This article builds on my life-long connection to the land. I grew up in the country among farms and spent much of my professional life helping farmers deal with new technologies and public policies. Personally and professionally I have been an environmentalist for almost 40 years. Over that same time I have studied and learned from the native Americans who hold the land in high esteem. Through this I hope to once again to revive the hippie ideal and ideas about living on the land.
Singing While You Save the Earth
By J. Matthew Sleeth, M.D. – From BeliefNet.com
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings. – William Blake
We consider physical work undignified, but at what cost to our health and spiritual well-being? Many of us have built lives in which we have neither rest nor work. Our jobs do not stress our muscles and joints. Our rest is a series of events in which we give our minds over to machines such as televisions, computers, and DVD players. We use machines to chop vegetables, brush teeth, wash our dishes, and record our thoughts. But what is the cost of saving ourselves work?
All laborsaving devices use electricity or gasoline, cost money, produce heat, and make noise. Why do we love them so? What happens when we stop using a manual lawn mower? The non-motorized variety is inexpensive and quiet and uses no fossil fuels. The push mower requires us to exert energy; thus, we obtain exercise and become healthier. By its very nature, the manual mower dictates a reasonably sized lawn. What happens when we decide to save labor and purchase a gas-powered lawn mower? It spews out poisonous fumes, which we inhale. The mower is loud and damages our hearing; mowing our lawn requires little effort, and our muscles atrophy.
Reason, restraint, and the virtue of temperance disappear. Our lawns grow to a size associated with a few megalomaniac old-world monarchs. We laze, sleep, eat, and drink more. Finally, when we gain too much weight, we drive a two-ton vehicle to a health club where we can pay to work against the resistance of a machine. Why not just back up and push our own mower?
Physical work gives us health and meaning. While the disciples sailed, Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee to meet them. He picked grain. He washed his disciples feet. Work was not beneath him. He thought no physical labor was undignified. The washing of feet is a sign that God is willing to stoop low and to work to save us. For millennia, men and women have used simple manual labor as a way to connect with the divine qualities of Jesus.
We have unconsciously taken work out of our lives. If we want work back, were going to have to consciously reinstate it. Lets use drying clothes as an example. The standard electric dryer consumes energy at a rate of 5000 watts, meaning that it takes five kilowatt-hours of energy to do one load of laundry. If your family dries one load of laundry a day using an electric dryer, you use 150 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month. Back at the power plant, one ton of poisonous gases are created each year to run your family’s dryer.
When our family initially stopped using a clothes dryer, we did so because we no longer wanted to produce poisonous gases. Now, we live in a house with no dryer. Clothing dried in a machine lasts only half as long as line-dried garments. The “lint” you pull out of the trap consists of fibers shredded off your clothing. Now we save money, have clothes that last longer, and arent polluting as much. But those benefits are the minor benefits. What we discovered was the dignity of work, and the spiritual fruits of doing it in a monastic manner. What do I mean by this?
St. Anthony is cited as starting the monastic way of life in AD 270. He sold his belongings, gave the money to the poor, lived alone, read the Bible, and did manual labor. He did this in order to grow spiritually. When I hang the laundry, I make it a spiritual event. I pray, talk to God, and sing gospel songs. I pair a minor physical task that requires little thinking with a dialogue with the Creator of the universe. I may occasionally resent hanging laundry, but how can I regret time spent with God? The same goes for shoveling snow, hand-washing dishes, chopping vegetables, or biking to the post office.
All honest work can be done for the glory of God. As time passes and we grow in our understanding of God and the uniqueness of this planet, we reject more and more “laborsaving” machines. There is an old saying: If you are troubled, chop wood and carry water. This is wise advice. If you pray at the same time, so much the better. Begin to build an hour of work into your daily life. The result will be more life in your day. The flip side of work is rest. God commands all of us to take a day of rest each week, but how many of us take his advice?
Native American Ethics and Spirituality
All my life I have been attracted to and amazed by the Native Americans who have been beaten back for centuries by the European capitalist expansion. I continue as a professor to be very interested in native culture and also spirituality. This is a very nice overview of some key lessons. Too many people today have too little appreciation for the major contributions that native American values and beliefs can make toward building a better world.
This Code of Ethics is from The Good Red Road newsletter by Terri Jean www.terrijean.com
- Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.
- Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.
- Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.
- Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.
- Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.
- Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plant.
- Honor other people’s thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.
- Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.
- All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.
- Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.
- Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.
- Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life’s lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.
- Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.
- Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of one’s will within this universe.
- Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self – all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.
- Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.
- Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others – especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.
- Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.
- Respect others’ religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.
- Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity