Thinking about the world and me, my place in it, and my responsibility to it — these are topics for a book, not an essay! However, I will compress my thoughts into an essay. Gratitude, wonder, awe, and something else, something beautifully conveyed in Cavafy’s poem, Ithaka, destiny perhaps, are among my responses to our world. However, here I will not express those sentiments, but rather, my sense of responsibility about my presence in this world.
I have been alive for three-quarters of a century on this planet, most of the time in high appreciation for it. My planetary view was recently modified by the images conveyed by the Webb telescope’s images, which impress upon me that I am personally less than a grain of sand in this glorious universe. How can I combine that reality with the equally valid reality of my personal presence, emotions, thoughts, and feelings? These conflicting scales are impossible to hold!
Nevertheless, I accept these scales and dimensions as reality, aware that my depth of understanding is minimal. This helps me to scale and accept my personal drive towards being a responsible, though tiny, human being in this massive universe. I experience a strong drive to being a responsible user of limited resources on this finite planet and also to encourage others to live similarly. How does this drive take form for me?
It includes a mix and ranges from recognizing my personally limited resources (physical, mental, and emotional energies) to identifying multinational organizations, such as Chase Bank and ISO, builders of fossil fuel powered plants, whose greed overrides any realistic negative sense of planetary destruction achieved through their financing and promotion of fossil fuels. Among my actions taken both to promote greater understanding within the general public and to deter the greedy proponents of fossil fuels have been: joining others to remove coal from a coal-powered plant, resulting in arrest; standing in front of a coal-carrying freight train, videotaping my cutting up of my Chase Bank card, before returning it to a branch bank; and participating in a ‘die-in’ near the site of a proposed power plant. (Note my picture from 9/28/22 Salem News front page.)
Other actions connecting me to the world result from my relatively new understanding of the lies I learned growing up concerning the role of indigenous people in New England. My reactions, beyond surprise, have been to increase my awareness, to act with intention towards people with that heritage, and to recognize and share the land history where I live.
My relationship to the world also includes my relationship to the people in it. As my understanding of that has changed during past decades, I have also modified my actions to include promotion of Black Lives Matter and GBLT gatherings and active protests of anti-Semitic and other acts that denigrate any minority groups. For me, this is the conscious result of recognition of the interconnection among us all.
To close, all of these occurrences of enormously different scales are interconnected. It is very easy to take it in and end up feeling small, as if it makes no difference what one person does. My belief is that it is just as easy to take it in and believe that we each must act out of goodness, out of belief that we each matter, and that our actions matter, whether or not we can see an immediate result.
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