Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Earth

During the “holiday season” more than any other time of year, we become sadly aware of the lack of unity, harmony, cooperation and trust. We imagine and celebrate what we cannot achieve, and one more futile year leaves us hollow.

White doves, an international symbol of new beginnings flap about without a landing place in sanctuaries and shopping malls, holding no real hope in their laurel branches that the coming year will right the wrongs of the one now passing. Somehow, that never seems to materialize.

The notion of prevailing peace across the planet has become a kind of sick joke. And still, the wild and sweet words repeat, in Longfellow’s familiar hymn that cuts us to the heart, of peace on earth, good will to men. Oh the folly. We are unable in any sustained and authentic way to deal fairly, honorably, charitably and justly with our fellow humans. Why is that?

How might we explain our perpetual failure to live above our animal selves? Some would say the failures are due to deficits of heart and spirit more than of brain and mind. It seems clear that we are growing smarter faster than we are growing wise.

Some would say that we suffer the consequences of our industrial inheritance measured by our lust for leisure and power, and have put far too much stock in freedom from the limits and boundaries imposed by nature on mankind. We have amassed wealth from this dominion over nature, but our treasure chest has come at too high a price to the planet. We find this impossible to deny now a half century since Silent Spring.

Men cannot have peace with each other while we continue at war with the planet.

Nations can’t deal equitably with nations while both are despoiling the oceans between them. One thriving culture can’t promise to support the food needs of a failing people even while the giver despoils the soils and depletes the waters and exterminates forever the living diversity of yet another land.

If we know (pretending we don’t) that our consumption does violence to their forests, air and way of life for the sake of yet another Black Friday bargain from the BigBox Store, do we love our neighbors or truly work towards peace with them and for them?

The ecological psychosis of man is sadly evident during these weeks of elevated hope and expectation. But I will tell you that, beyond this break in our bonds to the natural world that supports us and serves as a basis for peace, I see hope. We are not finished yet.

Forests are being restored in places like Brazil, where we repent of the folly of scrubbing CO2 or burying it when intact forests do that work for us so well, if we’ll let them.

Colleges and universities and cities are divesting from a future of more carbon fuels and turning to conservation and alternatives instead.

Mountaintop removal has finally become repugnant enough in its impact on water and people that the coal economy is moving towards a sun economy.

The practice of fracking is being questioned at the state level in New York because too many questions remain unanswered about the health impact to our water and air.

Communities across America are taking their local economies and soils back into their own hands, charting a new course towards a resilient and renewable cooperative relationship with the land.

So rather than wishing for a peace that is yet beyond our grasp while we live in a world of broken but reparable relationships, I wish you a blessed unrest. I hope for all of us a productive discontent with all the stuff of the season, with all the empty greeting-card rhetoric and Hallmark card politics that only turn up the gears of commerce to more quickly chew up nature and spit out false bargains and plastic bits.

So with apologies to the poet…

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to Earth

And if we make our peace with this incredible Garden and treat it as stewards and not as tyrannical addicts, perhaps then we can create a safe and regenerative place for those white doves to plant their branches to grow and produce real fruit. That is my season’s wish for 2015.

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