Changing Our Hearts and Minds

Human beings are amazing creatures.  We consider ourselves the most evolved of creatures on Earth.  We have complex intelligence and keen awareness, an ability to create a wide array of symbolic forms of communication, giftedness for art and creativity, and a depth of compassion that seems to be greater than other creatures.  The Judeo-Christian tradition supports this understanding of humanity.  When formed from the muck and mire, the Creator declared us to be “very good.”  Everything else in creation was merely “good.”

Of all creatures, human beings are the only ones able to destroy their own habitat and threaten their own sustainability.  We poison the air we breathe, the water we drink, add chemicals to our food, and create multiple stresses for our bodies to help wear them out.  While other creatures are known to kill for their own survival, we kill our own kind just because they hold opinions, beliefs, or ways of living different from our own.  We haven’t just killed a few others like us.  Instead, people killed by other humans surely number in the billions and billions over the millennia.  For the entirety of my life time, we’ve had the ability to kill all life on the planet.  What horrible, sadistic creatures we are!

Yes, we say that we are capable of great heights and horrible depths.  But are we willing to turn away from the death-dealing aspects that have characterized our humanity?  Are we, as individuals, willing to say, “I choose life!” and orient every aspect of our lives toward  the best aspects of our humanity which also benefits all creatures?

Today begins the forty day period Christians call Lent.  In preparation for the celebration of the new life of Easter, Christians engage in prayer and penitential practices with the intention of becoming more open to the fullness of life at Easter.  It is a time of repentance, of having a fundamental change of heart and mind which the Bible calls metanoia.  Perhaps there is no better time than right now to embrace a reorientation of our lives, to give up the death-dealing aspects of humanity and to embrace those things which embody our nobler selves.

Today, there are human beings who have made this clear, firm, and radical decision for life.  For the last several months, Lakota Indians, with military veterans and a cadre of followers serve as Water Protectors at Standing Rock.  While they are known for demonstrations in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, their actual focus is protecting the water supply of North America.  We have all witnessed the way oil spills have repeatedly polluted the water.  Most often, the spills are the result of negligence.  Indeed, pipelines may be the safest way to transport oil.  But they are usually not maintained at a minimum level to ensure safety.

Now that technology has advanced to the point where entire countries are meeting their electrical generation needs from renewable sources, we must ask: why should we risk the water supply simply to sustain an old technology? We have alternative sources for energy if we would just use them. While other countries are advancing the use of these new technologies, the United States lags behind in order to protect profits for the oil industry.

The Water Protectors are showing us that to make a fundamental change of heart and mind requires that we invest our time and our resources to use new ways to live on Earth.  To do so is to embrace life.  After all, no one will die without oil, but people will die without water.

We often think of Lenten practices as safe, easy, and private.  Perhaps we give up luxuries like snack foods or attending a movie.  What would it mean if we heeded the call of Lent:  to repent, to experience metanoia, to have a fundamental change of heart and mind?  Wouldn’t such a fundamental change turn us away from the ways we bring death to each other and our planet?  Could a fundamental change of heart and mind lead us to embrace the wonderful aspects of being human of which we are so proud?  Repentance, metanoia, begins one person at a time, and now is that time.

Photo credit: new 1lluminati via Foter.com / CC BY

© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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