From the Clerk's Table

Mary Jo Klingel

Dear Friends,

“Think globally, act locally.” I remember the relief I felt when I heard that advice. For me, the downside of thinking globally was that I also FELT globally.  Each issue hurt—the plastic in the ocean, the loss of ice on Everest, lack of water in Africa, the desperation of coal miners, the plight of polar bears and manatees.  It was all so wrong and painful.

I grieved for days for the loss of the last northern white rhino. I was also angry—how could these magnificently ugly animals become extinct in our time?  In my anger, I muttered,  “He has a NAME.  His name is Sudan.  He is dead now.”  It is still painful.

With the anger and the grieving came an immense sense of helplessness.  I can never do enough to heal or reverse these failures.  What I do is one drop in a massive, polluted ocean.  I understand people who just cannot see the results of climate disruption—it is too hard. 

I want to share what I have done to be able to keep on with this work.  I have given up outcomes.  I do not do what I do because of what I will achieve, or because I will make sure the earth gets through this crazy time. I do not do what I do for the future. I do it because that is who I have decided to be. It is who I choose to be.
I have had the gift of many teachers on this path, some of whom I know only from the books they have written. Margaret Wheatley is one such teacher. I offer you some of her words from the book So Far From Home: Lost and Found in our Brave New World.
“The Brazilian theologian Rubem Alvez defined the source of discipline: ‘We must live by the love of what we will never see.’ Yet as I walk down this path, I do see things that inspire me to maintain discipline.  I see not only the pain and suffering, but the natural goodness, compassion and intelligence of people.  Even though we’re not going to save the world, we human beings are worth struggling for.  And in the midst of the struggle, there are still great pleasures to be found, especially moments of joy.  There is joy because we humans are meant to be together, we are together, we were never separated. That was just a terrible optical illusion.  In the worst times of loss and grief, when everything has been swept away, we’re still here.  We have not lost our compassion or intelligence.  We’re still together, just humans, being.”

Mary Jo Klingel
Clerk, Quaker Earthcare Witness