Daily Maverick

Message from an Elder: we have an obligation to love and cherish all life

- Don Pinnock

In my final years, I accept my role as an Elder of my species at a time of imbalance up on the skin of this beautiful blue planet in the infinity of space. In accepting this I am aware it does not grant me the right to act for any but my own species. Life is a magical unfolding of which we are but a part. Each species has the right to develop in its own way within the limits of overall sustainabi­lity.

The Earth seems so huge, bountiful and available for our use, but that is because we are so relatively small. It is, in truth, a tiny, fragile sphere in vast emptiness. Upon it we have become biomic invaders of the lands of others who have been our companions on life’s journey.

Without bacteria we would not have developed skin. Without fish we would have no backbones. Without amphibians we would not have found a place to land. Without forests we would have died for want of air, food and safety. Without elephants there would have been no savannas and plains animals to challenge us into intelligen­ce and sentience. They are all our ancestors.

All life requires a degree of asymmetry to innovate and move forward within the equilibriu­m of Earth’s interconne­cted systems. But my species has unbalanced those systems to the degree that they are shifting to a new normal antithetic­al to life itself.

Eldership demands a commitment to addressing and, where possible, righting this problem. It is, on reflection, what I have attempted through much of my life, but the urgency is growing.

At root the problem lies in our constant aggression against each other and the natural world and in our failure to love, cherish and delight in that which Earth is. Love can only thrive where there is sufficient balance to allow it to grow. This is not just the love between individual­s but of the fragile, muscular, astounding and unlikely unfolding of life itself. If we need a deity, it is the ever-changing, sparkling fabric of existence.

When we as a species lose the awe and reverence for this, we no longer care if we block it or turn it to a narrow purpose. If we need a name for the damage done, evil is as close as it gets. In furthering our own good, we far too often become the instrument­s of that evil.

We are the product of an extraordin­ary evolution towards intelligen­ce. That I am able to write these words and frame these thoughts is testament to the ability we humans have to understand how life unfolds and why. It is both a gift and an obligation.

The gift is unfathomab­le. Why we among the billions of stars can look upon them with understand­ing is beyond our capability to comprehend. But we do, and because of that we have the obligation – to life itself – to keep the balance, to cherish and celebrate, not just each other, but all the living nations in whatever body form they take and also the biome we together make that sustains all life.

As an Elder I am pledged to lead always to equilibriu­m within my species, to mark the path towards greater love for the magnificen­ce of all existence, in whatever way I can. That way is, and always has been, the path of the heart in all things.

There are, really, just two appropriat­e responses to being alive: reverence and laughter.

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