Bridging Contradictions – Becoming 21st Century Saints
Once upon a time, a golden skinned little girl knelt on her knees and prayed before her statue of the Virgin Mary.
“Hail Mary, full of grace. . .help me to be good like a saint.” She tried to be helpful to her parents and to be obedient. She tried to be kind and loving to her sisters. But, it seemed almost every day she was plagued by anger she could not stop from feeling. She could not understand why people got into fights, or lied, or stole, or were just bad for the sake of being bad. Most of all she could not understand why young men hunted each other in state supported killings called wars. But, sitting out looking over water, the large lakes in Minnesota or the endless gulf in the Florida panhandle brought her joy and wonder in the majesty of nature’s gifts.
Time hurled her through life and she found her hair beginning to gray while her concerns only grew and her anger now turned to the perplexing question of “How do I live my beliefs in peace, preserving the beauty of nature, and practicing compassion for all peoples?”
Over the past several years, my e-mail has changed from a source of communication with friends and family to an activist’s launch pad. Monday through Friday, I receive from 20 – 50 e-mails informing me of environmental, health, women’s issues, civil and human rights, and political issues – most with a petition to sign or a letter to send. Whenever I do sign a petition or send a letter I feel I am taking an active part in creating positive change. Last year, I actually received several “We won” e-mails. One of them was regarding the XL Pipeline, an environmental disaster waiting to happen, that rears its ugly head again. For years, my husband and I have found ways to recycle our cans and plastics -even living in the middle of the Hopi Nation.
Recently, I’ve taken more steps to decrease the contradictions in my life between what I believe and how I live. The last time I cleaned beneath my kitchen sink, I threw away the Round Up weed killer. Round Up is one of corporate Monsanto’s major selling poisonous products. (A fact I learned from several activist organizations’ e-mails) Also, I quit buying my favorite toilet tissue because it was a Koch Brothers affiliated company. (A fact my husband told me from an internet source.) I opened a new savings account to remove savings from one of the high rolling banks that has been criticized for its predatory mortgage practices. But, I still find myself carrying a sense of guilt that I am not doing enough.
I, along with most progressive environmental organizations, use electronics to communicate with the world, yet few people address the devastating effects of used computers and electronic parts. I actually learned of deaths caused by recycled computer parts on a CSI TV show. Guiyu, China is just one of several places in Asia and Africa in which environments and people are poisoned by the waste of our technological excess. Guiyu has the dishonor of being the largest electronic recycling site in the world. Although the population makes money from its recycling, children suffer from lead poison and the recycling work has poisoned ground water.
Then, at other times I feel that this planet will endure beyond my short life or the actions of the worse corporate polluters. Even our scientists don’t really know how many millions of years this orb of magma, rock, and chemicals has evolved through space. During all of this time, plants and animals have changed, adapted, and yes, many have disappeared. But, new ones have developed and survived changing climatic conditions for thousands of years before industrialization.
If I were not a Buddhist, I would probably be an extreme radical environmental social activist, utterly insane, or despairingly suicidal, or in jail. But, Buddhism teaches that everything that has a beginning has an end. All of these material objects, from our own bodies, to this very beautiful planet we live on, are as ephemeral as a dream. Yet, all of these ephemeralities are interconnected and dependent upon each other to exist. Our purpose in being alive, as humans, is to recognize that we are all one interconnected vast puzzle that can only be solved with compassion, patience, and wisdom.
So that little girl grew up and learned how to transform her anger into action. People working for positive change, motivated by love and concern for others are the saints living in our midst today.