Nurturing and Justice

Our earth is in need of nurturing. Our dominant cultural trend has been toward believing ourselves to be separate from the environment, yet we are increasingly becoming aware of the consequences of that belief. In many ways, humans act like an invasive species overrunning our waters and lands with activity, exhausting the environment and damaging local ecosystems without natural predators who might check our activity and keep the web of life in balance. As we are conscious beings, capable of reflection and change, we are capable of changing our relationship to the world. We are capable of building new reef to begin to replace what has been destroyed. We care for the sick and wounded animals who have been hurt by our actions, but we are not doing enough to restore balance.

So too in our culture. In the United States, we are still left with the legacy of our history that continues to perpetuate systems of injustice that disenfranchise our citizens. We have made strides toward equality of law for LGBT people, and yet the most vulnerable among us still get kicked out of their homes, struggle to find and keep jobs, or support their health. Those of us with a measure of privilege live with a near-unconscious terror of any threat to that privilege, a fear of losing everything if we lose anything, and close our eyes and ears to this suffering.

I think nurturing can seem scary to many of us, especially when we have been hurt or felt unloved. Some of us fear that opening our hearts to care or listen to another person means losing all capacity for reason or setting boundaries. If I make eye contact with this person asking for money, or engage them in a conversation, then I fear I will end up giving them my wallet and letting them sleep in my bed. If I acknowledge to this person that I love that I was wrong about one thing, then I fear losing all ground and having to surrender my needs completely. We do not have to go all the way. I think this all or nothing mentality only speaks to the unmet need within us to nurture and hold boundaries. If we cannot acknowledge the need and act upon it, then the need grows more looming and terrifying. Our hearts grow stronger, however, when we face another to give as much as we are willing to give and refuse to give what we are unwilling to give.

We are in need of nurturing, and nurturing is not the same as doing everything for another person. Nurturing is that loving approach to helping others and ourselves feel loved, valued, and capable. To build coral reefs and control invasive species is to nurture life in the oceans. We can cultivate the conditions of balance and justice in our seas, in our hearts, and in our country. Those of us with privilege can can listen to the stories of being terrorized by the forces meant to protect us without trying to convince ourselves that these people are lying, exaggerating, or wrong. We can take another step and try to work together to transform these systems, and not arrogantly assume that we can solve the problem if we have never experienced this kind of discrimination.

I want to open my heart to greater justice and balance in this world. I want my actions to work toward this justice. The thought terrifies me, and I want to keep going.

Though these links are incomplete and subject to debate, here are some possibilities for taking action:

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