Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh
Love Letter to the Earth
Parallax Press, 2013

Like Joanna Macy’s book Active Hope, this is an essential text for any activist or student of ecology who seeks to find a way to look clearly at the damage we’ve done and the peril we’re in, without giving way to despair.  It seems to me that books like this one may provide an essential balance.  Otherwise we risk being transfixed by disaster, both ongoing and imminent.

If we have a chance of survival -- real survival, as a culture and not just as a few remnants of human scavengers focused on brute survival – we must transform our thinking in the most fundamental ways, clear down to the optical illusion of separateness, the delusion that we are separate from each other and the Earth.  What we must do will simply not be possible if we continue to see the Earth as “our environment”, as something “out there”.  As Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The Earth is not just the environment we live in.  We are the Earth and we are always carrying her within us.”

I am fed up with the way most spiritual books avert from their eyes from catastrophe.  It seems to me that many so-called spiritual books are primarily interested in pulling the blinds and cranking the air conditioning.  They are like delightful little packets of bubble soap: something in which to soak while awaiting the end of the Earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh “gets it”.  He sees what we’ve done and what we go on doing.  He sees the full extent of the harm and the danger – and he shows that it is possible to see all of this and remain not only able to act, but even able to experience joy.  Peace and happiness remain possible – even in full view of the situation and the possibilities.  That’s stunning.

If you are seeking ways to see and serve the Earth without falling apart, this is a book you’ll be needing.  

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