(This was written by Tony, of Transition Lancaster)
In the beginning, there was an oil spill. The worst spill in the history of spills. The worst spill imaginable. Unlike past spills, this one came from a bottomless cup: the Earth. During the worst of it – and every day seemed the worst – the people of the world sometimes felt the Earth was bleeding out every last drop of oil. A wound, that’s what it was. Not a spill, but a wound – an arterial cut so deep we sometimes felt the Earth itself would die. Or that we would die. We wished for death – of ourselves, of the other, of the person responsible–
–But this isn’t that story. This is not a story of death, nor murder, but of redemption. This is a story of healing. It begins with anger, rage, pain, despair, it is true, but that is only the beginning.
So we have a wound, a deep wound. It was – and is – a terrible thing. No one would wish for this wound, for any reason. But it woke us up to the fact that it was and is but one wound among many. It stood up alongside the raping of the forests, the poisoning of the atmosphere, the destruction of the top soil and the desertification of our souls as but one of the great crimes of Man. This wound was simply so large it finally could not be ignored, as much as we would have liked to.
It woke us up; and, like dreamers rudely awakened, we sat as in a daze, gazing at our works – and a terrible fear grew. We had destroyed the Gulf, bled it dry. Nothing could be done, we thought. In our despair, we imagined an endless welling up of oil. We were not far wrong. Oh, these were bad times.
–Yet, I spoke of redemption earlier, and healing. Can you see it? It is germinating – right there, in the fear and despair. Some might tell you that nothing good can come of such things, but they have this to say for them: they begin the process, the necessary process, of stripping away illusions. At first, in our fear, we tried many things. Anything we could think of to staunch the flow of oil. ‘Top hats’, ‘top kills’, ‘junk shots’, giant hoses and centrifuges to vacuum it up. Meaningless to you, I know, but to us, briefly, they were everything: we placed all our hopes in these strange techniques, these magics. They all failed. When they failed, as they must have, we tried blame. We blamed the corporatists
most involved in the catastrophe. We blamed the bureaucrats who let it happen and the politicians who failed in their sworn duties. All this was right, and just – partly. In the end, we couldn’t help ourselves, we continued to point fingers, pointing on and on till none were left to be singled out but we ourselves. Who purchased the oil so drilled? In plastics, pesticides, pseudo-foods, dish detergents, children’s toys, gasoline for our mammoth cars and heating oil for our gargantuan, far-away homes, our make-believe castles. We purchased the oil, bought with blood and destroyed livelihoods and crippled ecologies. We burned it and poisoned the air and acidified the waters. We came to understand that, even without the endless spill, the oceans were under such aggressive assault they had mere decades left, anyway. We came to realize that we, that we were the ones. We caused the spill.
Many shook their heads, they denied, they fought, they justified. . . but eventually all that fell away. When the visible poison swept through the Florida Keys and on to the Atlantic, nothing sufficed. Justifications could not stand before that endless spill. It stopped mouths and quelled hearts. There was silence, but for the tide; silence, but for the weeping.
* * *
From that silence sprang a new resolve. We came to know that our only path forward must begin with a realization – an acknowledgment – of failure, the utter and absolute failure of modern industrial civilization to protect and preserve the foundation of all things – the land, sea and air. That path continued with the deep determination to restore and repair. We had lost all possibilities for happiness, for happiness depends on happenstance, on chance, on good fortune, and those were nowhere more to be found. But we did find joy, the unfathomable, ineffable joy that comes from good work righteously pursued. Our work to restore the Earth – and our proper places in it – required almost all the energies of humankind. We began with the Gulf. As you know, children, that work continues, two and more generations removed from the final cut that woke us up. Many more it will continue – but it progresses. We believe that one day it will be restored, and work tirelessly for that day.
Though that work took (and is taking) longer than we had initially hoped, we no longer sought the counsel of despair, and instead put our hands and minds and spirits to work elsewhere, everywhere – repairing, restoring. What else was there to do? Nothing. But there was nothing else we wanted to do. We rebuilt the soil, planted trees, cleaned the streams, the rivers, the estuaries – all water became sacred to us again. . . .We left. That was the most important thing, in many ways. We left places we never should have been in the first place, and shrunk our right places that had grown too large. The cities became comprehensible again and the countryside had stewards again, and in between – wilderness.
The work goes on, and will continue forever. What is to be done with the toxic waste, the radioactive poisons? Nothing but to guard forever. Sufficient cause to continue to exist. What is to be done about the upended mountains? Nothing, but to wait for the Earth to shrug her great shoulders. More than sufficient cause to continue to watch and protect. The cleared forests? We plant trees wherever we can, always with great consideration for their placement in relation to others. . . but we know it will be many generations – hundreds if not thousands of years – before they can truly restore themselves. We certainly cannot do that, yet we can help, we can speed the process.
This, as you know, is our joy. It is our reason. Our Great Purpose: the Restoration. What else is there? Nothing. What else could we want? Nothing.
Go now, children, play; an old man needs his rest.
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Sunday, July 4, 2010