Wildfires are raging across California. The sky is burnt red orange grey. Ash has settled on my stationary car, the bare earth, the leafy trees near my window, my moving body. Ash signifying that something has burned, is burning, will continue to burn.
What transformation is being asked of me, of us in this community of humans? What is the earth communicating in this red sky, this ash pointing to loss in so many forms?
Something must change.
What is burning? Vast acreage of forest and grassland, thousands of people’s homes and farms, things, bodies.
What is burning? The illusion of invincibility. That we are safe inside of our homes, with purifiers stripping impurities from air before it enters our lungs. That we can escape the uncertainties of this life with enough money, insurance, or things.
What is burning? The ignorance that allows us to deny the impact of our actions: exploiting the earth, burning fossil fuels, polluting the oceans — the results of an extractive economy based in greed.
What is burning? My faith in things outside of myself, in policy and systems to create change.
What’s left? Deep grief and sorrow for the loss of things, homes, and people.
What’s left? Growing awareness of the shifting ground on which I stand, the need to develop and deepen my resilience to change.
What’s left? Willingness to step forth into this life as a new being, committed to social and racism equity, steeped in healing and loving energy for all people and the earth, focused on the path of activism and peace-building at home as I did in other parts of the world. I will not turn back to old patterns of being to give myself the illusion of safety, for I know that it is not by acquiring money, a house, or things that I will find true security. True safety and security must emanate from my very being, from knowing myself and my values. From accepting the impermanence of this life.
Old ways of being may not be possible much longer. Already the pandemic has shifted entrenched habits: We may not dine indoors, congregate at dance clubs, sporting events, or venture anywhere with large crowds — at least for the next few months, maybe longer.
We must change the means of production that values profit over individual life. The rationale for capitalism — that the market is efficient, that producing goods and services is the basis for value — must change. People must be allowed and encouraged to create in new ways. The individualist mindset perpetuated by Western society cannot stand. Those in positions of power must take responsibility to act for the collective benefit.
We must learn to support each member of our community, to see them as human beings in need of basic resources, just like us. We must learn to acknowledge and celebrate difference, and to recognize our common humanity too. We must be willing to sacrifice for those we don’t know.
We must reduce our dependencies on large-scale agriculture and move towards community farming. We must live in harmony with the earth, taking only what we need, investing in regenerative sources of energy, reforesting. We must stop extractive economy that views the earth’s gifts as free resources to exploit and profit from.