I may have mentioned this before, but I have monocular vision, meaning I only look out of one eye at a time. I used to use this as an excuse for my bad golf game, but then I found out that one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game Ben Hogan played and won many professional tournaments in his last three or four years without sight in one eye. Even more interesting for me is that in one eye, I am short sighted and one eye I am far sighted. So of course when I am driving, I tend to use the eye that I am farsighted in, and when I read I tend to use my eye that I am near sighted in. Since I tend to do more reading than driving, my far sighted eye has gotten weaker and weaker over the years. And I think that makes intuitive sense. That which we use tends to get stronger and that which we don’t use tends to get weaker from lack of use. And so it is with how we think about the world. We tend to tend to spend more time on shortsighted activities. We tend to focus on the immediate. I think I felt this even more acutely when thinking about terrorism and the events in Boston this past week as I was so focused on the moment to moment spectacle of the search for the bombers. I had to turn the television off. We are so busy, so scattered, always one step behind the protean nature of our challenges that we never look at the underlying causes that lead to our challenges in the first place.
With terrorism, we are constantly trying to defend ourselves against the always changing means with which our enemies are using to attack us, that we get so distracted by the particulars that we can never stop long enough for a concerted effort to find solutions. We have abdicated our rights particularly our fourth amendment right to privacy and we have abdicated our collective responsibility for our government out of fear or complacency. I think the same and somewhat connected idea is also related to our environmental issues.
We are having one environmental catastrophe after another, we are so busy being reactive to the tragedies that affect us that we don’t look for the underlying causes and solutions, we don’t look for the answer as to why we as humans, as a nation, and as a world continue to act in ways that are contrary to our own long term best interest. We continue to support a fossil fuel industry that clearly is not in the best interest of our environment let alone our country. Whether out of fear or convenience, or complacency we have abdicated our collective responsibility for the common good to appease our capitalistic short term objectives.
Now I am not against Capitalism, but when it works contrary to our national and human interests we have an obligation to act. And there is not a worse offender than the oil industry and as an example, Exxon Mobil. Its ex-CEO, asked if his company might consider building more refineries domestically, to better protect the U.S. from potential gasoline shortages and security crises, he shrugged off the question saying “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.” And he is right, they are a multinational company with business and employees in 180 countries who care only about their profits. And yet Exxon Mobil has their own foreign policy, and pays for their own armies to defend their business interests, and its business has influenced our country’s foreign policy and certainly has directly influenced our energy policy, which directly affects our lives. Now I know this all sounds very political and not very religious, but our religious values should guide us as to how we live in the world, and we live in a political world . If we believe in the oneness of all existence, if we believe that we are interdependent with all that is, if believe we are meant to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature, then it is our religious imperative to care for the earth.
For we are certainly not living in rhythm with nature currently. It is why I liked the word that Mike used in his reflection. Trustee. Because the root of that word is trust. We have been given a gift. We live on this remarkable planet. It truly is remarkable. It was formed in just the right way to allow us to exist, and it has sustained us for millenniums. Yet we know, we know on our current trajectory, we are overwhelming the earth’s resources and our own sustainability as a species.
Our reliance on fossil fuels and other non renewable energy and the reaches we have to go to obtain them are not only stretching the sustainability of our planet and ecosystems, but I contend the means and methods by which we obtain energy and our pursuit of the profits they engender are straining us as species as we use our power unconstrained upon other countries and their indiginous populations throughout the world for corporate benefit. But in a modern technological interdependent world, where there is a push there is a pull. And we are out of balance and falling and failing. We have been entrusted with something special. Let us not betray that trust.
But where do we start. Thich Nhat Hahn the famous Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, when asked by a student, “There are so many urgent problems, what should I do?,” he advised “Take one thing and do it very deeply and carefully, and you will be doing everything at the same time.” That has always been my philosophy when it comes to Congregational Social Justice work. I would rather do 1 thing very well that is lasting than 10 things which dilute our energy and lead to nothing.
So as part of our living into our congregational vision which “Encourages responsibility for the earth and its creatures” Our Green Sanctuary Team’s new environmental social justice project will involve engaging congregants to be a part of water testing programs on both sides of the river. In Illinois, we will work with the Water Sentinels program which is run through the IL Sierra Club where we will be testing water in streams and creeks that feed into the Rock River. In Iowa we will be joining in with the IOWATER: a Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring program. Please see Mike after the service for more info
Let us be like my eyes, both short-sighted and far sighted. Let us find the right balance to put us back into balance with the rhythms of nature. Let us be short sighted in what we can do in our day to day lives, but also let us be far sighted in our actions as a community, as a country and as a world, so that over time, we can create a sustainable world for generations to come. We have been entrusted to do this, let us not fail. We have not used this portion of our being as much over time and it has weakened.
Let us strengthen our far sightedness, by weakening our dependence of fossil fuels and embracing sustainable energy sources, let us strengthen our resolve, by weakening the grip that corporate short term thinking has on our lives, let us strengthen our planet by weakening our individual desires and fears and embracing our collective responsibility. And although there are some who think we have passed the tipping point for a sustainable earth, this remarkable world, has found ways to sustain life throughout its creation and existence. It has found ways to heal itself. Let us be good trustees, let us help our world heal itself, and perhaps in so doing we shall be healed as well. May it be so.