Have you ever awakened to the call of birdsong? It is certainly a lot more pleasant than the insistent ringing of an alarm clock.
Birds sing at daybreak because trees give off oxygen just before dawn, and this wakes up the birds and makes them sing! And naturally, of course, the sun appears with its great gift of light and warmth to give us all a wake-up call. If only more people paid attention to the signs of Creation.
Instead, we live in a society that, like the proverbial “blissfully ignorant” frog, is content to sit in a pot of water, oblivious to the fact that beneath it is a flame heating up the pot ever so slowly until it reaches boiling point, when it is too late.
There is hope however, if we remember another frog proverb: “The frog does not drink up the pond in which it lives.” Which frog do we want to be? The choice is a no-brainer.
Sadly, old habits die hard. For example, some people refuse to change their unhealthy diet and lifestyle until illness strikes.
Even when confronted with overwhelming symptoms and signs – such as high blood pressure and shortness of breath, earthquakes and floods – we humans tend to ignore, and even deny that such problems exist and need to be dealt with.
In his book, Ecological Intelligence, Daniel Goleman (who also wrote about Emotional Intelligence) explains that our human brain is not particularly wired to respond to ecological dangers.
“Our brain has been exquisitely tuned to notice changes in light, sound, pressure, and the like within a narrow range – the zone of perception that tigers and reckless drivers come in.”
In other words, if a tiger appears or a reckless driver cuts into our path, our brains will immediately sense danger and respond. Within milliseconds, the trigger sends a “get-out-of-my-way!” signal and the threat is perceived.
What about the signs of climate change? How is it we are quick only to adopt the attitude that “what we don’t see and don’t know does not matter”? Unless we get hit by a tsunami or have our island disappear under our feet, we are so like the frog in the pot!
Unfortunately, “ecological changes that signal impending danger are too subtle to register in our sensory systems at all”, says Goleman.
The author quotes Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert saying that changes that happen gradually are barely noticed. Hence, “we accept things we would not allow if they happened suddenly”.
“The impurity of our air, our water, our food, has increased dramatically in our lifetimes, but it happened one day at a time, transforming our world into an ecological nightmare that our grandparents never would have tolerated.”
Goleman adds that to survive today, “we must perceive threats that are beyond our thresholds for perception. We must make the invisible visible”.
As consumers, we have become indifferent to the consequences of our actions – what we buy and what we do. It is time now to ditch our unexamined habits of consumption. We can no longer pretend not to know that 80 percent of the world’s resources are consumed by 20 percent of the world’s population. For us Christians, the way of Christ, the Word incarnate, is our only way.
To live more simply and more naturally, to hunger less for the excessive comforts of modern existence, and to do so out of love for the poor and respect for Creation is to know true peace in all our relationships – with God, Man, and all of Creation.
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in Creation Spirituality.
By Anne Lim