Jan 06 2020
by Joanna Macy
Composed in collaboration between Joanna Macy and One Earth Sangha’s co-founders, Kristin Barker and Lou Leonard
Based on my love of the world and understanding of deep interdependence of all things, I vow
To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products and energy I consume.
To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings; to discern and replace human systems of oppression and harm.
To invite personal discomfort as an opportunity to share in the challenge of our collective liberation.
To draw inspiration, strength and guidance from the living Earth, from our ancestors and the future generations, and from our siblings of all species.
To help others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart and supports me in observing these vows.
/ Image by Alice Popkorn /
This is a hard one, but a hopeful one…
I had a lovely Christmas, though it was a modest one. If you have read recent Poetry Chaikhana emails, you know that we had to replace our family car a few weeks ago. Here in Colorado, especially in the winter, having a reliable car is essential. We are so grateful that we had the money to put down a deposit and purchase a car right away. So that was our main gift to each other this Christmas. We had a beautiful holiday. We lit candles Christmas Eve, burned frankincense on Christmas Day, played Joan Baez’s Noel on the stereo, watched as our dog gleefully shredded the wrapping paper from our few other gifts to each other. It filled my heart.
The day after Christmas, something strange happened: the tip of my nose started getting large and bulbous and red. We made jokes about Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I looked like old cartoons depicting someone who drank too much, which we laughed about because I don’t drink at all. Whatever it was, it seemed to go away after a day. But another day passed and then the whole left side of my face began to swell up and turn bright red.
When that didn’t go away after a day, and my temperature started to rise, it became a serious crisis for us. Being Americans and without health insurance, we knew that if I went to the hospital, that would bankrupt us, especially after having just committing most of our savings to our car purchase. We had to do that terrible assessment so many Americans do these days of deciding blindly just how serious the situation is. I mean, when I broke my ribs about 10 years ago, I never went to a doctor or a hospital, I just toughed it out for a miserable few weeks, but I survived and got past it. This time, however, something told me that whatever I was dealing with was different and I shouldn’t just wait it out.
Feeling very sick at this point, I went online and started researching options other than the hospital in my area. I found an urgent care facility not far away, where the typical expense was several hundred dollars rather than the several thousand dollars of a hospital visit, not counting the cost of any tests or treatments. I went there hoping they wouldn’t need me to do a bunch of tests or just send me to the hospital anyway. They examined me and it turned out that I had picked up a bacterial infection, relatively easy to treat with antibiotics, though quite dangerous if untreated. I had made the right decision and found an option that avoided financial crisis.
I have spent the time since healing and recovering — and feeling immense relief that my wife and I are okay financially. Sadly, many people are in much worse circumstances than we were in.
But, as I have been recovering and getting into the rhythms of the new year, I have been watching heartbreaking images of the wildfires all across Australia. In my vulnerable state, I have been especially empathizing with the people and the communities, the wildlife and the land itself, all being devastated by those massive fires. Such terrible destruction is a tragic warning to all of us to not tolerate delays or half-measures on climate change legislation and international environmental agreements.
And, of course, I have to mention the news of the American assassination of General Soleimani and the Iraqi official al-Muhandis, at Baghdad International Airport. This seems like an act by the Trump administration intended to provoke a war or at least an attempt to dramatically heighten tensions with Iran, while also being an unforgivable insult to the sovereignty of the country of Iraq. Too much is in motion right now to say with confidence what will result, but the main question is how much suffering will results in the world from this action.
I think for many people the year ended with some hope but the new year has begun with fear. Fear is not the stopping point, however. It is meant to be a doorway. What we first experience as fear or anxiety or even dread can, with attention, transform itself into a flinty clarity about what is actually happening, which then crystallizes our true priorities, prompting us to take necessary action.
Hope does not come from easy experiences. Hope comes from having the courage to face difficult truths and be changed by that encounter. Remade, we naturally remake the world around us. Sometimes this is because we are newly inspired to overt activism and service. But it can be in modest ways, as well, in our daily interactions, the way we move in the world, the way our individual insights filter into the group awareness. The energies we embody always — always– affect the world around us, both through action and through resonance.
What is most important is that we don’t freeze up and grow numb, holding to some idea of who we once were or what the world once was. Movement, even clumsy movement, is so important because movement is life. Through movement we encounter and discover and further awaken. Through movement we feel, which is not always comfortable, but feeling too feeds our life and our awakening. If we feel pain, if we feel heartbreak, then so be it; that is in the world too and our inherent compassionate nature calls to us through it, just as much as through joy, which is also there.
This is the adventure life offers to us. Despite what we so strongly want to believe, it is not always meant to be comfortable or easy or pristine. To be alive is itself an act of incomprehensible magic and wonder. Through the simple fact of life, every one of us is a being of immense courage, and we have capabilities beyond our imaginings. Let us use this difficult moment as it was meant to be used, to renew our vision of ourselves, to reawaken our energies and our presence in the world, and to recommit to the family of life on this beautiful earth.
To commit myself daily to the healing of the world and the welfare of all beings…
Sending love to you all.