by Miki Kashtan
When I read Sharif Abdullah’s Creating a World that Works for All, one of the ideas that really stood out to me was that when the Exxon Valdez crashed, it was delivering my oil to me. It wasn’t someone else’s oil. I was using it just like the vast, vast majority of people in this country. This was radical non-separation for me. It has stayed with me, and continues to inform my investigations about how to approach the current cluster of challenges we are facing in the world.
Recently, I came across another example of such radical expression. This time it was a poem by Chun Yu, a fellow member in a writing group. Chun is a polymer scientist, environmentally concerned citizen, poet, and Buddhist practitioner. In her poem – The Game of Bonding – the Story of Plastics, from which I am quoting passages below, she practices non-separation in bringing together all parts of herself. She also invites the readers to practice non-separation. What would it be like to transcend the duality, to recognize continuity even with a substance that so many consider dangerous? I am sharing parts of this poem and my musings, in the hopes of inspiring others to experiment with thinking beyond our familiar categories, whatever they are for you.
What are plastics
But the same materials made of
You and me?
Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen…
What are they, but like us
Right away my breath changes as I grasp the depth of unconscious separation I had created.
Nature/God made, or man made
Can both sustain or destroy lives.
But as for fundamental existence of matters
There is no increase, no decrease,
No creation, no elimination,
As the Heart Sutra says and
As the physical law understands.
Thus no liking, nor hating
Shall be applied
Towards the same matters made of us.
Buddhism and physics come together to remind me of my own practice of transcending right or wrong, preference for joy over pain. I open wider.
Now we have waves, waves that are man made,
of plastics, of covalently bonded forms
The anguish, my utter helplessness about creating any change rise to the surface. How could this have happened? What can we do about it? Miles and miles of plastic covering the ocean. Will we ever learn?
who are punished by our mistake of
not being able to learn the total truth, the way,
before trying our hands on alchemy
I am struck by the compassion I hear in this, the simplicity. We, and our actions, and all that has happened, including plastic, including our mistakes, are part of life, part of nature. How exacting to recognize that there is nowhere that is outside of life.
What makes anything evil is
our own inability to bear its consequences.
Yet, in nature's time/god's eyes everything is degradable,
including the consequence itself.
In moments I can open wide enough to trust this simple truth. It’s only my scale, the small human scale, that zooms in on one particular aspect instead of the full picture. I am grateful to Chun and to all the teachers who remind me of the larger scale.