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Solstice expands perspective on life

My perspective of home expands when I think of the coming winter solstice. A few of the sun’s rays reach deep into my office as I write these words, an occurrence peculiar to this time of year and south-facing windows. Other beams of light meet a different fate, ending their eight-minute sojourn from the nuclear furnace at the center of our little planetary system by striking the panels atop my roof, transforming their marvelous energy into a useful flow of electrons. I can see it in my little desktop display: 4.031 kilowatts at the moment. Amazing! It’s all about angles and orientation, in step with natural rhythms that resonate throughout the infinity of space and time.

The solstice reminds me of our real home. It brings to mind the unimaginable vastness of the universe, both known and unknown, with billions of galaxies and trillions of stars. Our sun is one of them, though relatively small and insignificant in the big scheme of things. Our home circles around that point of light, bringing forth each solstice and equinox, each spring and fall, as if gestures from the hips of some beautiful cosmic dancer.

The legendary R. Buckminster Fuller referred to us all as astronauts and called our vehicle Spaceship Earth. It has been the one and only home we’ve ever known. When viewed from that perspective, it seems odd that we would ever consider doing anything except to care for it with the utmost respect and priority. But we don’t. Why is that?

It seems to me that there is no greater gift than life itself. And life itself depends absolutely upon the integrity of our ship. Concepts like sustainability and green living are simply ways to describe what should be the default behavior of our entire species. They are not optional, they are essential. You wouldn’t buy a car without wheels would you? Well I don’t buy into a society that does not care to go anywhere either. Let’s be honest, if we’re not doing everything in our power to sustain our existence, then we’re either incredibly selfish or astonishingly foolish. Or maybe we’re both.

Based on results, it seems acceptable that we have political gridlock and partisan games. We’re OK with corporations that, having been granted the same rights as actual people, act in turn with great inhumanity. It seems that as long as there is profit to be made and short-term fun to be had, all else is secondary. Can you imagine real astronauts acting that way? One craft, one life-support system, one chance for survival and everyone onboard partying like there was no tomorrow. Seems absurd, but in many ways it’s what we’re doing.

If we care about our future, we must care for our home. We must place value on things that really matter, like clean air and water, healthy forests and oceans. We must stop pretending that it’s OK to damage our world and that it saves us money. It doesn’t. We are paying the ultimate price. We must stop living like there’s no tomorrow, or else we will create exactly that.

The solstice reminds me that the Earth has been turn, turn, turning for a very long time. It will continue on its journey, regardless of its passengers and their choices. I suppose that placing so much importance on the long-term viability of humanity is itself an act of selfishness. Maybe the Beatles were on to something when they sang, “Let It Be.” But I’m always drawn back to the amazing gift of life and the deep experience we have of it. I can accept an asteroid that obliterates our existence; I cannot accept a future diminished or extinguished because we just couldn’t stop buying Barbie dolls or spewing carbon.

It’s funny what a bit of sunlight coming in through the window can lead to. I hope you enjoy this winter’s solstice. If you have a moment, think about our little spaceship with all of us on board, together. We can choose equality, justice, peace and health. That reminds me of another song by a member of the Beatles, John Lennon, who simply said, “Imagine.”

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Steve, please visit www.greendream.biz.

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