A friend recently introduced me to the poem, Hieroglyphic Stairway, by Drew Dellinger. The beginning of the poem grabbed me, because it speaks to my experience:
it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
After participating Friday evening in an Idle No More round dance at the Bark House in downtown Nevada City, California, I spent this past weekend watching films at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival that takes place in our rural community every year. Many of these films showed remote or familiar places of natural beauty. Some focused on environmental dangers, including climate change, fracking, species loss, and toxic pollution. Many told the stories of courageous individuals taking creative action to preserve human communities and the natural world. After introducing and watching the films at the Vets Hall on Sunday afternoon, I went home and slept for twelve hours.
It can be overwhelming to be confronted with so much information and so many opportunities for action. When the festival celebrations are over, most of us return to our day-to-day lives. How can we incorporate what we have learned into a way of being that will enable us to be a part of the change we want to see in the world?
This is a spiritual issue. How can we develop the capacity to face the extent of global destruction without becoming paralyzed? How can we find inner peace and take care of our personal responsibilities while doing our small part to bring hope and healing to the world?
I’ve found this to be a lifelong challenge that involves ongoing personal transformation as well as social action. There are many spiritual paths, many faith traditions that foster spiritual awakening and moral development. For me it begins with entrusting myself to the Love that brought the universe into being and following wherever that Love may lead, as Jesus did.
I don’t always know what to do. But I do know that I am not alone, that people in my community and around the world are also awakening to the multi-faceted global crisis and taking action that will make a more hopeful future possible. And I know that Love is sustaining us even now and can work through us for the well being of the whole.
Regardless of how things turn out for us as a species, our great great grandchildren will look back on this pivotal time. Will this be the time of descent into environmental collapse and global chaos? Or will this be the time of “the great turning” toward more compassionate and sustainable ways of being human?
Regardless of the outcome, the question will remain:
what did you do
Sharon Delgado is an ordained United Methodist minister, speaker, writer, and Executive Director of Earth Justice Ministries. She is author of Shaking the Gates of Hell: Faith-Led Resistance to Corporate Globalization.