A Story

A young man worked tirelessly for the good of the environment, but in his heart he despaired that anything he did could really make a difference. He had a bumper sticker on his car: "Save the planet; commit suicide." One day, tired and dispirited, after one more failed campaign to save the trees, he asked a wandering teacher, "Wouldn't this world be a better place if there were no people in it?"

The teacher said, "Let me tell you a story."

"Once a daughter was tired of working in her mother's house and fields, so she went to her mother and asked for her inheritance, so that she could go out into the world. The mother wished that the girl would stay, but could not prevent her leaving. So the mom gave her child the jewels and treasures that had been passed down from her great-grandmothers and their mothers, and off the girl went into the world.

"The daughter moved to the city, and soon enough had spent her treasure on glitzy clothes, drugs, and high living. When the last jewel had been cashed in, and she was reduced to living in rags on the street, picking her lunch out of the trash at McDonalds's, the thought came to her, "I could go home." She fought this idea--how could she go home when she'd blown it so completely! But it kept coming to her mind that she could go back to her mother's farm and be a servant or a field hand, and have enough to eat.

"When her mother saw her walking slowly up the road, she called out for joy, and ran out and drew her child to her bosom. The daughter wept, and said, "Mother, I have done wrong. I'm not worthy to be called your child; but let me be a servant in your house." The mother raised her up and dried her tears, sent her into the house for a hot bath, while a great feast was prepared. She was glad in her heart that her lost child was returned. Always that empty place at the table had grieved the hearts of the family; now they would be whole again."

We could change the tale. Perhaps the mother was dying when the child returned: still how glad was her heart to see her child again! This makes a sadder ending, but for all their tears, there is still joy in the reunion.

Or maybe, we don't know, as the girl lays her head on the mother's breast, whether or not the mother will live. The story teller is such a tease to leave the ending dangling, but perhaps what he wants us to see is that what is important is the love that flows so freely between the two at this moment...

...And as for thee, who have also laid waste to treasures, far from thy mother's house, someone hearing thy story might ask, "But did thee then repent, and return to thy mother? And wasn't she glad to see thee, and didn't thee rejoice in her embrace?"

Gail Eastwood <eastwood@asis.com> November 11, 2000

eastwood@asis.com writes (7/9/00):

...Our negative actions toward the earth are exactly mirrored in our negative attitudes towards ourselves. This deeply despairing stance is not likely to be a wellspring of spiritual strength and creative action. What have we to offer here? Befriend a tree, and see whether the tree hates you! Our lives are part of the fabric, even when we feel ourselves separate.

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