Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Structure of Heartbreak

The battle's lost. It's going up. There's nothing I can do to stop it, and I can't make anyone else be motivated enough to try. That's what I thought, and part of me still thinks, about the proposed new Chico State parking structure.

There is a way in which accepting this possibility actually helps me to believe in the possibility of it's opposite. By grieving the loss of this symbolic confrontation of local vs. industrial, bike vs. car, accountability vs. convenience, I actually opened up to the possibility that it isn't inevitable that the parking structure will in fact be built.

Thinking about this issue, I feel angry. I feel shaky. I feel scared. Chico is my sanctuary from the rest of the industrial world, and it is a sanctuary that is constantly being threatened by those using their power to cut down trees, pave over fields of flowers, and otherwise disrespect and ignore the rights of nonhuman beings to live and thrive.

It is so easy to get caught up in blame and name-calling when it comes to an issue this close to my heart. See above paragraph for example. Those words aren't going to open anyone up to appreciating nonhuman life if they don't already. They would just hear it as criticism and write me off me as a tree-hugging hippie.

I say those words, (or write them, in this case), because I am pleading with the world, tragically perhaps, to please care about how desperate I feel every time I see a new building going up, especially in my hometown. Please care, please listen with your heart to how deeply and painfully I need safety, beauty, and nurturance in the place I live.

I need safety from cars who can run me and my sweet squirrel and bird friends over, not to mention pollute the air and water directly and more often indirectly.

I need beauty, which to me means blue skies (and sunsets!) clearly visible wherever I go, unless they are blocked out by lush green leaves waving in the breeze, not walls of concrete, no matter how "sustainably designed" or even mosaic-ed they are.

I need nurturance, which again means blue skies and green trees, and the hope that somehow Chico is going to come together and put true sustainability -- emotional, psychological, and ecological sustainability -- on the front burner, so that somehow we might survive the coming changes in our society, economy, and biosphere.

I am trying to understand the needs of the people who want this parking structure. I am trying to understand in hopes that I can help them find another way to meet these needs, which of course they don't believe exists. I am trying to understand while my heart is breaking as I watch the snowball of expansion get bigger with each revolution down the hill.

I talked to a young man on campus yesterday who supports this parking structure. I told him that I am a local and I am upset that people who live here for a few years are destroying the town I intend to live in for the rest of my life. He didn't care. He thinks he's entitled to his parking, that thousands of dollars in energy and resources towards more concrete is a reasonable price to pay for convenience. How can someone be so indifferent to the effect they have on a place they are only living in temporarily?

I think it's because he's not indigenous. Indigenous in the sense of having a place you can really call home, a place where the Earth reaches up and wraps her roots around your feet because she loves you so much, a place where you've climbed the trees and swam the rivers and come to love a place like a family member, a loving grandparent that cares for you unconditionally, emotionally if not physically.

Because even those of us raised on hot dogs and TV dinners, who never learned to forage or garden, can and have connected with the nonhuman world in deep ways. And I don't think that anyone who has felt this connection, and remembers it, would ever vote to approve another giant gray slab of housing for the machines that are one of the main physical manifestations of our imbalance with the world we live in.

And if you haven't ever felt that connection, wouldn't you like to? To know that in the bigger picture, you belong? That there is something to soothe and caress the emptiness in your heart, even if it can't make the emptiness go away? Wouldn't it be worth it to ride a bike in the rain once in a while, or carpool with a friend, or -- God-forbid -- take the bus, if you knew it was for the benefit of real, living beings, and the sanctity of a real, living, community? (They are rare these days, after all.)

My heart might break if this parking structure goes up, and if so, may it break open, rather than shut down, as it's been trying to do to avoid the pain of beauty being sacrificed for convenience. May it break open so that I can love all the more deeply, and may I be as tender as a mussel pulled up from the sea.

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