Tuesday, Feb. 5, 6:30-9pm, Northampton:
A home gathering to take heart, share grief (and anxiety, fear, despair, anger) over urgent environmental, economic, racial, and social justice issues, and strengthen our resilience and resistance for the precarious future we face. Bring things to share, such as the poem below by the late, great Mary Oliver, and the excerpt of an article below by Dahr Jamail.
More info: John Berkowitz 413-387-8439 firstname.lastname@example.org
On Traveling to Beautiful Places by Mary Oliver
Every day I’m still looking for God
and I’m still finding him everywhere,
in the dust, in the flowerbeds.
Certainly in the oceans,
In the islands that lay in the distance
Continents of ice, countries of sand
Each with its own set of creatures
And God, by whatever name.
How perfect to be aboard a ship with
Maybe a hundred years still in my pocket.
But it’s late, for all of us,
And in truth the only ship there is
Is the ship we are all on
Burning the world as we go.
Oliver, Mary. “On Traveling to Beautiful Places.” A Thousand Mornings. New York: Penguin, 2012. 67.
An excerpt of the article “In Facing Mass Extinction, We Must Allow Ourselves to Grieve” Jan. 22, ’19
by Dahr Jamail in TruthOut
Each time another scientific study is released showing yet another acceleration of the loss of ice atop the Arctic Ocean, or sea level rise projections are stepped up yet again, or news of another species that has gone extinct is announced, my heart breaks for what we have done and are doing to the planet. I grieve, yet this ongoing process has become more like peeling back the layers of an onion— there is always more work to do as the crisis we have created for ourselves continues to unfold. And somewhere along the line I surrendered my attachment to any results that might stem from my work. I am hope-free.
A willingness to live without hope allows me to accept the heartbreaking truth of our situation, however calamitous it is. Grieving for what is happening to the planet also now brings me gratitude for the smallest, most mundane things. Grief is also a way to honor what we are losing. “Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them,” thinker, writer, and teacher Martín Prechtel writes. “Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”
My acceptance of our probable decline opens into a more intimate and heartfelt union with life itself. The price of this opening is the repeated embracing of my own grief. Grief is something I move through, to territory on the other side. This means falling in love with the Earth in a way I never thought possible.
It also means opening to the innate intelligence of the heart. I am grieving and yet I have never felt more alive. I have found that it’s possible to reach a place of acceptance and inner peace, while enduring the grief and suffering that are inevitable as the biosphere declines.
I believe everyone alive is feeling this sorrow for the planet, although most are not aware of it. Rather than grieving for her, many are given pills for depression, or find other ways to self-medicate. To live well involves making amends to the Earth by finding gratitude for every bite of food and for every stitch of clothing, for every element in our bodies, for it all comes from the Earth.
It also means living in a community with others who are remaking themselves and their lifestyle in accord with what is. “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well,” Czech dissident, writer, and statesman Václav Havel said, “but the certainty that something is worth doing no matter how it turns out.”
Writing this book is my attempt to bear witness to what we have done to the Earth. I want to make my own amends to the Earth in the precious time we have left, however long that might be. I go into my work wholeheartedly, knowing that it is unlikely to turn anything around.
And when the tide does not turn, my heart breaks, over and over again as the reports of each succeeding loss continue to come in. The grief for the planet does not get easier. Returning to this again and again is, I think, the greatest service I can offer in these times. I am committed in my bones to being with the Earth, no matter what, to the end.