A lone, terrified adult Orang Utan, limbs wrapped tightly around the last, spindly tree in an otherwise decimated landscape.
A baby Orang Utan clutching to a heap of golden hair streaked red with blood; a tangle of indistinguishable limbs: its dead mother. Baby eyes wide in confusion and fright. Such gentleness. Such beauty. Dignified somehow, even in sorrow.
I’m awake; these images branded on my mind and my heart in pain. I should never have looked at that video on Facebook last night, I think as I fumble for my phone and check the time; 2:12am. I’d only watched a few seconds of it, knowing I couldn’t handle more, but even that seems too much now.
I’m not sure these videos are helpful, I think, pushing the glare of my phone aside; unless they are accompanied by precise instructions on how to help matters. But there was no way I was going to wait to the end of the video to find out. And no action points could erase the fact it happened — and still goes on happening — and cannot be undone.
On this miraculous, exquisite oasis we call home. A slowly spinning sphere in otherwise hostile, mostly empty space. A wisp of atmosphere our comfort blanket.
I just can’t quite get my head around it.
Am I naive? Too sensitive?
Suffering is part of life; the Buddha suggested we accept that. But the suffering of a creature so pure and innocent seems to rattle me more than the suffering of any human. Its seems all the more a wicked and profane. A barbarous, sacrilegious act against a nature so rich, so beautiful, and so giving.
I must accept that many people wouldn’t feel as strongly about watching such a video. Perhaps they are thinking types. Or, have greater, more immediate concerns. Some will feel worse than I, no doubt. There is a spectrum of emotion. And a plague of distraction and disconnection to contend with, fuelled by pain, addiction, news, shopping, fast food, and no time to think. There are other viral videos to contend with, like ones of talking cats.
If those videos of injustice or barbarism just serve to shut you down, as you flee from feeling so raw; or if they provoke fruitless anger or pity, then do they do any good? If I have no power to act, is it better not to know?
I fear being shut down. I am newly feeling so open and receptive. A bloom fearing an early frost. I was warned against checking emails too soon, or watching the news. Was I foolish to watch this video?
Foolish? - that’s not a kind. You're learning to be kind, aren't you?
Kind... - could we learn to be kind to our planet? To our fellow beings, great and small?
I try to breathe into the pain and horror; and not withdraw. Breathe into the ache in my heart. It will pass, won’t it?
I breathe deep. But I’m soon wondering how long it will be before sleep envelopes me again. Sleep and it’s glorious release. Reset. Recharge. Thank god for sleep.
Will that baby Orang Utan ever sleep peacefully again?
And what of the one clinging to the tree; scorched ground smoking all around?
But it’s too much.
I try to conjure calming imagery. Golden sand and lapping sea. A waterfall. A favourite music video. Nothing much works. Not even the magic tree with Care Bears in it I always sought as child when I had nightmares.
Perhaps I shouldn’t fight the mental images away, but rather feel fully what comes of them. But what if that closes me up, or worse still, breaks my heart? Is such a thing is possible…?
It’s not, I tell myself; the human heart is bigger than that. Though I’m not entirely sure.
I have to get up and move about. I tap some pressure points on my face and chest with my fingers tips; a calming technique a lady showed me only three days earlier when I was still camped on the land and close to the forest.
I open my laptop and start writing — how I’m feeling; these words you’re reading now; a message to the lady who posted the video?; a message to myself? It doesn’t matter, I just have to let it out.
We can’t ‘save the world’. We can’t take on all the injustice that exists. Just like I can’t undo what I saw in that video (the Orang Utan one, not the Donald Trump one). I must accept it. Accept somehow that it’s all part of the divine unfolding of things…
I wonder if is such a thought is a sedative, or a deeper truth.
I would feel shame at being human — that my kind is responsible for such horrors — had I not recently washed my hands of “shame”. Washed them upon the land. In a forest stream. A mighty oak at my back. And even if warranted on this occasion, I will not go there. “Shame” razed my own inner forests for far too long; left me mourning a limp heap of neglected dreams; and clinging to a narrow trunk of self-worth.
So... what to do? What to think?
Don’t sink. Don’t wallow in despair. But at the same time don’t deny your sensitivity. Your affront. Your disgust. Your dread at what befalls the world.
To feel it is to be fully human. Fully alive.
But enough now. Recognise no good will come of feeling alone. It can be an indulgence even.
Sleep. Rest. Grant yourself that. Then get energised if you must. Get serious. Ask, how can I use this gift of this 'life' for the wellbeing of people and planet? For more than ‘little self’ — its wants, and its dramas.
Focus on the Orang Utan’s, or the forests, or some other cause. Or perhaps just be there to listen — or to smile — just when someone needs it most.
We need each other, now more than ever, as our social-economic systems creak and strain and crack on the equally fragile (eco)system they are built. Community and collaboration. Building resilience. Forging change.
I find myself needing to believe the Universe is in harmony, despite it all. That humans, and all we do, is part of nature too. The pollution; the harm; the thoughtlessness. The moon has her shadow side…
I don’t think this way to bliss out and excuse myself or others.
But to not be crushed.
To walk on.
With regard the Orang Utans. What can you or I do, really?
Check the products I buy don’t contain palm oil? It’s in almost everything, and they can even label it ‘vegetable oil’ now. Some companies procure ‘sustainable palm oil’. There is no sustainable palm oil! Every palm plantation is a crime; a rainforest that is no more; nature, evolution and creativity defiled.
Fly to Borneo and fight on the front line?
Post something on Facebook?
It seems so futile.
Do they want us to feel that way? And who are ‘they’, really?
I can’t put all the world’s problems on my shoulders.
I must still find beauty and meaning.
Still reach out and connect.
Still strive to make a difference.
And right now I feel impelled to write this, and share some links, and end with a quote.