A few nights ago, John and I watched an episode of Electric Dreams, a futuristic, sci-fi show, depicting an existence where humans had the capability to travel huge expanses of space and live on various planets in multiple galaxies. The main character, a young man who works for a space tourism company, encounters an old woman offering an enormous sum of money to be taken to planet earth. "It's impossible", the young man tells her, "Earth no longer exists." She won't hear of it.
The woman, over 400 years old, shares with the man the stories her grandmother had told her as a girl-stories of life on earth. "She lived in a place called Carolina," she says, "where there were lush green fields and glistening blue waters that people would swim in. And sometimes, they'd swim without any clothes!" She chuckles. In case you care to see the show, I'll stop there. I've always been a fan of dystopian stories. I enjoy the lessons they have to offer about how the presence of some things in today's world, could grow into an ugly, heinous future. But I had an emotional reaction to this story, I did not foresee. It was all too real- the future of earth no longer supporting life. By the end of the episode, I was heaving uncontrollable sobs. My heart ached with the knowledge of the suffering of life on earth. With each arising image of species extinctions, oil spills, and landfills, I felt my heart break a little more. Even as I write this, my eyes blur and my lip quivers with the reminder. Eventually, I cried myself to sleep, cradled in the arms of my loving partner, who just let me cry. I awoke with an openness and rawness that still lingers in me now. When I sat in my heart in those moments, it was not a fear of the planet's destruction that brought me to tears, but rather my love for the beauty of life that wrenched my heart into a deeper level of alertness.
I attribute this growing sensitivity to my engagement with the work of one of my spiritual teachers, Jeannie Zandi. Through her non-profit, Living As Love, she "explores the meeting of Heaven and Earth in the human heart" (http://jeanniezandi.com/). She invites us to close our eyes and sit inside the deep, dark tender space of our own heart for a while. Looking out from the eyes of the heart, says Jeannie, "...is a great feat, as this world is not particularly kind to the tender sensitivity of the heart"(http://jeanniezandi.com/offered-heart/). This deep sadness and longing I experienced was not scary, but rather empowering and inspiring. It did not plunge me into fear or dread. Instead, it allowed me to get a glimpse of the strength of this pulsing muscle in my chest- of my heart's capacity to feel and to love. Mercy on the humans, as Jeannie would say.