If you ever played the game of Cops and Robbers as a child, you know that one of the most common questions posed by the person who played the robber was, "your money or your life!" It seems on the surface like a very simple question, and as children most of us didn't hesitate to turn over our fake wallets and imaginary wristwatches to the kid who was holding the plastic gun to our head. In real life though, that question seems to have become more difficult for humanity to answer. What I'm wondering then is why, and how, we've reached a point where our collective obsession with money - with conducting business as usual even in the most unusual or dire of circumstances - has caused us to cling to our money instead of our lives.
I pose this question because I listened to President Bush in 2001 exhort Americans to do the patriotic thing and go shopping after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. I pose it because I witnessed the near-collapse of the entire U.S. banking system in 2008, which triggered a panicked government (spelled taxpayer) infusion of cash to encourage the banks got back to business as usual, even before we understood what caused the problem. I pose it as nation after nation and state after state are cutting essential human services out of concern for their "budget deficits." I pose it as I hear the citizens of the Gulf of Mexico demand in one breath that BP and the U.S. government immediately stop the oil spill that is gushing into the ocean, and in the next breath demand the president lift his temporary moratorium on deep water drilling so they can go back to business as usual.
Perhaps, if there's a lesson in all this, it's that there is no such thing as "business as usual." There is only the business of business, which focuses on earning a monetary profit; and there is the business of life itself, which focuses on conducting ourselves in a way that honors ALL life forms and the amazing ecosystems that nourish and sustain them...as well as us.
This planet is literally holding a loaded gun to humanity's head right now. The question she is asking us as she insistently reveals to us her eroding soils, her polluted rivers, her massive species extinctions, her corrupted and depleted oceans, her raped and pillaged resource reservoirs, is this: "Your money or your life?"
We can continue to stubbornly look away from nature's loaded gun and pretend to continue to go about business as usual. We can ignore the increasing desertification of the land, the destruction of crucial rainforests, the strip mining, the decline of organic food supplies, the disruption of crucial migration patterns, the frightening changes in weather patterns, the melting glaciers, the toxins polluting our water and our foods. Even so, the weapon remains cocked and loaded, and Mother Nature's finger is slowly easing off the trigger. How many of us, I wonder, will act surprised and appalled when the bullet at last hits our brain, claiming we never saw the gun or heard the question?
This is NOT a diatribe against business, or patriotism, or the right to earn a living. This is a diatribe FOR the essential nature of life, without which none of those other ideas are possible. This is a call, to all who read these words and grasp the truth of them in their hearts - to WAKE UP and be counted as one who speaks for life in all its beauty, magnificence and glory. This is a spiritual cry from the heart of one who loves this life and holds to the hope of us learning to thrive as an organism rather than a virus upon this planet, NOT to murder our mother, but to love and honor her as the beautiful being that birthed us and gives us life.