For the Faithful | By Eric Francis



Tidal pool, Hudson River estuary system, New York
Photo courtesy of Sloop Clearwater.

For The Faithful

Seattle, Jan. 5, 2001

An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

-- Bob Dylan | Full Lyrics


Readers, cousins, friends,

Okay. Well. Deep breath... I join you a bit late this month and a bit late in history, from rainy Seattle, in yet another moment between two eclipses. Uncertainty being the keynote of such a phase, acceleration that does not exactly feel like progress, not yet, and freedom that may not quite feel like liberation. Precariousness that does not feel like balance. But of course celestial events are still unfolding. For those of you who follow such things and for those of you who wish to, the moon is eclipsed in the 20th degree of Cancer Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2001 at 12:24 pm Pacific Time, or 20:24 UT. This be the corresponding lunar eclipse to the Christmas Day solar eclipse that has provided us with so many interesting experiences and revelations lately.

Having said that, I barely know where to begin, except to congratulate you and why not myself on surviving into the 21st Century -- the odds were against us, and we've beat them. I make no promises here. "We have met the enemy," in the immortal words of Pogo the Possom, "and he is us."

Much as I would like to lay a judgment on the human race, it gets more difficult by the day. We are, for certain, here under adverse circumstances, and I don't believe it's getting easier, not for most people. I don't care how much money you have; suffering is suffering, whether you are starving in the Sudan or feel trapped in isolation from the human race in a Minneapolis penthouse apartment. The difference might be that a person starving in the Sudan is probably under no illusions, or less of them, anyway, and may thus may appreciate life far more.

These days I find myself faced with some big decisions, most of which I will not get into here. The sense that I must sacrifice something to which I am committed is always eased by the relief that I get to make a choice at all. I work with a spiritual teacher and she said to me recently, "This lifetime for you is about choosing. You know that." Earlier in my work, more like 14 years ago, I read in the Course in Miracles that "the power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world." This prospect does not reverberate with optimism, but its hope is not false.

Here's a fierce little demon I wrestle with every now and then. In 1991, a moment ago, I made the choice to get involved in covering an environmental disaster. If you read Planet Waves with any regularity, the name "SUNY New Paltz" is probably familiar to you. I stayed with this story with some success, pursued it to the international level, but a decade later find myself still in pursuit and standing in the legacy of the global environmental crisis. I know what is happening on this planet. Sure, everyone knows what is happening on this planet, but I have had, or chosen, to look straight at it and sign my name to what I've learned. I care. I am outraged at what some of us know as "corporate greed." I am, however, more outraged at the kind, well-meaning people, and the deodorized, TV-sucking throngs, and the educated middle-class intellectuals, all of whom contribute to the problem, actively or passively, to an exactly equal extent as our friends Monsanto, Dow Chemical, General Electric and so on.

Functioning in both the corporate and human realms is extremely hard work, and often thankless. (I am whining, I admit it.) When I call this demon by name, it's often "environmental activism," which seems, quite dependably, to be one of the most useless disbursements of time I can think of. But working against corporate crimes is a cinch, and highly productive, compared to working against human inertia. Let's get real. One human being cannot work against the inertia, that is, the refusal to move, grow, do, feel, think or decide, of another person. Oh, we may try. But it's useless, and it's dangerous. People have a big investment in staying stuck -- mainly, not having to face their responsibility to live. And, like all people with investments, they work to protect them; that is, we work to protect and cover and defend the places we are stuck, because to do anything else is to take full responsibility for being alive.

Taking responsibility for being alive translates to, for example, dealing with one's problems, and also at least acknowledging, if not directly participating in, the global issues that we are faced with. But, as it turns out, the quotient of people who care about either is pretty low.

Now, the paradox is that this failure to take responsibility for being alive comes with a whole bunch of fear of death, which is a mockery of holding an authentic value on life. Indeed, it would appear that the fear of death is at the core of the whole mess here, be it personal or "corporate," corporations being made of people and their agendas, and greed, which is merely hoarding against death, being a general problem. Into this fear of death, darkness and deceit enter, and pleasure, beauty, love and freedom are banished. So, in reality it would seem that we are faced with what I reluctantly call a spiritual problem, which amounts to the necessity (if we want to get our act together on the planet, and only if) for us to tap into our underlying reality, call it the soul, the inner being, or the "higher self" who IS WHO WE ARE; and in the process, to connect with the much larger picture, call it cosmos or call it community.

Any suggestions, anyone?

Having said this, here's a little update on the Hudson River. Last month GE was ordered to conduct a rather modest $500 million cleanup of the PCBs that the company dumped into the river from two capacitor manufacturing plants for half a century. At the same time, GE's lawyers brought a lawsuit against the federal government to shut down the Superfund law, the federal law that, every now and then, forces a polluter to deal with his mess. Here is a paragraph from a GE press release I got the other day:

"[Superfund] provisions, states the suit, give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncontrolled authority to order intrusive remedial projects of unlimited scope and duration in non-emergency situations. Moreover, they fail to provide for constitutionally adequate hearings or an opportunity for judicial review."

In other words, it is, in GE's view, unconstitutional to force polluters to clean up the messes they make in the environment. And you know what's really weird? It just may be. For, if you have read the document you know this, there are no prohibitions or rules of conduct for corporations in the federal constitution; corporations have free run of the country, and of the planet. And while this is a fascinating question of tremendous importance about which I have a lot insights to offer, I must be getting to my lunch.


Good to be with you,

Eric Francis


What's New at Planet Waves