On Trial

 

Every Friday, Atmos editor-in-chief William Defebaugh reflects on the week in climate and culture, sharing stories of insight and inspiration.

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Today, the world has its eyes fixed upon the Senate impeachment trial for President Trump. So far, there have been debates over new witnesses, heated moments between impeachment managers and, as to be expected, Twitter commentary from the man on trial himself. (“They are fighting big time!” Trump wrote in one brilliant post.)

 

But what is really on trial here? Beyond impeachable offenses and white men who have overstayed their welcome, something deeper is being put to the test in 2020: our ability to integrate everything that is happening around us.

 

At any given moment, a casual scroll on social media might reveal new environmental rollbacks, new casualties and warnings, new impending natural disasters, and alarming new research. That same scroll might also reveal new steps being taken in the right direction, new innovations and solutions, and inspiring new demonstrations and acts of heroism from people far and wide.

 

Every day we are being asked to integrate nature’s unending dance of destruction and creation, hope and despair, growth and decay, majesty and maleficence. We see this on the micro level in our daily dramas, our plights and pleasures—the otherwise ordinary experiences that make up being human. We also see it on the macro level when we reconcile our broken system with the fact that we are also a part of that broken system—and thus we must hold ourselves continuously accountable for how we are working to dismantle it.

 

To integrate is to allow for all facets of experience, and to understand them as parts of a whole. The more we can do this, the more we can face the totality of what is happening in our world today—and make space for the joy as well as the sorrow—the more we will be able to affect change around us. Devastation in all of its forms has been a part of nature since the beginning: we have little control over this. What we do have control over is how we receive and respond to it.

 

As J. Krishnamurti said, “Life is a total process, the inner as well as the outer; the outer definitely affects the inner, but the inner invariably overcomes the outer. Life is not dependent upon political or economic activity; life is not a mere outward show, any more than a tree is the leaf or the branch. Life is a total process whose beauty is to be discovered only in its integration.”

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