Fear and Hope by Thanissara

There are two energizing and focusing principles in Buddhist practice, which act as the proverbial carrot and stick, traditionally called samvega, and saddha. Samvega is a sense of urgency, born of the awareness of impermanence and the preciousness of the time we have. Saddha is faith and confidence in the possibility of overcoming the causes of suffering, while at same time, honing our life to awakening.

These two motivating factors are very present in the Climate Movement. The awareness we don’t have much time, and the hope we can turn our catastrophic trajectory around, even at this late hour. This last week, the thought came to mind that when it comes to climate change, our culture has a dearth of samvega. We are sleep walking into a highly precarious and deadly situation. In the face of this, we are simply not frightened enough. Perhaps we are personally, but not collectively.

If we understand the science, our fear would mobilize us to prepare for war. We would be moving way beyond eco light bulbs and a new Prius (as good as they are), to systemic change. Such a change will not happen unless there is uprising on a mind-boggling, unprecedented scale, with the purpose of taking down our psycho fossil fuel empire and its addicted manipulative bride, Wall Street Capitalism gone rogue.

For this reason, I’m setting out to join the Peoples Climate Train, and the Peoples Climate March, making my way to New York. Here’s an update about THE march:

  • 50 US States represented
  • 1,100+ organizations join & endorse the march + 28 faith groups
  • 374 Buses and Trains (check to join one)
  • 26 City blocks the NYPD has reserved for participants
  • 20 (minimum) marching bands – (we dance as well as march)
  • 300+ college campuses mobilizing to come to NY
  • 1500 Global actions in 130 countries. Join or create an event
  • 401 ppm carbon (needs to below 350)
  • 0 progress if we do nothing

pcm-poster-full-194x300

This week, I started my preparation to board the train. On Sunday night, 7th September, I joined a small group of 20 people at St Mark’s Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN. We watched Disruption. I won’t give a précis, instead I invite you to watch it. In the discussion afterward, one elderly man boomed out, his voice ricocheting around the fairly empty church, “This is a prophetic moment – a major crossroad. Don’t waste time trying to convince people in denial, instead do what you can.” Nice clear words said with great passion.

Then, this week, a small headline, nearly lost in the flood of news. It caught my and many others notice. It was a hope against the odds – a small yellow flower growing through concrete – moment. In Massachusetts, district attorney Sam Sutter dropped criminal charges against climate activists, stating the welfare of future generations trumped any possible “illegality” of their actions. He further stated not only was he overturning charges, but also he himself would attend the Peoples Climate March. When sanity trumps the system, a ray of hope lights the heart! (Read more here from The Rev Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, one of our co-Faith collaborators)

sam sutter
Sam Sutter

So now I am making my way from Chattanooga to San Francisco to get the train. Yes, the irony is not lost on me that flying is bad carbon footprint. I don’t try to justify it, I admit bad practice, but right now – I suppose – I take the view of Eco-activist Bill McKibben and his strategic use of fossil fuels for the greater good cause (I further confess, my use of air travel is not always strategic.) American airports – the Indian, spiced, copper taste chai in Atlanta concourse B Buckhead Bookstore – our fossil fuel way of life – It’s so dam good! …. Yet, sad to say, now so deadly …

So packing… I’m on the road to join “my tribe” of Buddhist and Faith folks bringing the humane, ethical, and the sacredness of life into the mix. We have organized meet ups, services, songs, bells, bands, discussions and who knows what… We’ve collaborated over dozens of conference calls, hundreds of emails, while making alliances over the last months. Soon we will gather on the street to see ourselves in body, stepping out into a hopeful new future, informed, sincere, committed, and I do believe, unstoppable.

Filling a suitcase. It’s not easy – what to do with all those possessions? Leave it behind in a few boxes. These are times for inner simplicity and fluidity – not to be weighed down with “stuff” – physical, emotional or whatever was left undone, the mistakes made – Doesn’t matter now – My theme to myself, keep trying to hone down, keep letting go. Even after years of Dharma practice, letting go — the sheer simplicity of it — is still a practice. The Buddha called it nekkhama – renunciation – a very useful training for inner freedom.

At the same time –whatever emerges in my inner landscape – It’s all “us.” I fly, I consume, I use money, and now, it seems, I MARCH. And while I feel the terror of what we face, I also disconnect and watch Netflix. I care and sometimes, I don’t care. All of this has to be touched with loving awareness. This is my practice too. It’s not “my” loving awareness. It is the divine working through us…playing her dualistic game. She is interested to see what we hobbits will do. Will we throw the poison ring back into the fires of Mordor[i], or will we succumb to its intoxicating seduction?

hobbits-at-mordor

[i] Mordor – See “Lord of the Rings” a great metaphor for our times. If you’ve already seen it, still, invite some friends over, get a bowl of eco-vegan-organic chips – and see it again!

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5 thoughts on “Fear and Hope by Thanissara”

  1. T, thank you for your honesty and transparency in dealing with a looming catastrophe which will impact all of us while each of us has a hand in causing. I remember when recycling was merely the hobby of a few eco-radicals. Today it is commonplace. I have no doubt that with small but constant efforts climate change will be the same.

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    1. thanks Ed… yes, we are fast shifting into unprecedented territory – Still, together we can do a lot – I hope we have the time to turn back the tide…and yes, i believe what was once an anomaly – recycling etc – will become the norm. The new norm will need to entail an energy revolution!

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