Like Water Like Earth - creating social change without arguing with a stubborn jackass

I usually share the song for this episode at the end, but I am going to switch things up today to help get us on the same page before we get into it. So before you keep going with this, please listen to the song Like Water, Like Earth by Christa Couture and then come back to me.

My partner called me this morning sharing what he heard on the news: there were nine tornados yesterday just south of the city we live in. Nine friends. Nine.

Tornados aren’t a regular thing for the city that I live in – or at least they weren’t.

Eight years ago I was standing in the cafeteria of the hospital I was working in at the time, looking through the huge expansive bay windows at the first tornado that had touched down in the city and was slowly moving its way north towards us. There was very little risk of the tornado making it all the way to this hospital – but it was really close to another hospital in our city and they were evacuating patients down to the lower floors and away from the windows.

The hospital I was in didn’t have a tornado disaster plan because they just didn’t happen. I bet they have one now, though.

I often have to take a break from listening to the news because they’re talking about how “lucky” we are to be having record breaking temperatures in April and having it be “so nice out”. All of this while so much of Canada is already experiencing wide-spread forest fires that don’t usually start for several months.

Even just writing that out is so strange. That forest fires are so predictable that we know with absolute certainty that there will be uncontrolled forest fires in Canada by July.

So why are we celebrating all of the “nice days’? I just don’t get it.

All of these “nice days” are also raising the ocean temperature, increasing the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, changing the environment in the ocean for the animals and plants that live there. Not only that but there is a high likelihood at the rate that climate change is occurring that summer in the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by the end of the century. (https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/climate-change-impacts/predictions-future-global-climate)

But we celebrate having warm sunny days. On another note, who decided that rainy days or snowy and chilly winter days were a bad thing?

Before this turns into any more of a rant than it already has become, I want to bring this back to some ancient wisdom that we can use to create social and environmental change. Now you may expect me to start sharing ways that we can take care of the earth, slow down climate change, recycle, buy eco-friendly products, and cancel people who choose to use private jets to fly everywhere.

Sure those things could help the earth, but I truly believe that the real solution lies much deeper than that.

As Lao Tsu says in the Tao Te Ching chapter 38, “The highest good is not to seek to do good, but allow yourself to become it. The ordinary person seeks to do good things and finds that they can not do them continually. The Master does not force virtue on others, thus she is able to accomplish her task.”

This is from John H. MacDonald’s translation, one of my favorites.

What it really centers around is the idea that we can’t create change by force. We can’t make other people agree with us and act.

There’s a fable that I heard recently about a snake and a donkey. The snake was going about its slithery business when it came across a donkey walking around calling out “the sky is purple!”

The snake went over to the donkey and said “don’t be silly Donkey, the sky isn’t purple – it’s blue.”

But the donkey kept running around saying “the sky is purple, the sky is purple!”

The two of them debated for a little while, unable to agree and they decided to go ask the lion who was wise.

The snake explained to the lion “Donkey keeps saying that the sky is purple, but it’s blue. Can you please make him see what is real?”

The lion turned to the donkey and asked “What color is the sky?” and the donkey said “the sky is purple!”

Lion smiled and said, “yes Donkey, you’re right. The sky is purple.” and the donkey trotted away feeling happy and good about themselves. In shock, the snake turned to the lion and said “What are you doing? Why didn’t you correct the donkey? We both know he’s wrong!”

Lion looked Snake in the eye and said “You will never change the mind of a stubborn jackass.”

Regardless of whether you believe that climate change is a thing or not, or whether or not whomever you’re talking to believes that climate change is a thing or not – you’re not going to change their mind no matter how much evidence that proves or disproves each theory you share with them.

Coming back to that quote from the Tao Te Ching: “The highest good is not to seek to do good, but allow yourself to become it. The ordinary person seeks to do good things and finds that they can not do them continually. The Master does not force virtue on others, thus she is able to accomplish her task.”

So when it comes to taking care of your corner of the earth, how are you going to seek to go beyond doing good and allow yourself to become a good caretaker? How are you going to conserve water, lower your impact on the earth, and make a difference? Who do you need to become?

How are you going to not force virtue or your beliefs on others, and just do the best you can?

How can you lead by example to create the change you want to see?

I truly believe that this is the way forward. Will you join me?

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Christa Couture - Like Water, Like Earth