Thursday, April 4, 2013

Taking Responsibility

Today is Thursday, April 4, 2013. 

When I first heard the expression, "You create your own reality," I must confess I thought it sounded like some sort of New Age doublespeak.  After all, none of us exists in a vacuum.  How could we all participate in a shared reality if each of us was creating our own?

I've come to realize that this is exactly what we do.  Each of us is busy creating our reality, and some of what each of us creates becomes a part of a shared reality.  Have you ever witnessed an event with other people, only to disagree later on what actually happened?  Each of us has a different perspective on the event that we witness with others, because we bring our inner awareness and beliefs with us, so we process things in a unique way from everyone else. Part of the way we process things has to do with our attitudes and world-view, our deeply-ingrained beliefs, our upbringing, our recent experience elsewhere, and our schooling, among other things.  That's why you and I can witness the same event but have different ideas about what happened and what it means.

A lot of people don't like to hear that they create their own reality because they don't want to take responsibility, particularly not for what others do, especially if they don't condone it.  When the teacher asks elementary students to clean up the room at the end of the day, one of the kids always balks, saying, "I didn't throw that on the floor," or "I didn't mess this up."  It's hard to realize that no matter who actually threw the item on the floor, the whole class is responsible for keeping the classroom clean.  Even if you didn't throw the paper on the floor, if you are responsible for keeping the room clean, you have to do whatever it takes to make the room clean again, including picking up the paper.  

Every parent knows that no matter who made the mess (read: the kids), they (read: the adults) are responsible for keeping the home clean and neat. Little by little, wise parents transfer some of that responsibility to their kids.  By the time they are in high school, "pick up your own mess" should be a no-brainer.
You'd think people would "get" this by the time they are adults, but they don't.  Human beings are all responsible for keeping our earth clean and habitable.  No, I didn't throw that plastic wrap I saw on the ground today.  Most likely, someone else threw it away and the wind blew it right out of the trash can and onto the sidewalk in front of me.  Nevertheless, I'm the one responsible for picking it up.  Why?  Because it's there within my sphere of influence, and I have agreed to keep my environment clean.  For today, that means picking up a plastic wrapper off the sidewalk.

I didn't cause the recent oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, either, but there are some things I can do to take responsibility.  I can share information and try to raise awareness about it on Facebook and use this blog to talk about the dangers of oil spills.  I can attend a public town hall meeting in Grand Island, Nebraska, on April 18 to make my opposition to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline heard by the U.S. Government.  I can sign petitions against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. 

The Native American community is particularly vocal about this issue, because the proposed extension of the Keystone XL Pipeline goes right through their lands.  I don't blame them.  As a group, they are much more aware than others of their responsibility to future generations to keep the earth clean and habitable. They recognize that the results of their actions will affect their descendants seven or more generations down the line.  How many of us consider the future implications of our actions in those terms?

For the last couple of days friends of mine have reminded me that fossil fuels are still a big part of our present-day economy, and that everyone depends on oil, particularly if they drive a car, as do a majority of Americans.  I agree, this is true, but that doesn't mean we can't start investing in renewable, clean energy sources, such as solar power and wind power.  It certainly doesn't mean we have to continue to give the oil giants what amounts to a subsidy when they are making obscenely huge profits.  It doesn't mean we can't invent cars that run on other fuels. It doesn't mean we have to let the oil giants do whatever they like, including building gigantic pipelines that will eventually get old, as pipelines always do, and spill oil all over creation.   

One guy told me he was a "big picture guy" so he didn't want to think about the "little things."  I wonder whether the people who have been evacuated from their homes in Mayflower, Arkansas, think this oil in their yards is a "little thing"?  According to the "big picture guy," these people apparently don't count.  The wildlife in the area don't count, either, I guess.

We like to think that God cares for us as individuals, that God knows exactly how many hairs are on the head of each individual.  We've been told that God cares about each and every animal, as well.  If God cares for them, shouldn't we care for them, too?  After all, the first human beings were told that they were to be caretakers of the land and all the animals.

Someone else told me something along these lines: "OK so there was a spill.  Big deal.  That's what happens sometimes.  Grow up and accept reality."   Here's the thing, though: How many more times will we allow toxic spills to ruin our environment, poison our land and water, kill wildlife, and upset the natural ecological balance?  What will be the tipping point?  Do we have to court disaster on an unprecedented magnitude?  The pipeline that leaked oil in Arkansas carries about 90,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).  The Keystone XL Pipeline is supposed to carry 800,000 barrels of oil per day.  Do we have to wait until toxic spills directly threaten our food and water supplies?  Will we stand by and allow our environment to be polluted until it can no longer sustain life on this planet?  Will we wait until there is not only a spill, but a fire that burns and burns and burns, causing not only animal and plant life to be extinguished, but also human life, as well?  

 This is truly an individual decision.  Each individual has to decide how much responsibility they want to take, not necessarily for the destruction of the environment, but for the maintenance of the environment.  Everyone has to decide what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and everybody has to choose what they will do when the situation becomes unacceptable.  :-/

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