How I was looking forward to this year’s annual end-of-December State of the World Forum hosted by Michael and Judie Bopp at their home northwest of Cochrane. (See my Nov. 12, 2020 column).
You guessed it, another COVID casualty. But that didn’t stop the globe-trotting international development couple from sharing by email some of the thoughts they would have shared with the 60 to 80 folks had we been able to gather together. For our first column of 2021 I’d like to pass on to you excerpts from their letter.
“What we have written is about what we are seeing and learning regarding the state of the world and what we can all do about it,” Michael and Judie wrote. There is a sense in which the pandemic is a gift, they said, a reminder of the Anishinaabe First Nations’ historic insight referred to as the “Eighth Fire Prophecy”:
“The human family would encounter a crossroads. If and only if the (long-anticipated) ‘light-skinned visitors’ joined hands with the Indigenous people of the land and the other people of the four directions in one common circle of unity, working together in harmony for the wellbeing of the earth and for the good of all—then and only then would the world be spared from terrible calamity.”
Yes, in a sense the pandemic can be viewed as a gift. It’s about awakening “a thirst for spiritual reconnection,” Michael and Judie said.
“The merry-go-round of daily life has all but stopped. And in the ensuing pause, when the ambient noise of our life is quieted, we can hear our own heartbeat, perhaps for the first time in years, and we can reflect on the state of the world. Is this not a gift?”
Michael and Judie highlighted three important lessons they’ve gleaned from this gift.
“The fundamental oneness and interconnectedness of us all, no matter who we are or where we live on this earth, is reality, and any other view is based on ignorance and lies. The hurt of one is the hurt of all; the honour of one is the honour of all. Wherever there is pain and suffering in this world, we have a duty of care, a duty to act, not just for the sake of those poor ones who are hurting, but for the wellbeing of all of us….
“There is such a thing as ‘reality’ (or the truth) and it needs to be vigorously defended for the good of all…. Contrary to reality as expressed both by science and the teachings of all the major world religions, millions of light-skinned North Americans believe that people of colour are subhuman, inferior, dangerous, even vermin…. Millions more believe that COVID-19 is ‘fake news’…despite overwhelming evidence…to the contrary…. For the sake of suffering humanity and the sustainability of all life, the truth is in need of courageous and unrelenting defenders.
“‘You can't change the world’ is the biggest lie our mothers ever told us. Of course they told us that because they believed it. They loved us, and they were just trying to protect us. But they were wrong. The only way the world has ever been changed is by ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sometimes they did them alone, but often they worked together with others, and often they did so under seemingly impossible odds….
“It usually means a lot of work, both inner work to keep our motives pure and to prepare ourselves to be effective, and the outer work of making extreme effort over a long time despite the fact that we want to quit…(and) constrict ourselves into selfishness…. Maybe we've been going so long that we can see no end in sight, and so we give up hope. At that point we have lost sight of reality. Because reality is illumined by love. Such lapses can happen to anyone. That's why we need our daily disciplines, our inner work….”
Such inner work is not just about nice thoughts, however. Michael and Judie concluded their letter by setting before all of us a challenge for 2021: “The problem is, you have to care enough to arise, to move, to do something. The opposite of love is laziness.”
Thank you, Michael and Judie, for your wisdom on the state of the world and what we can do about it.
© 2021 Warren Harbeck