Climate Change has made all the news that's fit to print. For weeks millions of human beings worldwide have been invited to put their feet on to the pavement to join hands in an international solidarity speak-out on Climate Change. After Superstorm Sandy even insular New Yorkers now know this is a "no brainer." Climate has been changing and humankind, as scientists attest to, is the major contributor. Some of us ask, will this Feet-on-the-Ground Public action stop the madness of contaminating fossil fuel on the part of the major conglomerates, and their fabulously funded legislators? Could the polis, 'we the people,' actually stop egregiously exposing the atmosphere to deadly proportions of planetary CO2 by a corporate elite? Could vast numbers of well meaning human beings change the hubris of the hard, crusty, well-funded hearts of the industrial/imperial giants? I prefer to walk to find out.
With all the hoopla and incendiary rhetoric about the looming future, I have aggressively returned to the work of Robinson Jeffers, Aldo Leopold, John Berger, Wendell Berry, and Charles Darwin, among others. I incline an ear to Jeffers' work at the early part of the 20th Century, because I am not sure all this Climate Change is about humankind. Jeffers wrote with clarity throughout his obscure career, writing in the neighborhood of the massive permanence of California's Big Sur (before the crowds). He was ostracized from the literature world, not for his skill, but for his developing of a tradition of "in-humanism." That is, to be very cryptic, he wrote about the beauty, power of this planet without significant attention to humankind as the main actor. We are significant, yet tertiary, when undertaking the "deep time" of the planet we have borrowed since humankind became an active ingredient. I should also say that we are tertiary partners in the planet despite the church's historic hermeneutic that we are the ones who must dominate and rule, so called, "creation." Climate Change forces us to rethink our place in the biosphere.
Mr. Jeffers and a few other prophetic poets have sought to turn an anthropocentric and homo sapiens myopic perspective into a planet-scape that has no reason to worry about humankind other than to keep itself keeping on. Robinson refers to that planetary "umph" as 'the spoiler.' It could be that the spoiler is the place of permanence many others refer to as G*d. But in the case of Robinson Jeffers' orientation, the ebb and flow of humankind residing on this planet dissolves in the work and beauty of granite. John Michael Greer writes, "Personal maturity begins, after all, with letting go of the infantile self-regard that puts the ego and its cravings at the center of the cosmos. It's arguably time to apply that same insight to humanity as a whole" (Dark Mountain Issue I, 2010, page 14).
In my personal biblical hermeneutic, I believe this reference to the spoiler is in relation to G*d's sustained hesed (referred to in the Hebrew Bible as an unquenchable 'lovingkindness'). G*d - in the biblical tradition - prefers life. If humankind uses up life, that is, spends it wantonly, without a planetary partnership, the present seven billion human beings will find it impossible to remain fed. For now I turn to a poem Mr. Jeffers wrote early in the 20th century to express this idea that, perhaps the day dedicated to climate change could be our opportunity to return to the spoiler, to that abiding presence that is etched in granite and from which come the forces of nature. The poem is called, Carmel Point.
The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses ~
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rock-heads ~
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. ~ As for us:
We must un-center our minds from ourselves;
We must un-humanize or views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.
Again, John Michael Greer: "When we realize that human history is nothing unique ~ from nature's perspective, we're simply one more species that overshot the carrying capacity of its environment and is about to pay the routine price ~ we can get past the habit of wallowing in a self blame that is first cousin to self praise, face up to the hard choices ahead, and make them with some sense of perspective and, at least potentially, some possibility of grace." (page 17).
Perhaps this day gives us pause to think less of ourselves and more of the abiding presence of life as a planet with the Spoiler and the grain of granite.
Rev. David H. Rommereim