Don’t say Happy Earth Day to me, please. Seriously.
“People only protect the things they deeply love. And you don’t truly love something unless you inherently identify with it.” — 180° South
It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and my partner and I took a trip to the Cal Academy to celebrate. And as part of the evening, we also had tickets to a planetarium show. So we went in, happy to rest our tired feet from walking around all evening. And we soon found ourselves absorbed in a beautiful and mesmerizing display of the immensity of our universe. We naturally felt humbled. I mean we have been engaged in cosmic discussion before that evoke those emotions. But this feeling was somehow different. It became a discomforting feeling of awe, as we processed how precarious and by chance our existence is — And this feeling was not because of what we are doing to our planet today or because of how insignificant one feels when exploring space things. But more because of how our planet came to be, to exist — how a series of unrelated and insignificant events made our solar system, events that we had nothing to do with. When even the ingredients to conceive us did not exist.
As we stumbled out of the planetarium, my agnostic partner whispered. “That was like church to me”. And I tearfully nodded recognizing instantly the emotion he was putting into words. The immensity of our world is staggering and all of it was created by such micro flakes of chance. And it did not stop there — our planet birthed us through the most excruciating labor over millennia. That our story is tied to the story of every single plant and animal that has ever taken breath on this planet and also those that are still breathing today. Starting from that very first carbon particle, the many chemical reactions in aquatic microorganisms; to dinosaurs, to that dog I love so much; that tree I don’t know the name of. They are all my cousins, my primal family. That this pale blue dot is my home. My only home.
“The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you don’t even think or know to ask” — 180° South
While traveling in Peru earlier this year, I was at a hostel in the beautiful city of Cuzco. And as I woke up in the confines of my dorm room, I climbed out and down my bunk bed and walked around the small and cozy grounds looking for a place that didn’t breathe onto me, where I could stretch and claim some space of solitude. I walked onto this beautiful tiny balcony, and my being found respite, I could exhale the strain that sharing spaces brings and inhale the view of being perched up this magnificent valley town.
Soon enough, breakfast was being laid on a table that looked like it was competing with me for respite in that tiny balcony. Simple bread, butter, jam, tea…so sumptuous and perfect it felt. As I sat down to eat I was joined by another fellow traveler. He and I both had books for company, a simple nod symbolized a recognition of our shared love for the written word. And instinctually neither of us felt the need to break the silence we both knew the other enjoyed, maybe even craved. Half a bun later, a few more travelers joined us, they seemed to be lovers of the spoken word and brought me and my fellow bookworm to the sudden loudness of that present moment.
After being asked a few questions and exchanging some pleasantries — where are you from, where are you going, etc etc. The usual questions that one eventually scripts answers to make the process more automatic and less effortful. My fellow bookworm and I engage in a conversation or maybe south refuge in each other. The silence between our exchanges was as precious as the thoughts we shared. We spoke about many things — our work, why we travel and somewhere in there he also mentioned a movie that he felt I would love. The name was easy to remember but also easy to forget. ‘180° South’.
I came back home from that 2-month trip — soaked in devotion to the beauty and bounty of our planet. I was sorrowful to return to the mundanity of my regular routine and its carbon footprint. To the political chaos and divide in the country, I live in. To the devastating news of floods in Peru, urgent conservation agenda being tossed aside. And strangely the name of that recommended movie popped into my head. By now life has taught me that intuition should not be ignored and so I looked up the movie and before I knew it I was already watching it, feeling tears roll down my cheeks, learning about how one is moved to protect that they love and truly identify with, about how an adventure actually begins when things go wrong.
“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life. — 180° South
This piece took birth through me on Earth day, ironically. The day that reminds us of the fragility of our pale blue home. And even though there is so much going wrong, so much destruction, extraction— I don’t feel sombre today. This day has a deeply spiritual quality to me, it has a significance that I cannot explain. Like a symbol of something primal and intrinsically tied to my identity. Yet I sense a worry in me ‘will this day also become about posting on my social media feed — a sincere inspiring and urgency evoking writeup, or drive to do chores, go visit the movies, or just go on with my life with the thought about Earth Day somewhere hidden behind insignificant things that I think are not? I cannot just let it be one of those days. And as noble as it is, I cannot go march on the streets to try to convince someone else why this is important. I am being pulled instead to this gnawing need, to dive deep into my being and explore what the significance of this day is to me and why. And with that understanding dissect my own life, my own actions. And decide what I am going to do about this. How am I going to live differently today?
So, don’t wish me happy Earth Day, instead maybe join me on this adventure when things are going so so wrong. An adventure that needs and will go beyond 24 hours. Dive deep into your own self to figure out what does this home of yours mean to you? How significant is it to you? How do you identify with it? Do you truly inherently love it? And does that love move you to do whatever you can to protect it? But most importantly, how can you make sure its precariousness is not being violated by you? Not anyone on the other side of political or national lines. You. How you live. How you exist. Today.