. Nor is just about the freedom we insist we have to exhaust every possible alternative until we might finally get around to doing the right thing. The core of this issue is what it means to be human -- fully, responsibly, joyfully human which is really the truest and deepest need any of us have.

What I'm getting at is the urgency of global warming as a challenge we can't keep postponing until we're sure we've exhausted every possible alternative. We've already done that. We don't have much time to keep avoiding doing the right thing about global warming. We are close to global warming being an irreversible crisis. That's what every qualified scientist is trying to tell us. Our common need, for the sake of our own humanity and the human family present and future, is to do something about it now. That is the only right thing. How to do that, that's discussable, but not whether or when. It is time to get urgently underway discussing how and taking action.

In his new book, Our Choice, former Vice President Al Gore tells us that truth in clear, well-researched terms. The good news is that Gore adds that we have the technology, the tools to begin now to turn things around. And that as we do, we'll have the growing capacity to create a "green" economy that will put people to work in new industries: making and installing cheaper, more efficient solar panels; constructing a new continental grill to replace the present antiquated one to carry electric energy from wind, tidal and thermal sources to every corner of the country; building more energy efficient intra-/inter-city public transportation; developing and manufacturing electric cars which are already in trials. It can be done, and fast enough to reverse global warming before it's too late to do the right thing.

What keeps us from doing it? All of us do! What's lacking is the collective will. We still fall
for the sirens of greed rather than the summons of need: the need deeper than consuming and possessing; the need to respond to what our hearts know makes life enduringly meaningful and right. Being aware of our deepest need is a religious or spiritual issue because faith isn't something we have so much as it something we are and strive to be. It's a vision, an awareness of, even just an inchoate longing for, something or Someone who has us and summons us to be stewards of, and partners in, the ongoing creation. In essential ways that is the prominent theme of the gospel story of Jesus and his appeal to us.

In his book, Gore writes that his favorite quote is from philosopher Theodor Adorno: "The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power ... has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false." That pretty well sums up our ongoing struggle as human beings, as people with mustard seed size faith, and as stewards of our common home on earth. It will take hard work to mobilize public opinion -- meaning the will -- to resist the reducing questions of truth into questions of power, to resist those who exercise power greedily in the effort to prevent change, to promote greed in an effort to defend their entrenched positions to appeal to our own addictions and sell any and every alternative in the marketplace to avoid doing the right thing.

To resist means paying attention, joining organizations like Earth Justice or the Sierra Club or Common Cause or any of the many other groups working to reverse global warming and change
what is causing it. It means writing to our congress people telling them this isn't a partisan issue so stop the mud slinging and procrastination. It means promoting the business enterprises that shift to a green economy approach. It means being persistent, imaginative and courageous. For example, what if for starters we encouraged churches in this country to start installing solar panels on their buildings which are usually large and energy inefficient? What if we began doing that for our homes? What if we did all the little but crucial things we can to save electricity and use less fossil fuel and recycle everything possible? It can be done but not without us. Without me and you and you and you ....

In Cormac McCarthy's novel, No Country for Old Men (got a copy yet?) the old sheriff (think Tommy Lee Jones who played the part in the movie) asks one of his deputies, "What is it that Torbert says? About truth and justice?" The deputy replies, "We dedicate ourselves anew daily. Something like that." And the sheriff says as he goes out the door, "I think I'm goin' to commence dedicatin' myself twice daily, It may come to three fore it's over. I'll see you in the morning."

Feels a little like the tug of the gospel, doesn't it? You up for it?

Think about it. Ted

P.S. Damn, I do get carried away and long, don't I? Sorry, I'll keep trying to shorten up. In turn, maybe you can start dedicatin' anew at least once or twice daily.

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