I am recently retired from community mental health nursing and an aspiring amateur naturalist, and a co-founder of Prescott Peacebuilders. My husband and I have been living in Prescott AZ the last twenty years. Having had children, I can’t subscribe to the hopelessness for the future and the powerlessness to effect change I hear from many quarters. Where there’s life….
Image credit: NASA/GSFC
I was brought up by an atheist, humanist, scientist physician and a raised in Ireland Catholic who got us up to bang pots and pans on the icy front porch in Minneapolis at midnight NYEs and always hung her almost life-size figure of a witch on the front door well before Halloween came. I figured I would be a medical missionary. Instead, I studied philosophy at college, ethics, how do we live a good life, and what do words really mean. Then I studied nursing, with a focus on psychoneuroimmunology, which examines how our minds and our experiences affect our health, our wellness, or our lack thereof.
I mostly practiced psychiatric community nursing and want now to consider community mental health promotion. I have been looking at our life styles and our health care crisis, pre-pandemic, and the self-infliction of most of our ailments, obesity, inactivity, violence, slow or immediate suicides, overdosing on drugs meant to alleviate pain. Driving fast or stuck in traffic, we know we are burning oil, we know we are making our only home planet unlivable. We saw the big UN study that came out last year that was headlined in various media “1,000,000 species on the chopping block.” No one that I spoke to read beyond that. The angst resulting from the very un-sustainability of the average American lifestyle is feeding our collective illness, we know this.
If we start “us” at stone age tool making, 2.5 MY ago, 99% of our time on earth has been lived sustainably. The vast, vast majority of the time. No, we did not have smart phones or streaming reruns. We lived tribally, mostly matriarchally and honestly, I know we had some fun. We did suffer the vicissitudes of life, but I suspect we weren’t so lonely. We were part of creation. That direct experience of oneness is what our culture calls a ‘spiritual experience.’ It is our birthright.
Yet this experience of oneness can be elusive. Since the arms race started, and ores were mined to empower and empowerment led to greed. And more arms, more overpowering, greed and fear. Our birthright is obscured by the frightening state of our world, and our anxious mindsets, with 24/7 coverage of the violence on our streets. Almost a quarter million American troops are now deployed for war in at least 177 countries and territories and we have spent 6.4 trillion dollars as cost of wars since 2001. Our consumer culture roadblocks us, and our electronic reality can build solid walls between our self and our full conscious being as part of the whole.
This longing to belong, this need, this birthright is made into various stories by various religious traditions. But underlying them all, no matter how reality is portrayed, is the golden rule. That was something my parents could both see as the right relation with reality. Love your neighbor as yourself (and fyi you are the same thing essentially). E=Mc2, deep history as our creation story, no need of myth, we are star energy and we are one. We are all, globally, each other’s neighbors. Science and religion agree here. That is really all we need.
We know the best practices. The UN report had a choice of action plans for us to come into balance with our world, all of which entail international and multilevel cooperation which is now possible and required. We know we can and must move beyond the primitive tribalism that fuels and sustains endless warfare, and grasp that we are one tribe, we belong here, with all of life, and our flag is the blue marble hanging in empty space.
As Teilhard de Chardin shared with us over 100 years ago, we are evolution become conscious of itself, and now, maybe maybe now, we can grow up and behave and take responsibility. Children can learn to manage conflict without violence. That was my main job as a mother. Now it is our collective job, and this pandemic may be just the time to do that. We were on a rushing river toward ruin and this blockade of a virus could be our chance to rout despair and reroute to sanity, sustainability, cooperation, connection and lives worth living.