And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
Updated: May 7
“Contemporary society has lost touch with soul and the path to psychological and spiritual maturity, or true adulthood. Instead, we are encouraged to create lives of PREDICTABLE security, FALSE normality, MATERIAL comfort, BLAND entertainment, and the ILLUSION of eternal youth.”
“Most of our leaders … represent and defend a non-sustainable way of life built upon military aggression, the control and exploitation of nature’s “resources,” and an entitled sense of national security that ignores the needs of other species, other nations, tribes and races, and our own future generations.”
“These values do not reflect our human nature.” (emphasis added)
This statement by Bill Plotkin in his book, “Soulcraft” accurately describe questions and attitudes that an avalanche of people are beginning to feel, or feel more intensely than before.
We’ve all just had a dusty lump of maps dropped into our laps from the height of the Unknown. We thought we had found Home and Place. Turns out, that is not the case. Humanity was only meant to pause at the juncture of technology and comfort, not to make a home here. Now, we’ve stayed too long. We’ve alienated cultures, nations, common sense, and decency – not to mention the Earth, who, from time immemorial has been thanked, praised, and even worshiped as a Goddess rather than exploited like a prostitute as is now the case.
So, what do we do?
We have an opportunity, right now, to start… to begin… to commence… a change. It takes five miles, they say, to turn a cruise ship 180 degrees. It doesn’t “turn on a dime.” Neither will our culture. Change, for an organism as cannibalistic as this, has to change not only its diet but its mindset.
And who makes up culture? We do. So, the only acceptable course is to change our mindsets. The diet will follow.
What does that mean?
It means we start to act as if we were not the only viable species on this planet. We are not the “top of the food chain.” We are not the “pinnacle of God's creation.” We are not the lords, “stewards,” or caretakers of the earth.
Dualistic ideas like these are what got us here. They’re what made us pause in our evolution to suck up too much life, and become obese and diabetic while doing so. Now, our very survival is threatened. The attitude that begins to turn this ship into a more sustainable, relational, and reverent relationship with our planet (or Goddess) is this:
We are not separate from Nature. We ARE Nature.
In the short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” Ursula K. Leguin tells the tale of an idyllic city by the sea. It’s perfect in every way. But the secret to their abundance and joy is that there is a small child in a locked basement broom-closet. This young one’s suffering is mandated to produce, somehow, the happiness of all the people on the outside. Not a kind word can be spoken to the child. She is left in her loneliness, barely fed, hardly watered. The people know this child exists, but her happiness is not worth the “happiness” of the people on the outside. If she were rescued, their joy would certainly diminish and may never return. Her health is not worth the risk.
Likewise, each of us makes choices about how we are going to engage a culture that has spread the world over. Like the citizens of Omelas, each of us knows that some portion of our consumption is somehow tied to difficulty and privation for those we cannot see – beings, including children and nations who are locked away in unhappy servitude to some greater dream that they can only imagine.
The time has come for us to begin to consider how we are going to break that young one, however she is embodied, out of that broom closet. It's time to see Omelas for what it is: a city dependent upon a lie. And then, like the few brave and principled souls in the story, we must begin the task of walking away. This happens individually as our material choices align with our soulful integrity. The consideration of our choices is the first step toward shifting the culture and turning our infected cruise ship back toward healthier shores.
Our consideration comes in the form of questions. Here are a few.
Do we buy whole foods, or processed? Organic, or laden with chemicals? Stripped from farms that had once been rain forests? Or do we primarily stick with those that are more indigenous to the area, and in season? Do we buy water bottled by those who would rule the planet through the sick and capitalistic ownership of common aquifers? And what of the bottles, themselves? Are they petrol-based? What is our footprint here on the earth - and vis-a-vis our work and community involvement, within the culture? What are the costs of these?
Our religions: do they teach dualism or unity? "Mankind as apart," or "mankind as a part?" Are our actions in keeping with the idea of a shared planet? Or are we somehow entitled to more than our share? If so how, and why? Do those arguments really make sense? Would they to us, if the tables were turned? And, even if we can somehow justify taking more than our share, what kind of culture and individual does that?
That’s easy: powerful, narcissistic ones. Is it any wonder why we have the political leaders we have? They are us.
These questions, each one and hundreds more, make up the keys to that broom closet. These are critical because there is a movement underway, and it’s simply this: we are no longer content to be happy while that little child suffers. We are going to break that baby out of there, accept the consequences for our extended, manufactured and soma-like slumber, and begin to live by the ancient rules of Unity and Life.
In a word, we are starting a revolution. Not of blood. Not of overthrow. We are merely walking away. We are growing gardens. We are sharing what we have. We are building Community and communities. We are holding ourselves to higher standards. Not by mandate, and not through fear.
We are walking out of Omelas in order to get back in touch with our souls both as individuals and as a culture. We are breaking that suffering child out of the despairing pits into which she/they were once cast - be she a nation, food sources, or forests. We will nurse her back to health and shower her with love. We will repent. We will wage peace among ourselves.
As a prophet once said, the day will come when “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb. The leopard shall lie down with the young goat. The calf and the young lion and the fatling together. And a little child shall lead them.”
We are walking out of Omelas, in search of our sacred common soul. And we will be led by the child-prophet who we once damned and sentenced to a prison of our own making, while we raged just outside her door.
(artwork by Yousef Espanioly)