Saturday, March 8, 2014

Part II Climate Change: why Sisyphus’s plight is no myth

Mermaid radiating light and earthly allure
hiding behind Sisyphus's boulder
eager to hook up with him
before he starts his day *

In my last post, I explored the ramifications of the Japanese tsunami, looking at it as a harbinger of our future. Are extreme weather events our new normal, and, if so, how will we react when they strike. A Zen abbot at ground zero during the Japanese tsunami gives us one answer which, while it sounds superficial, is spiritually profound:

"Since the disaster, some older people have committed suicide. But there’s no reason to do that. We just start from where we are, from whatever the day brings to us.” [i]

That is indeed the Zen Buddhist way of mindfulness: something we must all learn to practice in this new age of cultural and climate disruption: “We just start from where we are, from whatever the day brings to us.” Staying present in the moment is the only way to happiness.

The existentialist Albert Camus wrote about this about Sisyphus’s fate:

“The struggle itself is…enough to fill man’s heart.
  One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” [ii]

And, indeed, that has been the experience of survivors of the Japanese tsunami as interviewed by Elrlich in her article in Tricycle

“A farmer, he has a sun-roughened face and there’s dirt in the deep grooves of his palms. Before the earthquake hit, Kazuyoshi was planting his fields in rice and flowers. He smiles: “I lost everything. Now I feel better.”

 “Springtime, I used to get in a bad mood. No more. I don’t want to be a bother to anyone; I don’t want to be a big farmer. Just treat plants and flowers very nicely so my wife and I can survive. If others are happy eating what I grow, then I’m happy.

“The less I have, the happier I am.”

The Zen Way-of-Being personified by the Japanese farmer is radically opposed to the American consumer way of continually wanting to have more, isn’t it. I wonder which way of life has a more sustainable future?


[i][ http://www.tricycle.com/feature/facing-wave
[ii] Albert Camus, Myth of Sisyphus. 1942

* This image is a collage of my photographs. The photo of the sun rising over the Atlantic was taken today, 3/8/14
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