“When something we love is threatened, our natural reaction is to save it.” ~ Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
Last week we were thoughtfully asked, “What are we willing to do?” to fight climate change. I have another question for you that perhaps will help you answer the first: What are you willing to love?
I invite you to think about what it feels like to love deeply, that unconditional care we have for those that are most dear to us. What would you do to save your child? Your spouse? Your parents? We know in our hearts that we would do almost anything, and that is because we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and opened ourselves to our love for them.
I was born a natural empath. I possess an involuntary inclination to feel what others – human and non-human alike – are feeling. This ability to easily “feel” what others are experiencing leads to a great deal of vulnerability and love for the world around me and the creatures that I share it with. As you can imagine, it also leads to no small amount of pain, particularly recently with all of the dire news about the state of our natural world.
The pain that I inevitably experience often leads me to shut myself off and attempt to shut down that empathy. A small example: I am driving home from work, listening to NPR, and a story comes on the radio about the demise of whales. I quickly attempt to find a pop tune to avoid the pain that is about to come. I tell myself, “I know what is happening. I don’t need to hear more.” But I realize that leaving myself open and vulnerable to that love, and perhaps discomfort, is what will keep me in the game.
While we may say that we love everything about nature or our natural world, it is difficult to love and save “everything.” I ask you to think of one thing that you love and let that inspire you to do the work. I truly believe that when we are doing the work in honor of that which we love, we can find great joy in it.
Maybe you visited the outermost tip of Cape Cod and fell in love with the life and community that has been built around fishing from the sea. You know that 90% of fish populations have been lost since 1950, which is heartbreaking. But it is the love of this community and the people in it that keeps you inspired to do the work of ocean and fishery conservation.
Perhaps you are enamored with a particular species, like the majestic elephant that I wrote about several weeks ago. The fact that they are losing their habitat at an alarming rate can feel overwhelming. Your love for this beautiful empathetic creature is what makes you keep going in your effort to conserve wildlands.
It may be that you are in love with the forest, from its towering trees to its life-giving fungi.It is this deep-rooted care that gives you strength to save what is left of one of our greatest gifts and resources.
During a recent environmental writing workshop, participants were guided through a meditation of sorts where we were asked to envision a right whale breaching, making purposeful, personal contact with us. We were then asked to write a letter to the whale. In my mind’s eye, I was able to connect with that whale and, yes, fall in love with the whale. I could sense her imploring me to somehow make things right. The experience was both beautiful and painful. Instead of shutting down, I decided to hold on to the beauty while allowing myself to still carry the pain. There is not one without the other. In my letter to her, I promised that I would not look away. I promised to keep my heart open, to keep loving, and to fight for her.
What is it that you are willing to love?
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next meeting in person on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 PM in the church sanctuary.