A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I quit going to church when my husband first went to the Iraq War in 2004. Then one day in the summer of 2017, I was walking around aimlessly and wandered into an old Episcopalian chapel in Medford, Oregon. I was mourning the death of my old life after my now ex-husband had self-medicated his severe combat trauma with crystal meth, costing my marriage, home, health care, job, and my identity, too, stolen by another crystal meth user.
The doors were wide open, but no one was there. I stood at the back of the nave, watching dust motes dance in the sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows. Then I saw the windows had words, and read these lines from the Song of Creation, and I wept. No longer for myself:
O ye Mountains and Hills, bless ye the Lord
O all ye Green Things upon the Earth, bless ye the Lord
O ye Seas and Floods, bless ye the Lord
O ye Whales, and all that move in the Waters, bless ye the Lord
O all ye Fowls of the Air, bless ye the Lord
O all ye Beasts and Cattle, bless ye the Lord: praise him, and magnify him for ever.
My life wasn’t about me, not anymore; it was about us, the global, ecological us and the preservation of every holy thing.
The Benedicite—an invocation of a blessing—on the behalf of sentient beings and the planet Herself was the switch that turned on the light.
You have a switch, too. Find it.
We are in one of the darkest periods this nation and the planet has ever seen. I’ve dealt with the dark forces of white supremacy and wars for oil and money. I’ve sat across the table from politicians so corrupt I could feel the malevolence rolling off them. That kind of evil cannot be converted; it can only be pushed back. As Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
We need spiritual warriors willing to do the hard, heartbreaking work of becoming the light; capable of walking through the valley of the death of their old life and finding their way out. We need spiritual warriors brave enough to go into the dark because it’s easy to shine the light when you’re sitting in that section, but that is not where the light is needed. We need spiritual warriors with the clarity of thought, charity of heart, and purity of body required to keep that light radiant enough to help us see our way forward in the dark days and decades ahead. The Doomsday Clock is two minutes from midnight. We haven’t got a single second to wait.
Humanity must respond to the crushing selective pressure of the Anthropocene epoch with a real-time evolutionary adaptation in numbers, unlike anything the world has ever seen. That adaptation is an evolution of consciousness i.e. the emotional and spiritual intelligence that launches soulforce. Mahatma Gandhi called it satyagraha, the twin flames of courage and love. Soulforce is the energy behind every person who ever spoke truth to power, every person who has worked to advance justice with mercy. That force ─ and you can call it truthforce, loveforce, Godforce ─ is the most potent energy we have for changing the world. When it is actualized, soulforce allows us to make manifest the better angels of our nature even in the face of overwhelming loss. Even when it’s no longer certain the planet can be healed; especially then.
The preservation of what we love depends upon spiritual warriors who will stand toe-to-toe with world leaders, fossil-fueled billionaires, and architects of war, and tell them the truth. The protection of what we love hangs on the wings of spiritual warriors who can wield an arsenal of tools, tactics and techniques with surgical precision and leverage authentic power rather than brute domination. The battle for the basilica of creation will be won by spiritual warriors willing to do the work of forgiveness and pursue reconciliation rather than revenge. We need battalions of warriors – whole Light Brigades – who can call evil by its name and resurrect time after time from the terrible grief of preventable loss.
All deaths due to a lack of healthy food, clean water, or basic housing and healthcare are preventable in a country that calls itself civilized. All casualties of war, genocide, gun violence and global warming are avoidable.
Coping with climate grief and culturally induced trauma and depression is the way the spiritual warrior builds resilience, deepens their relationship with life, and connects with their intuition. Spiritual bypassing, which is the refusal to deal with the shadow or process the pain body, has allowed the Religious Right and New Age Left to do little more than send “Thoughts and prayers,” or “Love and light,” in the wake of yet another mass shooting, another Houston flood or Hurricane Katrina, or one more species lost to the Sixth Extinction.
Saying “God’s will be done” after we made the mess gets us off the hook for cleaning it up. Posing with our hands in the prayer position while repeating the New Age mantra of “everything’s perfect” as the Amazon burns is a rather shallow understanding of the sacred. There’s no genuine devotional path that does not call upon the follower to serve humanity and the healing of the world. If we have a spiritual, moral, and humanitarian mandate to alleviate suffering, then surely, we are ordained not to inflict it. So, grab your boots, grow your wings, live your prayer. The days of “I’ll do what I can” when it’s convenient or fun are done.
As the systems supporting life and livelihoods are collapsing, let us put ourselves to the task right now—right now—of restoring this World House by remembering we are our ancestor’s prayers, children of God, custodians of life. We hold the keys. Warrior, rise!
Stacy Bannerman is the author of Homefront 911: How Families of Veterans Are Wounded by Our Wars (2015), and When the War Came Home (2006). She was a charter board member of Military Families Speak Out, has testified before Congress three times, and spearheaded the passage of two bills.
First published in Common Dreams. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.