Opening to Compassion

My last blog was on conservative Christians and climate change, and here I am again with the same theme, simply because life keeps putting information in my way that ties into this. Its funny how patterns emerge in your reading – the same thing coming up in different ways as if someone is saying, “Look at this!” Recently I read an article by Ron Rolheiser drawing attention to the spiritual and intellectual ‘camps’ we place ourselves in, often without noticing we are doing it. My camp of ‘liberal thinkers’ can be harsh and dismissive of evangelical Christians, and I heard a wake-up call in this article to put prejudice aside and try to enter the experience of the ‘other.’ So it was very timely that I came across a novel by Barbara Kingsolver called Flight Behavior which takes a compassionate look at a conservative Christian community in bible belt USA trying to come to grips with the terrible and beautiful effects of climate change. The protagonist is a young woman caught between her loyalty and empathy toward her family and neighbours and the mind expanding scientific knowledge delivered by a top notch biologist who ends up living on her family’s property while he studies the extraordinary phenomena of the local forest being covered in wintering monarch butterflies who have been forced by climate change to give up their ancestral migratory flight path to Mexico. Dellarobia opens up the world of being poor, uneducated and immersed in a fundamentalist mindset in a way that invites the reader to understand that way of life and sympathise with its strengths and weaknesses. This is a book that affected me on many levels. Apart from opening my mind and heart to evangelical Christians, I felt the denial that is deep in human nature when we don’t want to confront the catastrophic consequences of our actions – the desire for a miracle to pull us through. I learnt a lot about climate change and how pollution is destroying the lives of  many wondrous creatures, including the monarch butterfly. I felt the threat of the imminent disaster we are bringing upon the human population.

This morning on the way to work I heard that there are half as many animals alive on Earth now that were there in the 1970’s. When will our hearts break and open us up to compassion.

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