I came home from the movie theater last night with a wet handkerchief (yes, I still use these) and wet eyes. We’d seen “The Butler”, a tour of civil rights history through the intense experiences of a black family that lived at the epicenter of it. It was released in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the great civil rights march in Washington D.C.
I think the lesson of our civil rights struggle was that we are actually connected to other people. As in, all colors of people. As in, even if they’re living far away, nowhere near us, and we’ll never meet them.
The pre-civil rights paradigm was one of separateness. When you’re separate from others, you are free to oppress them.
But if you’re connected to other people, their oppression and pain is awfully similar to your own. You have to acknowledge their equality. Understanding our connectedness leads to compassion, and embracing equality.
“The Butler” reminds us that it cost a lot of hard work, suffering and sacrificial love to replace the old paradigm of separateness (inequality) with a new paradigm of connectedness (equality).
I see a parallel between civil rights and climate change. It has to do with our spiritual path from separateness to connectedness.
I think the lesson of our climate change problem is that we are actually connected to our environment. As in, our very lives depend on healthy soil, water and air. We see them as extrinsic to our lives, but they’re actually intrinsic, not separate from us at all.
Just as importantly, our consuming lots of fossil fuels warms the climate. And, civilization as we know it depends on a stable climate. Extreme weather events, droughts and wildfires, and rising sea levels will all keep escalating with climate change.
As hard as the civil rights struggle was, dealing with climate change is harder. It forces us to think more abstractly, across longer time-frames and in larger cause-effect relationships, than people ever have before. It challenges us into more compassionate, disciplined use of resources than we are currently practicing.“The Butler”, as with any good movie, has life-lessons that are bigger than its specific subject-matter. Separateness. Connectedness. What it takes for a nation to shift from a flawed paradigm to a better paradigm. It makes me wonder how much suffering and sacrificial love it will eventually cost us, across generations and centuries, to understand that we and the way that we live are deeply connected to our environment, in no way separate from it.