Dust and Ashes

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On this Ash Wednesday, I share with you an excerpt from my book, Shaking the Gates of Hell:

It’s this radical humility that is absolutely essential to our time.Brian Swimme

As we consider the destruction of the earth and the suffering of our fellow creatures, both human and nonhuman, two primary responses seem appropriate: repentance and humble acceptance of our own mortality. In Christianity ashes are used to symbolize these two themes on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In Ash Wednesday services the imposition of ashes is a way of showing our repentance, our intention to turn away from harmful actions and to turn back toward God. As we consider the damage to the earth we are called to repent of our own violence, greed, and over-consumption, our participation in ecological destruction and human misery. We are called to repent of our complicity in the harm caused by the institutions and systems of which we are a part.

We are also called to a humble acceptance of our place in the universe: “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Ashes symbolize our mortality, reminding us of who we are: human beings, made up of the dust of the earth. Humus, human, humility—these words all have the same root. Our bodies are made up of the same elements that make up the earth’s crust. For that matter, we are made up of the same elements that make up the stars. We are, quite literally, star dust (as Joni Mitchell wrote in her song “Woodstock”). We participate in the great unfolding journey of the universe, and our role is to celebrate in mystery and awe. And yet we are mortal. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday” brilliantly portrays the dual Lenten focus on repentance and acceptance of our mortality. It expresses a sense of dust and ashes, of hopelessness, of powerlessness to change. These feelings resonate with many people facing the pain and challenges of the world today. But then, in the poem, surprisingly:

The lost heart quickens and rejoices

for the lost lilac and the lost sea voices

and the weak spirit quickens to rebel

for the bent goldenrod and the lost sea smell

quickens to recover the cry of quail

and the whirling plover.

The earth has the power to call us back to life, through the divine Spirit that moves through creation. In some mysterious way, the earth can provide us with an antidote to despair and can renew our spiritual connection with what is deepest within our souls. It is our context, our “ground of being,” through which the Spirit touches us, reminding us of what is real and important, who we are, and with whom we are connected.

Teach us to sit still,

even among these rocks,

our peace in His will.

And even among these rocks,

Sister, Mother, and spirit of the river, spirit of the sea

Suffer me not to be separated,

And let my cry come unto Thee.

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We Are Everywhere

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Sharon leading a climate Justice workshop at Roseville United Methodist Church.

Here I am, coming up from the depths of prayer, meditation, study, and writing.  These past months I’ve been focused primarily on writing my new book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, which is almost ready to send to the publisher.

Then in August, I spent three weekends leading workshops in Merced, San Rafael, and Roseville on “Climate Justice” for the United Methodist Women’s program of transformational learning, Mission U.  I had helped write the book for the class, and last Spring I had traveled by train to St. Louis for the leadership training.  The workshops I led emphasized that working for climate justice includes, but is not limited to, making simple lifestyle changes.  It also requires us to respond to the demands for justice from those who are living and working on the front lines of climate change, and whose lands and waters are threatened with pollution by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  It also means working to change the system that perpetuates climate change and so many other forms of injustice.  That’s why banners at climate justice demonstrations often say “System Change Not Climate Change.”

Just today, I had to add a few words to my book about the growing protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.  This, too, is climate justice action.  It is also history in the making!  The camp now includes 150 tribes and over 1,000 people.  A call for solidarity actions has gone out, and I plan to participate. Here is more information and a list of actions planned so far.

The courageous, Spirit-filled actions at Standing Rock give me hope.  I believe that the Spirit is active wherever people are taking a stand for people, for the earth, and for future generations.  And such actions are not just taking place in isolation.  As the title of a popular book on this topic says, “We Are Everywhere.”

 

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Support the Indigenous led movement to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

#NoDAPL Solidarity             https://nodaplsolidarity.org/

 

 

 

Peace for the World, Healing for the Climate

My dear friends,

Yesterday I was arrested once again at Beale Air Force Base, along with seven others, and charged with trespassing.  This video was filmed after we crossed the line onto the base.  In it I begin to explain the connections between US military policy and climate change.  The letter that we attempted to deliver to the base commander gives a more detailed explanation of our concerns and our reasons for demonstrating.

As many of you know, I have been arrested at Beale several times for protesting against the Global Hawk drones that are operated from Beale and against the U.S. drone warfare program.  Far more civilians than terrorists are killed by U.S. drones, including many children.  Terrorists use anti-drone sentiment to recruit more terrorists, creating an escalating cycle of violence and the rationale for endless war.  There have been regular anti-drone protests at Beale and at drone bases around the country for several years now, and we aren’t going away.  Seven more arrests were made today.

The demonstrations yesterday and today were timed to coincide with the conclusion of the Paris Climate talks.  These past few days there have been “red line actions” in Paris and around the world, demonstrating that our leaders must not cross the many red lines that will lead to climate chaos and that people will continue to demand action for climate justice.

I am a person of faith and a follower of Jesus.  I pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and I am sure that the divine will is for peace, for justice, and for the flourishing of creation.  I know that the Spirit, called by so many names, is at work in the world even now, in people who haven’t succumbed to the greed, violence, and despair of our times.  I have hope that the world can change, that another world is possible.  But for that to happen, we the people will have to rise up and work together fearlessly, regardless of our spiritual or philosophical beliefs, to make real what is possible.

Rise up.  Live in hope.

Sharon

 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

See other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations

Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version. 

Hiroshima Day

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I can’t let this Hiroshima Day go by without memorializing the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and acknowledging the shadow that atomic (and now hydrogen) bombs have cast and continue to cast over our nation and world.   I plan to stand with others down on the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City this evening, holding my hand-made sign that says “Hiroshima, 70 years, Never Again.”

My children remember many Hiroshima Day candlelight walks from Pioneer Park and vigils on the Broad Street Bridge while they were growing up.  I first became motivated as an activist in the late 1970s, when I became aware of the very real threat that nuclear war posed to my children.   I wrote about an awakening that motivated me to action in Shaking the Gates of Hell, in the chapter on “The Iron Fist:  Enforcing Corporate Globalization:”

“I began my career as an activist in 1979 when I realized the extent of the danger of nuclear war and became involved with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign.  One morning I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldecott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha.  Listening to the stories about what these people had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.

“Suddenly, I was struck with the thought: How must God feel about all this?  How must God feel about what we human beings have done to each other, and about what we intend to do, as we stockpile nuclear weapons?  I fell to my knees, praying for forgiveness, overcome with a sense of the depth of pain that God must bear because of the horrors we human beings create for each other.  To this day, I believe that God weeps for the harm we do to each other.”

My prayer today is this:

Thank you, God, for this day, for the beauty of the earth, for the “yes” of life in the midst of the systems of anti-life, which have taken your world captive and are in process of “undoing creation.”  May we never give up on the future.  May we never hide or run away from the pain of life, except in your presence and your peace.  Protect us from denial, that friend of avoidance and enemy of truth, which pretends to shield us from fear, communal guilt, and that tug of responsibility for the world.  May the strong heart of Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem, fill us with courage to feel and respond to the suffering of our time.  Fill us with your Spirit, that the winds of truth may blow and the flames of love may burn to bring about a great awakening of people of every faith and philosophical tradition, coming together as one, each doing our part to create the new world that is possible.  For you, O God of many names, are the Great Mystery, Ground of Being, Source of life and love, in whom we live and move and have our being.  Surely your will is abundant life, even in the face of death.  Your will is the reign of mercy and compassion in this world.

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

Good Friday, Nevada Test Site, early 1980s

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Dust in the Wind

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This blog summarizes Sharon Delgado’s words at the Ash Wednesday service at the front gates of Beale Air Force Base, on February 18, 2015.  Go to Videos of Ash Wednesday at Beale to see several brief videos of the day’s events.

The focus of Ash Wednesday is mortality and repentance—two primary aspects of faith.  It is the first day of the season of Lent, which allows us to journey with Jesus and to identify with him as he faces death at the hands of the Ruling Powers of this world.  This day and this season is a reminder of these things.  “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

We sang “Dust in the Wind” at the beginning of the Ash Wednesday service here at Beale today.  The song is a reminder that life is short, limited, finite, and that we are mortal interconnected with all other forms of life.  Life is precious, and this day reminds us to live and love as if this day is our last.

Sometimes we forget.  We humans may think that we have constructed a “world” on top of the world, that the institutions and systems that we have set up are permanent and all-powerful, but they aren’t.  As Chief Seattle said, “What befalls the earth befalls the children of the earth.”  Or as other have said, “Earth bats last.”

We U.S. Americans may think that our nation will dominate the world forever, but it will not.  Even with all its bombs and drones, today’s global Empire, like all Empires, will fall.  It already contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Everything is dust in the wind.

Repentance is another Ash Wednesday theme.  People in ancient times humbled themselves to repent in dust and ashes.   Today, we repent for harm that we have caused personally.  We also repent for harm caused by the society and nation in which we live, and we call our society and nation to repentance as well.  Today especially, here at Beale, we focus on drone warfare. Global Hawk Drones are operated here, identifying targets for armed Predator and Reaper drones.  Drones are killing people, including innocent civilians and children.  Their lives are precious, too.

Near his final days, when Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem, he stopped and wept over the city, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace.  But now they are hid from you eyes.”  He then prophesied that disaster would come upon them and the children within them if they did not turn around.  Why?  “Because,” he said, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

From there he went down into Jerusalem and immediately entered the Temple, driving out the money changers, symbolically striking directly at the heart of the economic/political/social/religious system of his day.  No wonder that within days he was put to death.

But that is not the end of the story.  The good news is that that same Spirit is with us still, called by so many names.  The Spirit that caused Jesus to weep over Jerusalem, the Spirit that moved him to take action for justice, the Spirit that motivated him to give himself in love… that Spirit inspires and animates us even today.  We do recognize the time of our visitation from God.  God is right here with us.

Everything mortal, finite, constructed by human hands is dust in the wind.  Everything passes.  Love remains.

 

 Read the story of these events on the Nuclear Resister website.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  Other blog postings about actions and trials related to Beale demonstrations can be found here.   Stay up to date about ongoing Beale protests at the Occupy Beale AFB website or Occupy Beale Facebook Page.