Tag Archives: Earth

Daring to Live with Risk

10 May

Truth Views

Daring to Live with Risk

By Kathy Custren


This Mother’s Day 2020 brings a special look at what this gift of life means to each of us. The role of mother as life-giver and nurturer means so much more in difficult times, pandemic or not. From the time of inception, life itself is a risky proposition. The act of living is an act of daring, where conscious and unconscious influences alike affect the choices we make.

Our Many Risks in These Viral Times

Among us live any number of ‘foreign invaders.’ These inhabit sizes of various orders of magnitude. Some are more welcome than others, but all pose some measure of risk to our lives. So, our underlying question is, “How much are we willing to be brave, bold, and resume existence?” What will this look like as time moves us ever onward in this new dimension of awareness?

Not being foremost experts on life, to be sure, we do find ourselves at a unique place in space and time. We can look back in history and see how human leaders have dealt with existential threats before and since. They have shunned, built walls, and killed off others they perceived were a danger to society. Lepers were cast out of villages, witches and invalids drowned, refugees committed to cages, while ones addicted and homeless drifted to less visible encampments.

A large risk factor to consider is how many people around the world live without access to healthcare. I could probably rephrase that to say without ability to pay for healthcare. Here in the U.S., there is a growth industry in providing specialized health to people, but it comes at a significant cost. Where larger hospitals find it burdensome to operate, smaller specialty centers spring up to take up the burden.

The Burden of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule to which most people in various societies adhere says essentially, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If we want something for ourselves, we ought to allow the same for others—except that paying for the privilege of good health does come at a cost. Once tapped into the expensive medical system few seem to ask where the money will originate, or how sustainable ever-rising premiums are. Many individuals and families are unable to carry the hefty payments of ‘affordable’ healthcare insurance.

Few of us are readers let alone epidemiologists. Medical personnel are like gods in whom we trust with our very lives and we pay highly for that service—as long as it benefits us directly. When we consider ‘giving’ the simplest level of humane care to others using more socialized methods of delivery, we balk at the expense, golden rule be damned.

Yet our most recent disruptor causing the most personal fear is a minute virus most of us cannot see. Unable to restrain it, we ourselves are housebound in an effort to mitigate its spread and impact. There are those who experienced COVID-19 and lived to tell the tale. However, the number of deaths continues to climb, and our ever-present fear of death keeps us distant.

Tolerance and Intolerance Abound

The pandemic that sweeps the planet is teaching us so much about what is and is not important. COVID-19, for all its dangers to life both physically and economically it definitely shows us there are benefits to change. What will we do with this knowledge as we move forward?

After two months of dealing with isolation and other impositions, we hear rumblings of resuming the old ways. There are tolerances or boundaries we feel are reaching their limits. Politics and economics are the driving force behind much of the noise, with health concerns moving to the back seat. People feel they are suffering more from the social distancing than they are from the disease.

Those who have lost loved ones and workers on the front lines who deal with health and basic services offer added insight into what those tolerance ought to be. Inherent inequalities cause some to back up their beliefs with firepower, apparently–life or death, care or ignorance, mask or not, money or starvation. As we move forward, will we listen, recognize the truth, act on it, and come to a greater understanding of what we can withstand, individually and as whole?

Trustworthy Data Would Be Nice

Scientists with data tell us there is still much we do not know. SARS-type viruses like COVID-19 can operate in waves, and we understand with certainty how this is possible thanks to data. Those who do not know they are carriers can infect those who are vulnerable. Data can show us better ways to manage risks in our daily lives. Like a teenager whose parents have reached their limits, the days of ignoring our lack of cleanliness and hygiene are over. We may need to raise the bar; higher expectations help us strive to do better.

Even with a wealth of information at our fingertips, we are less likely to take the time to seek truth. We rely more on what we see storied belief and innuendo than on hard facts. Thinking less critically means we are less mindful and do not question. We follow more than we lead and remain silent in our acquiescence.

By staying indoors primarily these past few months, our planet shows significant signs of recovery from some of our human imposition. Air quality improves, animals venture out, and we start to see what nature intends to drive home—that our home can play a greater role than our workplace. Will we trust that kind of data when the struggle for life at the workplace resumes center stage.

Conspirators: Bullies Versus The Aware

Those who seek to resume ‘business as before’ are sure to use strong-arm tactics. Will we be willing to sign away our physical or health rights and hold employers harmless if we contract COVID on the job? Those of us with compromised systems might have less risk working from home. This may not be an option for all in this position. Will individuals be permitted the sovereignty of choosing how they wish to interact with others in our COVID-induced paradigm?

As with any massive control group, conspiracy theories exist based on who might be manipulating the story. This lack of trust says there are always multiple sides to consider along with various experiences. Being aware of this manipulation level—what some people will do to others to get what they want—has also been a sore spot for many of us. We do not want to endure the shame of being fooled on top of other economic hardships we or our families face.

This will surely give rise to the rights of the individual, perhaps more than ever before. While one may be willing to participate with ‘the system,’ there are limits to life and limb we must consider as heavier burdens today. The impact on the healthcare system alone dictates our need to tread wisely.

Human rights in many respects are being questioned. Idiocy abounds, as we see the return of crowds who protest with guns, amass without safe distance, and encounter without basic masks or covering. There are always those who will say, “Damn the risks; you can’t tell me how to live my life.” And there are those of us who are quite fine with letting them express that sentiment.

The Meaning and Guise of Safety

It may be safe to say that many of us feel comfortable living with some elements of risk. We understand life can never be risk free. We might even count the may things we have or do that add to our overall feeling of comfort and safety. Locking our doors, operating a video camera, alarms, or smoke detectors, having a weapon, having health insurance all stem from ‘just in case,’ the unexpected need arises.

The pandemic causes us to stay indoors and isolated ‘for our safety.’ We understand that while the virus may not be a large bother to people in good health, we see the growing number who die due to the disease. Being at risk for contracting an unseen virus has us all questioning what it means to be safe and what our individual comfort level might be. Will ‘the great unclean’ become an even larger risk than it has in generations and societies of the past?

Picking through the weeds of chaos that surround us will mean making the kinds of choices that best benefit us directly. This mindfulness is especially true where the wrong choice can kill you. Something as simple as washing our hands is a choice. Choosing to avoid others wherever possible and not passing along contaminants is another.

Risking Truth and Consequences

For those of us who may be unable to reach a personal safety conclusion, we can be sure that there will be some level of imposition. Whether it is peer pressure or law enforcement, at some point we will be charged with proving how much of a risk we are in and of ourselves. Testing is the key to determining this safety risk, but a good defense lawyer might advise, we can always question the veracity of those tests. The underlying doubt still exists: Who will we believe?

When there are ways we can stay safe while conducting business, let us do that. When it comes to telling others what they can and cannot do, those boundaries must be drawn clearly while not infringing on our inalienable rights. Provided, of course, those of us living this great life can agree on what those human rights are, truly.

For all who seek truth in this gift of life, it would be wise to remember that our words and actions both have consequences. Let us be mindful to act and speak loudly and clearly. As we awaken to this new pandemic-fueled reality let us be open to the possibilities and make the best decisions we can, as we dare to live.


To Listen, Perchance to Act

24 May

To Listen, Perchance to Act

By Kathy Custren


As I sit here in the early morning, reading an article from early 2019 by Dahr Jamail on TomDispatch.com, the title becomes painfully clear: “We Can’t Undo This.”

The article on our climate crisis hits all too close to home; to the many truths felt by life around the planet; that I purposely avoid looking at the supporting articles and documentation to which Dahr links. There is no question that there really is no ‘going back,’ or little being done to reverse the train on which we ride.

I liked it much better when comedic philosopher Bill Hicks called life a ride, like a roller coaster, rather than consider this voyage through time and space as little more than a runaway train reaching the perilous end of the line.

As Dahr wraps up the article, he gently encourages readers to ‘listen to the Earth.’ To wit:

Listening While Saying Goodbye

It’s been estimated that between 150 and 200 plant, insect, bird, and mammal species are already going extinct every day. In other words, during the two and a half years I worked on my book 136,800 species may have gone extinct.

We have a finite amount of time left to coexist with significant parts of the biosphere, including glaciers, coral, and thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects. We’re going to have to learn how to say goodbye to them, part of which should involve doing everything we humanly can to save whatever is left, even knowing that the odds are stacked against us. [Emphasis added]

For me, my goodbyes will involve spending as much time as I can on the glaciers in Washington State’s Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park near where I live, or far more modestly taking in the trees around my home on a daily basis. It’s unclear, after all, how much longer such forest areas are likely to remain fully intact. I often visit a small natural altar I’ve created amid a circle of cedar trees growing around a decomposing mother tree. In this magical spot, I grieve and express my gratitude for the life that is still here. I also go to listen.

Where do you go to listen? And what are you hearing?

For me, these days, it all begins and ends with doing my best to listen to the Earth, with trying my hardest to understand how best to serve, how to devote myself to doing everything possible for the planet, no matter the increasingly bleak prognosis for this time in human history. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps if we listen deeply enough and regularly enough, we ourselves will become the song this planet needs to hear.

Read the full version:

It is in this mode of hospice that I turn on my small desk fan, while noting the irony of reading such a powerful piece on climate disaster. Personal comfort being what it is, these gentle times of listening to our planetary home is encouraging; hopeful, even—ever hopeful.

Leaving a bit of hope for posterity is no small feat in the midst of such huge and vastly changing numbers. We can see it already, the human toll that is rising along with the rest as part of this natural culling. It is ludicrous to think that it might avoid us personally, but here we are. I have little doubt that this very situation happened before—where great change wiped away large numbers of “advanced and civilized societies”—leaving smaller, disparate numbers with which to start anew.

This brings Dahr Jamail’s plea to listen more into focus. Listening to our mother planet, seeking to ease burdens rather than adding to them, being part of the regrowth and sustainability, are all going to be very important as we move forward. And we are moving forward, there is no doubt about that.

Cosmically, we do have our protectors on the spiritual side of things; the energies of ancestors who lived and died before us. This is one less worry if anyone truly cares to look beyond the physical. Of course, we tend to ignore that whole side of our existence, except when it is most expedient to beg and plead for mercy, help, and strength. So many of us would rather gather in multitudes to hear musicians or watch cinematic manipulation than consciously address planetary change.

Few among us carry the label of leader when it comes to climate change and regenerative action. Even fewer worry about the ills of our planetary home and what might be done to save it. Perhaps the message of the conspiracy theorists has hit home…the aliens are waiting to rescue us. That must be it.


Beyond bemoaning the reality, the overwhelming discord that echoes back from the walls of our undeniable doom carries the general message of, “but the problem is so large, what can one person do?” Rather than getting one’s hands dirty, so many are very eager to simply wash their hands of the whole mess.

It is a lofty position in which to be, to be sure.

There is healing to be found in the very Earth itself; and as Dahr’s words encourage, each of us, Each. Of. Us., bears responsibility for handling our very own part of this endeavor.

The looming question beyond the climate is this:

What have “I” done today to help heal the planet?

There is much cleaning to do. ~ Blessings!