When I was a little girl I became obsessed with the topic of heaven and hell. I loved reading stories that included this theme and my mom read a ton of legends and myths from other cultures where this topic always made an appearance. We must have watched ‘What Dreams May Come’ about a hundred times, and we loved talking about interpretations of ‘Dante’s Inferno’ in the Divine Comedy. Yeah, don’t worry, I know my house was kooky but we loved it. I especially loved how my mom explained to me that although for some people heaven and hell were actual places according to their religious beliefs, for her (and me), it had to do with the actions we took and how it affected our lives and the lives of others. She explained how usually, this environment of heaven or hell was present simultaneously in what was happening in the world, and she explained how good and evil shared this characteristic as well and that we should always strive for ‘heaven’.
When I was about 8 or 9, I entered a drawing competition that was to be held in honor of Earth Day. The contest was called The Trees can Save the Planet, and all you had to do was make a drawing that said something about the protection of our environment. Many kids entered, at my school you saw everyone drawing in class and keeping their works very secret. We were all very excited. What was the prize? All of the winners would have their work displayed high and proud in the Children’s Museum. To which we all sighed because we were all hoping for toys or candy, but we kept drawing nonetheless.
To cut a long story short, I went for heaven and hell. Facing the top of the page I had a line of trees holding hands, branches tall and wide, green leaves filled with fruits and flowers, birds perched on the branches. Facing the bottom of the page, the trees were burnt, the branches were falling apart. The trees tried to hold hands but couldn’t in most cases. There was no green, there were no flowers, birds had flown the coop. In the middle of these two lines of trees (which eventually came together in a circle towards the middle of the page), there sat our beautiful round and perfect blue planet. I hope I painted a good visual here. Just to clear it up for you, planet Earth sat in the middle of my drawing and had trees holding hands all around it. Towards the top there was tree heaven, towards the bottom there was tree hell. I had a sentence on one side of the page and for the life of me I can’t remember what it said, but it certainly made an impact. A few weeks later I was staring up at this huge wall at the Children’s Museum and there was my drawing. I can’t remember what place I came in, but I do remember it had a special creativity prize attached to the number. My mother was so proud and probably took me out later to my favorite Italian restaurant where I would stuff my face with gnocchi. If I close my eyes I can still remember that drawing and looking up at that wall. What I can’t remember was that line I wrote which was what sealed the deal because I wasn’t particularly good at drawing. This is killing me!
Ok, back to the subject at hand, the reason I’m telling you this story is that I still remember many of the other drawings and they were just so powerful! We are born being sensitive to animals and our planet and we seem to lose it along the way. Wouldn’t it be great to get it back? It was Earth Day yesterday, and in honor of our blue planet I would like to ask you to join me in this little daydream. Are you ready?
Imagine for a second that there was an amazing planet somewhere in a far away galaxy. Filled with flowing green meadows, dark rich earth where you could grow whatever your heart desired, beautiful blue skies and oceans, incredible animals roaming free and a civilization of little green men. Imagine, for a second, that instead of taking and figuring out how to use everything around them to their advantage, they knew that their sole purpose on this planet was to be a protector. Imagine them waking up and making the rounds to see if every other creature in their vicinity was alright, had enough food to eat, enough water to drink, was free and safe. Imagine that they checked to see if their meadows were clean and if their water was pure, and if it wasn’t, it was “all hands on deck!” Now take it up a notch. Imagine that they’re on their way to work, and they see another green man by the side of the road in need. In this little planet it would be unfathomable to continue on without assisting the poor creature! Now imagine that it was just as much a priority when it was a little green man as when it was a little green snake. Can you picture them? These protectors waking up and living their daily lives as watch guards and gate keepers, not because it serves them, but because as soon as they arrived on this planet they thought it was unbelievable. Like nothing they had every seen, with beauty so vast it would take a thousand poets to describe it. What if they had realized early on that they had the ability to think, build, communicate and create and that it was particularly impressive. What if they had decided right there and then that they needed to keep the others and each other safe due to this remarkable spurt of good luck. Surely they must have felt that that place was heaven, and a heaven worth keeping.
It seems like a long stretch right?… A bit naive too? Maybe, but what if? What if? Is the way we’ve been doing things working?
To quote the amazing activist and superhero Colleen Patrick Gouddreau:
“I don’t think people can make a difference. I know people DO make a difference”.
So what if we were the protectors? What if we took a day a week, or a month to volunteer? What if we used our water carefully and made our purchases consciously? What if we stopped contributing to cruelty and to the destruction of our ecosystems through our consumption and daily habits? What if we took the time to be sensitive to others and care for them as if they were our own? It’s just a thought I had last night as I remembered it was Earth Day.
The beautiful photo above is an awesome flyer created by Ashish Lohorung for Earth Day 2008. I left it as is because I thought it was just beautiful! You might not read the tiny print, but at the bottom of the flyer there is this beautiful quote by John McConnell, the founder of Earth Day:
” Four billion years ago
Our lonely Earth
Set sail on cosmic seas
Guided by an unseen hand
Of nature, God or chance.”
(Earth Day photo by Ashish Lohorung shared through Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic).