The Myth of Purity, Social & Environmental Justice

One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

When humanity’s stories don’t adulterate it, the life of our Planet organizes itself to be an attractive optimum of self-correcting diversity, cooperation and peace. It does not produce garbage. Everything is in balance and belongs because all things are attracted to transform and recycle into more attractive relationships for the good of the whole of the planet’s life.
Earth’s organic paradise is ethical and moral. It seldom exhibits our stories and the excessiveness, disorders, issues, assaults, illness, unfairness, toxic waste, corruption, crime and wars that our stories create. As part of the life of Earth, death as we know it is simply another form of Earth’s life, a form without stories.” Michael Cohen, applied eco-psychology
~ Michael Cohen, from applied Eco-psychology

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A small wood cabin in Sechelt: a quiet spot by the sea

I have read and heard many stories of people becoming “pure”: living without money or very simple lives, getting rid of plastic and anything “toxic” (sometimes this includes “toxic” people, relationships and institutions) and not allowing anything “artificial” coming to their lives. Those who can, get out of cities and live “the good life” and when possible, off the grid.

I have to confess I want to live that way too: that is the reason I am a master organic gardener and as such, I try my best to abide by organic rules of gardening; for the same reason I chose not to drive and not to own a car, haven’t get on a plane for 12 years (since I immigrated to Canada); became vegan this year; use cloth napkins and clothe pads; compost all my kitchen scraps and paper/cardboard; make most of my personal and household care products; make all food from scratch and as much as possible from my gardens and/or gleaning from community fruit trees and perennials; sun-dry most of my clothes and many other behavioural changes implemented in the past few years at home.

However, my heart is strong about social & environmental justice, engaged Buddhism (which predicates compassion for what it is and allowance for what it may become/impermanence) and true Permaculture Ethics.

I believe in design, but all good (and ethical) design not only focus on functions but also on critical thinking: it asks for understanding of how systems work and working with them instead of against them; it asks for working with what we have and where we are instead of dreaming about an unreachable purity that may drive people and other beings away and make us look like elitists and privileged ones trying to preach “the truth” and convince others about how they “should” live…

This is why I don’t really believe in purity.

Let me explain: whether we allowed, supported or were accidentally and unwillingly born into it, we live in a destructive and polluting society: water, land, air, soil, all ecosystems at all levels are already polluted, corrupted and destabilized by our actions and inactions. No matter how far you run, there is no “away” as there is no “away” for all that plastic you “got rid of” at your home. There is no “away” from pollutants and the horrendous damage already caused and still happening. There is no away from those who have not yet awaken and are trapped in a cycle of harm, oppression, disempowerment or denial.

There is only one ethical response and that is of love and compassion.

Anything less than that is the exercise of privilege, therefore it leads to discrimination through elitism and judgment, it is also a selfish and self-centered way to see and act in the world that leads to separation and detachment from what we are.

I cannot deny this is an ongoing struggle for me and many activists out there: how much do we invest ourselves into the mess, the pain, the suffering of the world; how much of transition can we allow in our lives without becoming overwhelmed and burnt out? When is it healthier and even a matter of spiritual or psychical survival to detach ourselves from those who seem to be dragging us down and pollute our minds, hearts and bodies in such a way that our effectiveness stops to count?

Through these past weeks, I have been inundated with signs and helps coming to me from all walks of life: it is like the Universe opened its doors and keeps offering me infinite sacred gifts in the form of inspiring and supporting people coming into my life or renewing their vows of friendship to me; the gifts have also come as opportunities of doing what I love and believe necessary for the healing of the world and the transition down to a real relationship with it all; opportunities to learn and share and do in incredibly creative and previously unseen ways.

But it has been also clear to me that none of these opportunities just “showed up” out of the blue. The magic happened because I decided to knock on those doors and approach people and places.

Entrance to a friend’s vegetable garden…

Two Rumi quotes seem appropriate for what I want to express:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” ~ Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along
~ Rumi

Purity will only be achieved when we stop building barriers of separation between “us” and “them” and start loving others and accepting their imperfections: meeting people and ecosystems, systems of any type where and when and how they are. It is when we embrace this and the fact that we are not “better” nor have “the truth” that we will finally achieve social and environmental justice.

Yes, we have to seek our “tribe” and places and practices to heal and recharge: I do that when I travel to my beloved places such as Roberts Creek (for the Advanced Permaculture Diploma and gatherings), or Shawnigan Lake (to share with the people at OUR Ecovillage)…those are the places where we meet our “lovers”: the people who have been with us all along and share our values and deep wishes for the world. But we also need to stay behind with those who have not yet awaken, those who may still be on denial and disconnection, because in most cases this is not a state of their choice but a state imposed on them by the many limiting factors and restrictions such as poverty, hunger, lack of opportunities, and even deep cultural indoctrination.

That is why my permaculture may never be an “elitist” permaculture for those who can afford “going pure”: it is a grassroots, struggling and transitional permaculture, as leaving people behind and making them feel inappropriate or unable is not “People Care” nor “Future Care” and does not lead to ethical designs nor “permanent cultures”.

I could live, teach, share and work here all my life!

If you want to work with communities and people, there are a few “rules” I can share with you that have worked for me:

  • Listen to Gaia and its inhabitants and listen to the Universe: all of us (awake or not, connected or not “pure” or not) are 14 billions old. If you think I’m being naïve or New Age-y, think again: every atom in your body and thought or feeling in your soul has belonged to star dust, millions of rocks and lava and trees and worms and insects and “waste” and all the beauty and “ugliness” of this world. If you stop and listen you’ll feel the connections and ancient wisdom and you’ll know what to do.
  • Before any “doing”, observe and interact: you’ll be surprised how much the people, communities and ecosystems you want to help, coach, teach or advice already have answers and solutions for their own particular challenges and struggles. You are here to support and witness their awakening, not to give lessons.
  • Stop the wetiko voice in your head and start behaving more like a child: remember the times when you were still curious and open, when an earth-worm would keep your attention for hours and you were not afraid or disgusted by touching it; remember the time when you thought everything was possible and that the good ones always win.
  • Find a place you can call home. Go to that place as many times as you need to, even if not physically possible. Stay there and ask for help. I ask strength from the trees and they sent me a walking Tree who renewed my commitment to what is sacred (There are no enough times in this world for me to thank you, Tree K.)
  • When you feel hurt, lost, isolated and overwhelmed, remember the billions of aliens out there: “The tears stopped soon enough. I realized we are not so outnumbered. We are not outnumbered at all. I looked closely, and saw one blade of wild grass, and another. I saw the sun reflecting bright off the needles of pine trees, and I heard the hum of flies. I saw ants walking single file file through the dust, and a spider crawling toward the corner of the ceiling. I knew in that moment, as I’ve known ever since, that it is no longer possible to be lonely, that every creature on earth is pulling in the direction of life – every grasshopper, every struggling salmon, every unhatched chick, every cell of every blue whale – and it is only our own fear that sets us apart” ~ Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words, The Safety of the Metaphor (p.75)

Namaste, I salute the sacred in you…

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien, there was no stain.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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