Heaven and Earth

April 18th, 2011

One of the things that unites people, inside and outside of religion, is the vision of a more humane world. We want to make sure the world is in reasonable shape for the next generations. Now we are discovering that the best way to take care of the next generation is to take care of the place that will take care of the next generation. Get the house in order, leave the world a little better than we found it, and make sure there’s a solid basis for the next generation to work with.

There is a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy has her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, Blockhead, the world I love. Its people I can’t stand.”

We all feel that way some of the time. Maybe it’s easier to love the earth. In our best moments, we love both the world and its people. These lines from Lord Byron were quoted at the beginning of the 2007 film Into The Wild.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea and the music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more.

In the movie, Emile Hirsch plays the part of Chris McCandless who gives up all his possessions after graduating college to hitchhike north and live alone in the wilderness in Alaska. The ironic charm of the movie is that while he is running away from relationships to live a solitary life, Chris strikes up some amazing relationships along the way that seem to nourish him along with the incredible wilderness experiences. In community and in the wild, he finds his own salvation. He creates heaven both in new relationships and in his amazing experiences of nature.

If you think of heaven as a here and now reality, it is realized in each moment that your awareness is pure and at peace with what is emerging. Heaven is now, the glimpses of perfect peace that we gain when we live in harmony with all of life. Heaven is also something that we can create in the here and now when we live mindfully. We literally create heaven on earth, in the earth, with the earth, for the earth.

Earth Day brings our focus back to the awful destruction of the earth at human hands, and the need to live more mindfully and simply. But there is a more fundamental connection with Earth Day which also may provide a more sustainable response to ecological despair. It is our oneness with the earth. We respect the earth because we are part of the earth, and we honor the earth that gives no concern to time and is at peace with change. Nature makes no attempt to control circumstances and offers constant reminders of change and impermanence. Nature gives us a cool summer’s day and an icy cold day in late April as if to remind us that life is unpredictable and to take nothing for granted.

Earth Day is a reminder to let go a little of the delusion of control. This is part of a response to the ecological crisis. Create some sustainable change in your thoughts that gives you peace of mind and then you will feel less need to over consume to fill a hole or try and prove your control by dominating the earth.

Earth Day usually falls very close to Easter, which is an awesome connection because the message of Easter is constantly manifested in the earth. It is the message of fresh starts, the cycle of change and rebirth and the rising of new hope. Once again the movie Into the Wild offers a beautiful parable of hope restored. Chris finds his resurrection in the movie, but it’s very much a here and now resurrection, coming to terms with who he is and how he relates to the world around him.

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam wrote the soundtrack for Into the Wild. My favorite song on the soundtrack is called Rise. With the lone Mandolin playing, the song brings to mind a collage of Chris’s adventures of self discovery. Here are the lyrics-

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow

Gonna rise up
Burning back holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
And suddenly swallowed by signs
Low and behold

Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

Resurrection happens within as you rise about self defeating thoughts, forgive your past and turn your mistakes into gold. As Chris says in the movie, “You don’t have to be strong, you just have to feel strong.” There is no single correct path to follow, but you certainly don’t have to follow a path of guilt and shame. Find your direction magnetically. Feel your way forward, knowing that there is always more to come and there is always more to learn. For now, know that you already have within you all that makes life whole and you can create heaven on earth in this moment with a conscious choice.

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  1. Myriam says:

    So beautifully stated Ian!   No single path…no guilt or shame! Thank you!

  2. Carl Van Krimpen says:

    To semi quote George Carlin:  No matter what happens, planet earth will be just fine.  It’s HUMANS that are in danger!

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