Consulting Nature When the Odds Are Beating Us

Rush Creek 3:10

Last week I heard that 500 teachers were being let go in Cleveland.  The heartache of the superintendent had me in tears. My beloved Waldorf-inspired Novato Charter School is dangerously in the red because of budget cuts for the first time in its 14 year history.  My position as middle school art teacher was cut, at the same time that Arts & Ethics Academy was denied the continuation of its charter because of ugly backroom politics.  I won’t be teaching art to those beautiful, young, at-risk high school students  next year, either.  Some of them will be attending high schools with 3000 students where the first thing waiting for them will be severe beatings if they don’t join a gang. My job loss is a small blip compared to the prospects of violence facing my students, and virtually nothing compared to the shrimpers and fisherman in Louisiana who may see their livelihoods changed forever.  The European airline industry is in terrible risk because of the impact of the Icelandic volcano combined with the recession. Israel and Gaza are deadlocked into a deadly lose-lose relationship where the odds seem to be beating everyone into the ground, every day.

Surrounded by so much bad news, I always turn to Nature.  An Irish poet on PBS last week said just the words I needed to hear.  Looking upon the harsh coastal landscape of Ireland in the cold months, he said “What the barrenness of winter shows us is that bleakness is never as bleak as it looks.  Deep down in the freezing stillness, there is new life waiting to be born.  And we see it every spring.”  My spring is growing a non-profit, which has laid dormant for nine years, Unity Through Creativity.  It’s mission is to help make the world safer through the power of creativity and community, no matter what the odds.  I and others have been doing the work of it, including the Singing Trees, and now people are coming forward and the organization is taking on a life of its own.  Water self-organizes into clouds, rain, rivers, oceans and reforms again, when needed, into clouds.  When the odds are beating us, we know it’s time to re-organize into new clouds, new forms, new life.

8 Responses

  1. Know in your heart that everything that you desire will be require….life as it seems hard in the outer world, you can always find all the peace and the love in the silence of your heart.
    Blessings of the light dear heart <3

  2. Powerful post. So sad to hear of the loss of such vital programs in your school. I am always astonished when the programs that benefit children are often the first to be cut… Yes, it is time to organize and beat the odds ~ it is a powerfully auspicious time! I am delighted to hear that Unity Through Creativity is springing forward into action! Here’s to new forms and new life ~ Godspeed!!!

  3. Thank you for your wonderful positive energy. It’s an exciting time.

  4. You are wise beyond your years. I believe in what you say.

  5. By chance today, I overheard a speaker who was sharing an insight that he gained through reading the Bible. His words reflected something about the power of Prayer. In essence, we are being asked to remain attentive to the transformational power of Hope. This radical hope requires us, in all times, to protect our hearts with a trust that surpasses all fear. This Trust is beyond Reason and beyond rational criticisms that would make all hope look like fantasy. This Trust may seem extraordinary in the face of this desperate reality that confronts us. Yet, as we nurture this intention to stay centered in a spirit of Divine Providence, we are actualizing a creative = life sustaining force in the face of all odds. As we enter this heart space, something in us shifts away from the impulse to fall into helplessness. Instead of our nervous system responding with fright, flight or freeze, we remember to respond with an inner sense of well being that transitions us toward hope. Even if this hope seems like a faint glimmer, this feeling of transcendence allows our hearts and minds to remain focused on our capacity to create the necessary “soulutions” that reside within the crisis. Our nervous system becomes resilient in the face of the shocks that seem to shake our confidence. Yes, we grieve. Yes, our sorrows exist. But, in our willingness to remain connected to our ability to engage our visions for a safer world, our capacity to actualize this safer world remains in closer range of what is truly possible. We are not helpless or hopeless. In the midst of all crisis lies the call to create. In this unity of creativity, our humanity resolves to imagine what does not yet exist, yet is evolving into existence. Our empathetic and loving relationships to each other in this grieving time binds us to a greater hope. We are, in unity, more resilient. And in this safer heart space of community we are more capable of creating new ways of responding to any crisis. Therefore, let us look into the face of Trust as we, together, find our way beyond the fears that would defeat us. This is truly beating the odds. With great respect to all, and in the deepest of gratitude to all who dare to hope….much love. Meg

  6. You are so right about plugging into the way the natural world works to help us learn how to handle the challenges of the Human world. Diversity and competition are only two of the aspects of natural systems that help to develop ecological stability. A third important aspect of natural systems is the profound influence of interaction between their components. I describe the importance of interactions in data mining in my book, “Handbook of Statistical Analysis & Data Mining Applications”. I talk about the nature of emergent properties of complex systems. In my previous life as a Research Professor in Forest Ecology at UCSB, I learned that when you cut down a tropical rain forest near the periphery of its range, it may take many years to recover, if it ever does. The reason is that peripheral areas of natural distribution are relatively stressful, such that the forest canopy itself maintains the necessary conditions for the survival of the forest. When you cut down the canopy in these peripheral areas, you remove the very resources needed for survival of the forest in that location. High rainfall leaches nutrients quickly down away from plant roots, so plants my get all their nutrients from decomposition of recently fallen leaves and branches. The canopy also maintains favorable conditions of temperature, light, and moisture necessary to support many of the plants and animals that live beneath the tree canopy. These conditions only emerge when the complex system is complete and functioning as a whole. Sometimes, emergent factors like these are the most important for maintaining the survival of other complex systems. We can learn a lot from these tropical forests to help us cope with the challenges in the complex system of our human society. You can read more about this is in Chapter 1 of my book, which is published by Academic Press (Elsevier Publ.), Burlington, MA. I wrote it with John Elder and Gary Miner in 2009.

  7. Wow Laurie, i feel so privileged to know you personally! This post is so powerful, and it’s really so unfair whats happening to great educators like yourself just because of some “backroom politics.” During this time I fear for my own career, but your post has shown me that “When the odds are beating us, we know it’s time to re-organize into new clouds, new forms, new life.” This is so inspiring and uplifting and i know that with all of your amazing talents you’ll find another job with another group of amazing kids to help mold. I also know that by being allies with people as special as you i will also learn to become a great educator and help add to the success of our youth. I’m looking into buying your book right now, i’m sure it will be of great use during student teaching next semester! :)) thanks for all your light!

  8. Hi, Chantel. Keep me posted on how your semester goes. I would love to come as a speaker to your school. Love to you and Zack….Laurie