At some ideas you stand perplexed,
especially at the sight of human sins,
uncertain whether to combat it by force or by human love.
Always decide, “I will combat it with human love.”
If you make up your mind about that once and for all,
you can conquer the whole world.
Loving humility is a terrible force;
it is the strongest of all things
and there is nothing like it.”
—— Feodor Dostoyevsky
All the people of Earth have, since the dawn of time, experienced these rhythms of the planet of our birth. Those rhythms, if made a part of our lives, create an ebb and flow that can regulate the pace of our daily lives. Through the connection with the Earth that our seasonal cycles foster, we don’t get caught up in the trap of our technology and current events that keeps us moving, nonstop, between events, separated from the natural world.
As Winter approaches in the north (and our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing the coming of Spring and Summer), cycles of life are brought to our attention as the leaves change colors and death covers the landscape. The systems of the Earth, which include us, are designed to periodically pause. It is a time to reflect, to take stock in what you have received in the harvest and to prepare for the darker days ahead.
For at least the last 12,000 years, people all over the world have celebrated the passage of time, the journey of the Earth around the Sun, in ways that have connected their lives to the life of our planet. How might our lives be changed, our environmental problems be helped, and our ability to look beyond race or color or religious preference enhanced if we took more time to recognize the seasons and the wisdom they bring?
As the Earth in its journey around the Sun takes us toward Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will get shorter and shorter. The darkness will increase until we reach the Winter Solstice in December. From there, the darkness recedes and the days lengthen.
We participants in the modern world won’t notice it – our streetlights and headlights and indoor lighting have long since dulled our notice of the differences between light and dark. But to people who are more connected to the natural world, these are powerful times. It is a time to make peace with the dark and to consider it as part of the light, not to be feared but to be embraced.
Seasonal cycles are celebrated around the world by every faith. For example, in China, the first day of Fall – the Autumnal Equinox or Mabon as the pagans called it – marks the end of the rice harvest and is known as Chung Ch’’u. Jews celebrate Succoth near that time, a harvest holiday with roots in pagan culture. In old Rome, the time was celebrated with a party that went on for many days marking the Festival of Dionysus, the God of Wine.
In Winter, leaves die and Nature withers, spent after giving forth her abundance of life giving foods. She must rest so that the cycle can begin again. For those that came before us and those that strive today to be part of the natural world, it is naturally a time to reflect upon death, its meaning and importance. Darkness will soon overtake the light. It is an important time of regeneration, not a time of evil.
We also let parts of ourselves die each year, leaving behind behaviors and experiences that we no longer wish to be part of our lives, our hopes, and our dreams. This year, we might want to focus on leaving behind the blindness that comes from being overloaded with images and awareness of terrible events we are bombarded with every day.
This self-imposed blindness has created an epidemic of bad decisions, faulty reasoning, and false beliefs about how things work on our world.
For example, from the 1940’s until 1972 when it was banned, DDT was used for insect control all over the world. Millions of tons were used and the chemical can still be found worldwide in our lakes, streams, oceans, and soil. While it breaks down quickly when exposed to sunlight, it doesn’t break down well in soil and lasts a long time in water.
Proven to cause terrible neurological and reproductive damage and a suspected carcinogen in humans, DDT is still used worldwide even though it is illegal to use in the United States. It is passed to infants through breastmilk. It was even used to sterilize hospital instruments, spray foods, and prevent insect infestations in museum objects. Our nation’s museum employees, normally not considered at great risk, are exposed to DDT if they handle museum specimens that have been around since the 1940’s.
In an effort to find out how much DDT is in our nation’s waterways, the Environmental Protection Agency began collecting fish samples in the late 1990’s from hundreds of lakes and streams. In 1999, five small trout were gathered from Lake Chelan in central Washington State. They were gathered near where a creek empties into the lake that has been known to carry pesticide laden runoff over the years.
So far, 143 lakes have been tested in the program and it has taken a few years to get around to the Lake Chelan samples. But what was found should be alarming officials enough to close the lake to all fishing immediately. Instead, they are saying all is well – for now.
The EPA found 1,481 parts per billion of DDT in the Lake Chelan fish tested in 2002. Little has changed over the years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a human ingestion limit of 5 parts per million in fish. If the problem found in those 5 fish is representative of fish in the rest of the lake, which is quite likely, then people who consume fish multiple times per week could approach the FDA’s limit
The Washington State Department of Health says:
“Fish With No Limits – Enjoy!
- Burbot, Kokanee, & Rainbow Trout:
- These fish are good choices because they are low in contaminants.
Fish to Limit
- Lake Trout (Mackinaw) – One meal per week due to DDT.
- No other fish meals should be eaten that week.
Statewide Mercury Advisory
- Women who are or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children:
- Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass – Limit bass to 2 meals per month due to mercury.
- Northern Pikeminnow – Do not eat”
Their blinders are fully in place. DDT accumulates in the body. And how many people who fish for food will see the Health Department’s flyer?
It will take decisive action to eliminate the blinders we have put on to ward off the truth. It will take letters to elected representatives, boycotts, protests, and changes in behaviors for all of us. But we need energy and motivation for those actions, fuel for our hearts and our souls. The celebration of seasonal cycles can be an easy and meaningful way to create the energy we all need for action.
And we need to act now.