using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : September 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2008 54 A FEW YEARS AGO, while researching my book The World Without Us, I visited a tribe in Ecuador whose remaining shred of once bountiful Amazon forest was so depleted that they’d resorted to hunting spider monkeys. This was espe- cially grim because they believed themselves to be descended from those very primates. In essence, they’d been reduced to eating their ancestors. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s new book, The World We Have, there is a remarkable corollary, called the Sutra of the Son’s Flesh. Its moral is that if we don’t consume with mindfulness and compassion, we will in effect be eating our children. In The World Without Us, I imagined how our planet might respond if humans were suddenly extracted. How long would it take the rest of nature to obliterate our deep tracks, undo our damage, replenish our empty niche, subdue our toxins, soften our scars? As my research revealed, many of our mon- umental works and seemingly invincible structures would succumb surprisingly quickly. Other matters that we’ve set in motion, however, such as all the carbon we’ve exhumed and redeposited in the atmosphere, would take nature much longer to reabsorb. And yet, nature has all the time in the world. Scientists, materials engineers, and the Buddha concur: Nothing we do is permanent. In fact, our world has been through far greater losses than the one we’re currently perpetrating. Periodically, volcanic eruptions that lasted up to a million years and cataclysmic as- teroid strikes have so devastated this planet that nearly every- thing alive was extinguished. Nevertheless, life, so awesomely resilient, is continually reborn in some unexpected and fertile incarnation—filling the Earth in one era with colossal rep- tiles, in another with magnificent mammals. This mysterious, wondrous life has recycled before, and will again. Just as no person lives forever, no species escapes eventual extinction, and ours is no exception. Yet to be alive, as Thich Nhat Hanh so eloquently reminds us, is both a blessing and an honor to uphold. To realize that we are part of a grand, changing, living pageant—one that, no matter how deep a wound it sustains, will always be renewed—brings great peace. But this grand perspective doesn’t relieve us of the re- sponsibility of living and acting at the highest possible level of awareness while we are here now. On the contrary: in one of those illuminating paradoxes that a Buddhist like Thich Nhat Hanh handles so deftly, the way to achieve enlightened freedom from the confines of the physical realm emerges directly from how consciously we engage with it. One bright, cold afternoon in November, 2003, I stood with five admirably engaged and dedicated fellow humans at the edge of a deep valley. We were north of Ch’orwon in South Korea’s Kangwon-do Province, staring at one of the most beautiful and terrifying places on Earth. Below us was the Demilitarized Zone: a buffer four kilometers wide that bisects the entire Korean peninsula. For fifty years it had kept two of the world’s largest and most hostile armies from murdering each other. Even so, each could still clearly see the other’s hillside bunkers, bristling with weapons that neither would hesitate to fire if pro- voked. Compounding this tragedy was the sad irony that these mortal enemies shared the same history, language, and blood. But they also shared a miracle. After a half-century, the abandoned no-man’s-land between them had reverted from rice paddies and villages to wilderness. Inadvertently, it had become one of the most important nature refuges in Asia. Among the imperiled species that depend on it was one re- vered throughout the Orient: the red-crowned crane. The sec- ond rarest on Earth after the whooping crane, it is repeatedly depicted in paintings and silks as a symbol of longevity, and as a manifestation of the noble virtues of Confucian scholars and Buddhist monks. Many, if not most, of these fabulous birds now winter in the DMZ. My hosts were scientists and staff from the Korean Feder- ation of Environmental Movement. Together, we watched as eleven red-crowned cranes—cherry caps, black extremities, but otherwise as pure and white as innocence itself—silently glided between the seething North and South Korean forces. Placidly, they settled in the bulrushes to feed. Because only fifteen hundred of these creatures remain, it was thrilling to see juveniles among them. Privileged as we were to witness this, it was impossible to forget—and even harder to reconcile—that this auspicious setting owed its existence to an unresolved war. If peace were ever restored, developers of suburbs to the south and indus- trial parks to the north had plans for this place that didn’t include wildlife. The reunification of Korea could mean a habitat loss that might shrink the red-crowned cranes’ gene pool critically enough to doom the entire species. Unless, that is, Korean leaders realized that amid the sor- row of this divided land lay a great opportunity. A growing alliance of world scientists, including my hosts, have pro- posed that the DMZ be declared an international peace park. It would be a gift of life to our Earth, protecting this haven to Cranes in the DMZ ALAN WEISMAN, author of The World Without Us, meditates on the connection between impermanence and caring for SEPT 48-55.indd 54 SEPT 48-55.indd 54 7/3/08 1:31:30 PM 7/3/08 1:31:30 PM