Tree Of Life
By David Sparenberg
28 May, 2009
The obsessions of fundamentalism and outdated political reactions notwithstanding, gender is not an issue, sexual preference is not an issue. Even race, on this small Earth, cannot continue to be an issue. War is an issue, more so in this era of stockpiled weapons of mass destruction with capacity to transform Earth into death’s inferno and ultimately obliterate the entirety of planetary populations. Genocide is an issue; omnicide is the endgame of the dance macabre of all crimes of hatred and the will to domination. Global warming is an issue in this age of accelerated species extinction, deforestation, impending environmental cataclysm and prolific crimes against creation. Famine is an issue in a time of drought, population displacements and proliferating epidemic diseases. Slavery has again become an issue and is an outgrowth of irreverence and the culture of exploitation. Dazzled by the artifices of glitz and glitter, we have become blind to the darkness of destruction that is all around us and arises from our invested extravagance, hubris and frivolity. At the same time, there is often much hypocrisy in the non-issues and far too much neglect of the real ones. A society may oppose same sex relationships and ignore the ubiquity of addiction to pornography. A society may oppose abortion but rush to war, commit itself to mass murder, or as a matter of normalcy blithely overlook the sweeping starvation of millions in a distant neighborhood of the global village.
If our consciousness is not energized by a renaissance of reconfigured moral conviction, then morality and higher consciousness continue to be disempowered by the lack of access and its own dispassionate equivocation. In like mode, we will, consequently, continue to be victimized by the shadow paradigms of arrogance, indifference and sanitized exploitation. Rather than the struggle for sanity, the convolutions and betrayals of pathologies will define us to a bitter end.
World over we have come to a place that is not only a crossroads of choice in direction, but find ourselves on the narrow ridge of momentous decision as well. Will we continue in the pernicious folly of extravagance, or will we collectively open our eyes to the mutuality of global conditions, see where (ecologically) and how (historically) we are together, and make good on a reality inspired non violent revolution for the preservation of life in all of its earthly manifestations, and the enhancement of human life through a compassionate commitment of each to all and all to each? Will we envision and embody the bold Gandhian imperative of being the change we desire and need, and not only for the sake of self but creatively and for the sustaining benefit of otherness? We have an international and even primeval heritage of creation based spirituality and wisdom, while an abundance of intelligence dedicated to change is afoot. What is pressing upon us and yet to be determined is whether or not a paradigm changing sufficiency of our species possesses the courage for enlightened sacrifice and the humility to live in peace with diversity and difference and, by a new standard of planetary balance, symbiotically abide amid the remaining biotic community of sustaining goodness with and for this living Earth.
While the words here present a view in sweeping terms, there have been guiding maxims in ordinary language among us for some decades now which are not overwhelming or a burden exceeding the resources of individual responsibility. Chiefly, consider now but these two: Live simply that others may simply live and Think globally but act locally. Individually and within the intimacies of family and intentional community will we—not in abstraction, but each and every, in both the concrete and evolving dream of our otherness--take to heart the knowledge that compassion engenders respect and wonderment and honoring life is the radical counter to neglecting and destroying life? Moreover, put awareness into practice knowing that compassion is of two interpenetrating dynamics, as vital to one another as are yin and yang. There is the compassion of compassionate denouncement, which sets a limit to wrong doing through protest and nonviolent noncooperation, and the compassion of compassionate affirmation, which welcomes dialogue with otherness through mutual recognitions, conjoins dialectics, and engages in the reciprocity, albeit often asymmetry, of healing. Both modes are compassion and fruit from the same tree, which is none other than the tree of life. As such, the authenticity of compassion as an orientation and process is a non-partisan holism which loses that authenticity when and wherever polarized and politicized by dogma.
If my language on compassion is not immediately grasped, the same message can be heard in the words of Walter Brueggemann, who writes: “Grief and praise are ways of prophetic criticism and energy, which can be more intentional even in our age.” *
At the crossroads, we are either seed bearers or the harbingers of barrenness. On the narrow ridge, we either curse or offer prayer; we either dream righteousness into communion with reality and look deeply into vision, or shut our eyes before the black hole of nothingness and await the trauma which threatens to plunge the human, non human and transhuman alike into oblivion—an oblivious denial of Earth as a creative stage in creative space for the playing out of the possibilities of pathos and the construction of configurations of compassion. A place where either life is shallow and death is manufactured, or life is profound and rich with intention, intensity and textures of aliveness.
In the Book of Deuteronomy is found the essence of this entire and pressing issue. On that day of freedom and responsibility when the words of revelation where first spoken—a day continuous with this day of our urgency—the gathered masses where given the choice between life and death, blessing or destruction. And the word of commandment, foundational to all other commandments, as challenging here and now as it was vital then and there, was this: “Now choose life that you and your children may live.” **
*The Prophetic Imagination by Water Brueggemann, p. 11, Fortress Press, Philadelphia