By Dave Holmes
I was fortunate enough to holiday recently in Costa Rica – a really interesting country on several levels! They disbanded their military in 1948, and have not only survived but thrived, even in Central America with all the drug problems and the Cold War. Instead of military, they have invested in health care, education, and environment. As a result, you can pretty much drink the water from any tap (unlike many Central American countries) and the country plans to be carbon neutral by, I think, 2020.
I’m thinking of this because one of the stories Rabbi Rami encourages us to tell our children is the story of who we are, and where we come from. In Genesis, one of our creation stories involves God making human beings – earthlings – out of earth. Humans out of humus.
What wondrous beings we are!
Now my kids are in their 20’s, and one of them has a degree in Kinesiology. He has become our “go-to” guy for aches and pains, and as part of his explanations to us, it’s clear he knows a lot about anatomy. We are pretty complicated, intricate beings!
But one thing that Rabbi Rami notes is that really, we are much more than our bodies.
“Take your lungs for example, while they do exist inside your [body], and while they are absolutely essential to your survival, they rely on processes that have nothing to do with what goes on inside your body.
Lungs need oxygen, but they don’t make oxygen. While your body is good at making methane, and seems to get better at this with age, nothing in your body makes oxygen. Oxygen is made through the process of photosynthesis, a process that requires trees, plants, and sunlight. If your body needs lungs, and your lungs need oxygen, and oxygen needs trees and sunlight, then trees and sunlight are as essential to your body as your lungs. In fact, if you tell your kids the true story of their bodies, trees, plants, and sunlight are as much a part of their body as lungs.”
–Rabbi Rami guide to Parenting, 42-43
We are connected.
We are of the earth, part of the earth, not separate from it. We’re part of each other, parts of a larger community that includes all people (all people), the earth, and indeed all of this amazing universe. As attributed to Chief Seattle, what we do to the earth we do to ourselves. Being in a country like Costa Rica, so conscious of the beauty and importance of their natural forests and coastlines, was a powerful reminder of that.
Rabbi Rami encourages us to create our own play-doh (he has a recipe: write and ask if you need one!), build a big earth ball with it, and draw up out of the earth trees, plants, animals, people, cities, valleys, farms… Don’t separate anything, just draw all these things up out of the earth – because that’s really the way things are. We are from the earth, of the earth, part of the earth.
At an animal rehabilitation centre we visited, I got to hold a toucan. He seemed quite placid and friendly. I was actually expecting sharp claws – but the toucan was very gentle. It felt like we shared a moment of kinship. If you have a dog (or maybe a cat) you will know that much more deeply.
Here’s one more exercise that I find quite spiritual: take your kids out to Fish Creek park, or the Weaselhead Flats. Take along some sunflower seeds. As you walk, if you hear chickadees singing, stand still and hold out some sunflower seeds on your hand. Chances are pretty good the chickadees will land right on your fingers and eat the seeds from your hand.
It’s a gift, a privilege, and a responsibility. We are the earth.
p.s. If you missed Dave’s first post on Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, read it here.