There’s nothing like catching a cold to make you think about moderation. I was feeling great up til about Friday, when I started feeling a little more tired and strung out than usual. Saturday was a long and exhausting day, and Sunday I woke up with this awful taste in my mouth, a scratchy throat and a runny nose. Oh well. I never used to get colds, but now that I’m out of my invincible phase (which lasts from about 18 to 25; at least, that’s what my insurance company told me) I seem to catch a lot more random bugs and malaises. This little (?) body seems a lot more vulnerable than it used to. Anyway, for the time being, I’m hanging around at home eating soup and drinking grapefruit juice instead of milk and cookies.
Anyway, my sick mind managed to draw a parallel between being sick and all this talk about climate change that’s been happening, especially with the IEF conference over the weekend. Bear with me here. I’ve been catching up with the (facinating) video presentations, hearing all sorts of evidence of the effects of human activity upon the world we live in. Briefly, ever since the industrial revolution, Western society has been embracing unbridled and unqualified technological advancement and progress. The more singlemindedly we pursued an ideal of ultimate comfort and ease for ourselves, the quicker these effects accumulated. It’s only in the past few decades that we’ve begun to notice that the choices we’ve made have had, and are having, palpable consequences. Just like it takes a few days to catch a cold before you notice the symptoms, we sailed along merrily pumping more and more greenhouse gases into our Earth’s atmosphere, polluting its rivers and oceans, venting exhaust into its previously clean air. Now comes the big sneeze—or perhaps we could call it the Big Sweat.
If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 342
So, when you get sick, you rest up, right? You call in sick to work (ideally), drink lots of fluids, pump up on vitamins, and take it easy. What do we do when the Earth gets sick? I’m not too sure, but it probably involves taking a rest—local campaigns to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents are a simple first step, but like most people end up saying at the end of their discourse, our entire way of life has to change into something more sensible, more sustainable. I can’t work 12-hour days on two pots of coffee and a box of donuts when I’m sick—that’s insane and irresponsible (and my mama taught me better than that). It’ll throw me even further out of whack. So why should I run the washing machine when I only put a couple of hand towels in? Or leave the heat in my house on at 25 C? Or run the dishwasher for half a load of dishes? Aren’t I already using enough power, enough water, enough of everything?
Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.
Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 169
Moderation is a universal principle, one that we can all observe. Moderation is basically avoiding excess and choosing to observe balance in life. Moderation requires mindfulness—knowing what’s around you at all times, being aware of how you’re affecting your surroundings and how they’re affecting you. Moderation is universal because it applies to every part of our lives: not only our use of energy and the earth’s resources, but also things like our speech, our enjoyment of food and drink, the way we dress and adorn our bodies, the music we listen to, the way we have fun, and so on. When I get sick, moderation is what keeps me from getting sicker. When my credit cards are in danger of getting maxed out, moderation is what keeps me from getting further into debt. And so on.
“[T]he temple of the world,” says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “hath been fashioned after the image and likeness of the human body.” How much more critical are the consequences, therefore, when the equilibrium of our world is upset—when the system that holds its components together in one marvelously intricate and dynamic balance is pushed beyond the bounds of moderation! If we get sick, we can take a few days off, and generally the only one inconvenienced is ourself—but what does the world do? The earth can’t take a holiday; it’s there for good, and so are we—and now that we know with more than reasonable certainty that our actions are causing changes in the Earth’s climate, the ball’s in our court.
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life molds the environment and is itself deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.
Shoghi Effendi, cited in the compilation on the
Conservation of the Earth’s Resources