1ST STUDENT: The Earth is very sick and she needs healing.
2ND STUDENT: We have to change out of necessity, but how do we change voluntarily to a less destructive lifestyle?
1ST MAN: I think the question is to what extent will we shape the change? The Earth is nearing its carrying capacity.
SALLIE McFAGUE, Professor of Theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School: In other words, the moral issue of the day is the global one, whether or not we and other species will live and how well we will live
2ND MAN: It seems that there needs to be a philosophic switch.
Rabbi ISMAR SCHORSCH, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary of America: The inner life has got to be expanded for your generation. Your success has to be defined in far more spiritual terms.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Religion has often been on the side of claiming the sacredness of every individual human being while being willing to wipe out whole species of other creatures as well as not being concerned, really, about ourselves as a species among species.
3RD STUDENT: I grew up in Calcutta. It would be a little hut of this size, maybe a family of six living. OK, you're going to tell some family of six, "Now, you don't expand the size of your family to seven." They're going to say, "Get lost."
AUDREY SHENANDOAH, Onandaga Elder: We're always given, in our instruction, to use the environment. We were told what we could use the maple tree for, how to use the fish in the water, how to use the water itself, but we must use it rightly and give some back.
4TH STUDENT: We're going to come into a closer contact with nature and we're going to challenge ourselves individually to live for something. And the Spirit is not separate from us. He's here, it is here, the mother, the Earth.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR, Islamic Scholar: To be human, in a sense, is already to be semi-divine, in a sense, carrying the image of the divine. So whenever there's a great crisis afoot, whether there are comforts, where there are modes of knowing, man will always turn again to that treasure that is within himself.
4TH STUDENT: But can you really expect us to suddenly one day change, believe in God and say all things are sacred and start believing, preserving them?
DALAI LAMA: If you have, you see, genuine compassion, on that basis, you see, you will develop not only respect other, but some kind of essential responsibility
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] In this broadcast, we will hear voices of some major religions addressing the challenge of a new ethic toward the Earth and our environment, a new understanding of "Spirit and Nature." I'm Bill Moyers.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER, Professor of Religion, Middlebury College: He is endangered today in North America and one of the questions is, will these predators be saved? And in his face, you see all the questions that the whole natural world asks us today "What are you human beings going to do with us wolves?"
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Images and music inspired by the mysteries and wonder of Nature's creation, rituals to celebrate our relationship with other human beings and with the natural world-this was not your ordinary academic conference. For four days in the late summer of 1990, the community of Middlebury College in Vermont wrestled with the issues of a deepening global environmental crisis.
5TH STUDENT: Seeing is fine, I mean, theoretically, it's great, but what exactly do you mean?
6TH STUDENT: Eliciting some sort of major change in the next, you know, 20 years, rather than the next 100 years.
4TH MAN: We have an economy which is dependent upon misuse of the environment.
1ST WOMAN: It's a pretty pessimistic view.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: New intellectual, social, moral and religious consciousness is struggling to possess the minds and hearts of men and women on this planet. It is a time of great opportunity.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Steven Rockefeller, who teaches religion at Middlebury College, explained that the conference was motivated by the need to reexamine the moral and spiritual values that guide human conduct.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: The transformation it calls for is our great spiritual need.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] For four days, we encountered the voices of a range of world religions-a Native American elder, an Islamic scholar, a Protestant theologian, a rabbi and historian, a social ethicist and a holy man, the 14th Dalai Lama and exiled leader of Tibet. Their ideas were provocative, but so, too, were the questions from students and faculty.
7TH STUDENT: [reading] "Mass for the Earth, mass of the Earth. It is the Great Mother celebration. The Earth-the grasses, the seas and the infinite variety of creatures are her body, incarnations of her being and creativity."
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Whether through ritual or the imagination of writers, artists and musicians, the realities addressed by the conference took on another life. The symposium included a performance by the Paul Winter Consort, who create what they call "Earth jazz," combining jazz, folk and classical styles with the recorded voices of the natural world-endangered species like wolves, whales and spotted owls. We were less inspired by the pesky species actually present, but the landscape of rural Vermont proved an appropriate environment for contemplating the relationship between spirit and nature.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: We are responsible for seven generations, in my tradition, seven generations into the future. Our leadership must not make decisions that is going to bring pain or harm or suffering seven generations in the future. And this is a cause for great concern among my people, for we live in a dominant society and I
mean dominant because they feel dominant over the rest of the elements of the creation.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Audrey Shenandoah is an elder of the Eel Clan of the Onandaga, one of the six nations of the Iroquois Confederation. She teaches Onandaga language and culture at a school near her home in Syracuse, New York.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: But there are many of us who have this great concern for what is happening to our Mother Earth. There are many of us who know a relationship, a very real relationship to our I. mother the Earth, and all of the elements.
BILL MOYERS: I was struck, as you talked-you talked about how you refer,-in your native language, to "our brother, the Sun, our mother, the Earth, our grandfather, the Thunder." What does it do to someone's sense of the world to speak in terms of personal kinship?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: My grandmother was about 60 years old when I came to her as an infant, so that's all I heard in our home, my grandfather and her company, of course, were all elder people. And so, I just heard this all the time without really paying attention to it.
BILL MOYERS: You mean, they actually referred to "our mother, the Earth, our brother, the Sun"?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Oh, yes. Yes. This is the way our-the Earth is looked at and referred to.
BILL MOYERS: That helps me to understand why, when Black Elk, Black Elk talked about how, when you step out on you, the Earth, you do so, every step is a prayer. Every step is a prayer. You help me to see that that's just the natural way you treat something that's part of your own family.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Something that's sacred. I work with little children, you know, and one time, I asked-I was trying to understand if these children knew the word "sacred" and its meaning, so I asked them, "What does sacred mean to you? What do you know in your life that is sacred?" And most of them said, "My mother." "And how do you treat something that is sacred to you?" And their answers were really, really something that made me-almost brought tears to my eyes because they talked about protecting their mother, not letting their mother get hurt and loving their mother. And this was from little children, like kindergarten and first grade. So when I talked about the Sacred Mother Earth, I wanted to be sure that they knew what the word sacred meant and they said that their mother was sacred to them.
BILL MOYERS: What does that tell you about their sense of the sacred? What is the sacred?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: This mother was the very center of these little children's universe and she was sacred to them, so I think that probably the center of your being.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] This idea of the sacred in nature permeated the conference. It was also here in the visions of artists working in different media, from across the globe and through the centuries. One enduring symbol that shows up in many cultures is the Tree of Life.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: This is the centerpiece, the great trunk, if you will, of the Tree of Life and it is, for us, a metaphor, if you will.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a native of Iran and a scholar of Islamic art, philosophy and science. The Tree of Life, he explained, is woven into this Persian prayer rug.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: Oftentimes, the motive of the tree was used because the Koran compares the cosmos explicitly to a tree whose roots are firm in the heavens and with branches spread to the whole of the universe. And this symbolizes the participation of the whole of the cosmos in the prayer.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: This image is made from the remains of rainforest trees in Brazil and, if you will, it's the Tree of Death, a symbol of the whole spiritual crisis that faces the contemporary world.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: You mean the recent burning of the forest?
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: Yes, yes. This was just done a year or so ago and it's a Polish artist who works in Brazil, named Frans Krajcberg.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: It's very powerful, very, very powerful. [lecturing] The destruction of one part of creation affects other parts in ways that the science of today has not been able to fathom.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Trained in physics and math at MIT and in the history of science, both Western and Islamic, at Harvard, Nasr said that it is western modern science that has monopolized our view of nature, separating nature from the sacred, from the divine.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: Man cannot save the natural environment, except by rediscovering the nexus between the spirit and nature and becoming once again aware of the sacred quality of the works of the Supreme Artisan. And man cannot gain such an awareness of the sacred aspect of nature without discovering the sacred within himself or herself and ultimately to be sacred, as such. Thank you.
5TH MAN: You've been particularly harsh on western science, post Renaissance science, and I was to raise the question of whether it's possible that our knowledge, through science, of the natural world might, in fact, also be able to enhance our appreciation of that world and the miraculousness that goes into it and, therefore, aid and abet in the kind of spiritual transformation we need instead of hindering it?
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: I would be the last person in the world to attack modern science blindly. I know a little bit about it. I have studied science for many years. What I attacked in western science is its claim to be the only science of the natural world which is valid. It is no use to try to solve the ecological crisis on the basis of a science which is based upon the exclusion of the sacred from nature. That is, if you have a sacred feeling towards nature, it's just feeling. There is no knowledge that is accepted today in mainstream, western universities of the cosmos other than that of a cosmos which has be-come desacralized, depleted of its spiritual substance and all of it is relegated to emotions and to sentiments. It is this which I am opposing, really.
BILL MOYERS: In the language of the street, what do you think has profaned the environment?
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: Two things, I believe. First of all, on the theoretical level, you might say, the emphasis in education, from the childhood up and kindergarten on, that nature is no longer the enchanted world that a child almost automatically experiences and which other civilizations, including western civilization, try to preserve for the older person through poetry, art and science, even, before modern times; but this was converted to a kind of attempt to demystify nature from early times, to change everything to simply objects which are easy to understand and to manipulate; and therefore, to destroy, in fact, the feeling of something sacred in the natural environment, which I think is innate to the human being. That's why the little child takes that joy in colors and chirping of birds and seeing the flowers and so forth. This, I think, is one and the second is the-
BILL MOYERS: Enlightenment is the culprit?
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: Enlightenment has a lot to do with it, that is, rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment.
BILL MOYERS: Beneath the operation of the faculty of the mind, assessing why things happen, the causes?
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: No. No, the separation of this faculty from both revelation — the world of faith — and from what the older western philosophy called the intellect. But there's a second reason for it and that is, of course, the creation, through modern technology, of an urban setting in which, first of all, God is absent, in a certain way. It's not like a medieval city, it's not like a Chartres Cathedral where all you have to do is to be there to have the presence of God. It's secular architecture, secular city planning and then, the banning of nature as much as possible from that ambiance, so that the child is not brought up with the rhythms of nature and its realities.
BILL MOYERS: You spoke tonight of the wisdom that is brought to bear in the Islamic tradition on nature, on the natural world, on the environment. What's the essence of that wisdom?
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: The essence of that wisdom is that God's creation — that is, the plants and the animals and the mountains and the stars in the heavens — shares with man a fundamental reality which goes back to God. According to Islamic law, to pollute the water is a sin and he who does is it is even called by certain of the doctors of the law a kaffir, which is a very strong term, meaning an infidel, usually translated as the word infidel, as if someone who's really outside of the pale of religion.
BILL MOYERS: You have something of the poet in you and you had this marvelous, this beautiful image in your speech tonight of-the visible world is like a campfire in the dark of the night on the desert, from where many of your people came. Tell me about that image.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: The person who has been in the desert without electric lights and artificial lighting, especially during the nights of the beginning of the lunar month when the moon is not full, there is pitch darkness, deep darkness which surrounds the human being. And when you create a campfire, as Bedouin Arabs did or the American Indians did, you have a flickering light that surrounds you immediately, but the light, as the flames go up and down, in a sense, is punctuated by this vast darkness that is beyond it. And one feels how limited this little glow is. Now, that darkness should not only be taken in a negative way. It's a symbol of reality as invisible, as unmanifested, therefore, God's reality, whereas the light here appears as the manifested, as that which we can see and we can feel. And anyone who's had this experience can see how this is a symbol of the vastness of the invisible world vis-a-vis the visible world in which we live.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Nasr claims it is this revelation of God's wisdom in nature that we have lost, a loss he traces to Renaissance humanism which inspired a world centered on man instead of God, giving dominion over the Earth to human, rather than divine, purposes.
2ND WOMAN: Yes, I have a question, I guess, about your characterization of secular humanism. If you were to, let's say, take the devastation of the Amazon today, in which many native peoples living there are killed, this doesn't seem to my mind to be secular humanism, but, rather, based on a predatory economic system and some kind of philosophy which looks to the benefit of a few humans, but certainly not all humans.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: It is true that the burning of the Amazon Forest is opposed by all secular humanists at Oxford and Harvard Square and other places. I accept that, obviously. But if you look at the chain of cause and effect that has led to that, why is it that we did not have this predatory economic system before the rise of this kind of humanism? The reason was that in all of these other civilizations before Renaissance humanism, the humanity of those civilizations were bound by, first of all, God and the afterlife. The civilization did not allow them to spend all their energies just in this world. They had to pray once in a while, they had to be quiet, they had to do certain things, they had to abstain, they had to fast once in a while and there were certain constraints on this passion, on their "dragon of the soul," to use a Chinese term. And it was humanism which, first of all, tried to cut that, that is, cut the allegiance of human reason to anything beyond itself, that is, to revelation. And so, reason became an unbridled, final authority in all things and the earthly man became also the final arbitrator of all things and devoted all of his and her energies, incredible energy which the expanding European civilization of the 16th and 17th century had — in both dominating the world and creating technologies to do this, to do with nature whatever they wanted to do. It is this which characterizes Renaissance humanism.
BILL MOYERS: How do you change what is the yearning that creates the consequences that you say have profaned the environment? We can't just order up God again.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: The sacred is not something to be invented again. It is always there. To be human, in a sense, is already to be semi-divine, in a sense, carrying the image of the divine. So whenever there is a great crisis afoot, whether there are comforts, whether there are modes of knowing, man will always turn again to that treasure that is within himself. And this treasure does not deny those other modes of knowing. It simply says that you gain a great deal of knowledge by knowing astrophysics, but you also lose a great deal of knowledge by not knowing what traditional cosmologies are all about, what they symbolize and what they mean.
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: In the name of God, the Most Merciful and Com-passionate--I've written a little meditation and two verses of Koran, which are as follows [reading] "It is true that we are travelers on this Earth, passing, like members of a caravan, for a few fleeting moments on this beautiful Earth, between the gates of life and death. But this enchanted nature which surrounds us in our earthly journey is not simply the background for the trajectory of our life. Nature is, above all, a reflection of the paradise whose memories we still bear in the depth of our soul and who beatitudes in Thy proximity we seek at the end of our journey of many days and nights. That is why only those of us whose inner being belongs to the paradisal abode can see Thy creation crowned in its paradisal aura, while those who have abandoned Thee and so reside in that hell which is none other than separation from Thee turn Thy creation into an inferno."
SALLIE McFAGUE, Professor of Theology, Vanderbilt University Divinity School: I certainly don't want to see the end of the human experiment. It's an incredibly important and interesting, exciting experiment. We are the only self-reflective creatures that we know of on our planet, that is, we know that we know and we know-the incredible thing is we know this history of creation. We know this about ourselves and that's a fantastic thing to know. If you think about the awesomeness of the universe, if you think about the 15-billion-year-old history and what's coming, you think, "Well, who are we? We're puny, we're unimportant," and there's a kind of diffidence that sets in, a kind of moral diffidence, even. It isn't worth struggling for. I mean, we're just a blip on the screen. I think that's a kind of-I don't know, to me, a kind of decadent aestheticism. I think that the sense of the glory of creation and the wonder of this awesome cosmic event of which we are a part doesn't lead in that kind of aestheticism, but leads to the sense of ethical and moral responsibility.
BILL MOYERS: That was an important point you made this morning, that our response to the Earth — beautiful, wondrous, awesome Earth — must not just be aesthetic-
SALLIE MCFAGUE: That's right.
BILL MOYERS: — it needs to be ethic, ethical.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Precisely.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean, an ethic of the environment?
SALLIE MCFAGUE: OK. Well, what I mean, in one sense, is that we are responsible in the way that no other creature can ever be held to be responsible, that is, in the classic sense of Jewish-Christian tradition, we alone can sin. Now, what is meant by sin? It is man — I think, it's what I said this morning — living a lie, that is, living out of proportion, pretending that we are the center, refusing to take our proper place in the scheme of things. Well, we're now beginning to know what that proper place is and if we refuse that, then we are being irresponsible. Whereas to be responsible is to realize that we are, indeed, a very impressive creation, indeed. We are the end product of a 15-billion-year-old evolutionary history, a highly complex., very exciting, imaginative animal and we have a special responsibility on this planet to help this thing continue because we are now in the position of being able to destroy it or to make it deteriorate to such an extent that life will not be worth living, that is, life in community will probably become impossible.
[lecturing] In broad strokes, the common creation story emerging from the various sciences, claims that some 15 or so billion years ago, the universe began with a big bang.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Sallie McFague is Professor of Theology at Vanderbilt University's Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a degree in literature as well as theology. She spoke about how contemporary science, particularly physics and biology, inspires a new creation theology, a theology that would change the way we think about our relationship to nature.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: From this beginning came all that followed, so that everything that is related and evolving into the incredibly complex and beautiful Earth that is our home. All things living and all things not living are the products of the same primal explosion and evolutionary history and hence are interrelated in an internal way from the very beginning. We are distant cousins to the stars and we are near relations to the oceans, plants and to all other living creatures on our planet. We are intimate relatives with everything on Earth. Now, if one were to think about oneself and other beings in this way — that is, as all belonging together in a common home — then some interesting and quite revolutionary things would begin to happen. We could feel at home on the Earth. Now, if we did feel at home on the Earth, I think something else would happen. We would come to love it.
8TH STUDENT: I was so impressed with her, like her independence and her assuredness and the fact that she believes in all types of evolution and she's a theologian. I mean, she believes in a biological form of evolution and that means so much to people here who have studied biology and also want to believe in the religious aspects, too.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Now, there are many different theological tasks relevant to planetary wellbeing.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Sallie McFague says that the very words we use to address God — words like "Father," "Monarch," and "Lord" affect how we act toward nature and each other.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: The portrayal of God as monarch ruling over his kingdom is the dominant model in Jewish, Catholic and Protestant thinking and is so widely accepted that it is often not recognized as a picture, that is, as a construction of the divine-human relationship. To many, God is the lord and king of the universe.
[to Moyers] What religious language is is ordinary language used in extraordinary ways, so religious language is deeply metaphorical and one of the metaphors that has achieved primacy in our tradition is the patriarchal or parental model of God as father. But there are many others-there are other constructions that we could use, that is, other metaphors that we could use and we haven't been using them for the most part. I mean, I mentioned this morning, for instance, the understanding of God as mother, lover and friend. People are initially rather shocked by this, but you think a minute, well, there's nothing shocking about it. Why do we feel comfortable talking about God as father and uncomfortable talking about God as mother, lover and friend, although one could make a case that these three neglected metaphors are probably, along with father, the most important relationships in our lives?
BILL MOYERS: What do you say to all those good Christians out there and good Jews who have been raised in the tradition of God the Father, who are comfortable in that kingdom presided over by the king? .
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Well, they're not all as comfortable as they might think. One of the things I find interesting is that the book I wrote, Models of God-I get a lot of letters from ordinary people in churches who have come across the book in study groups and so forth and some of them say things like, for instance, "I didn't have a father. My father died when I was young," or "I had an abusive father and that language has been very difficult for me to deal with. However, I had a wonderful lover," or "I have friends, those metaphors are ones that I can relate to. I didn't realize it was appropriate or even possible within the Christian tradition to think in terms other than the fatherly language." If we look at the Hebrew scriptures, it's a very rich resource for language about God. God is called all kinds of things in the Hebrew scriptures-dear, heart, son, water, mother, midwife, nurse, all kinds of-we have narrowed it, sadly, to basically one set of images, the patriarchal, kingly language, and that's just a great loss.
[lecturing] The relationship of a king to his subjects is necessarily a distant one, for royalty is untouchable. God is in His kingdom, which is not of this Earth, and we remain in another place, far from His dwelling. In this picture, God is worldless and the world is godless, that is, empty of God's presence. Whatever one does for the world is, finally, not important in this model, for its ruler does not inhabit it as his primary residence and his subjects are well advised not to become too enamored of it, either.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think it could mean, practically, if we could infuse our God talk with a different language from that? If we could change the way we talk about God and nature, what might it do for us?
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Well, as 1-you see, one of the things that this tradition, the Jewish and Christian traditions, they gave up early on, for complex historical reasons, any connection to the natural world, to goddess understandings of deity, to maternal understandings of deity. I don't go into those historical reasons, but we ended up, basically, with a transcendent "Sky God," as it were and this has been an enormous loss, needless to say, I mean, not only a loss of our connection with nature, but our own bodies, our sexuality. One of the images that I use in the book — again, it may sound shocking, but it's very ancient and very rich — is the universe or the world as God's body. I mean, instead of the world as God's kingdom, what a difference it is to think of the world or the universe as God's body. That would be a body unlike, of course, any other body that we could possibly imagine. It would be all the bodies, as it were, together, but it allows — when one dwells on that or thinks about it — it makes for a very different feeling of how you are in the world. I mean, if you are in a world that one imagines, as it were, to be the body of God, one would treat that world very, very differently.
BILL MOYERS: When the Dalai Lama yesterday, in my interview with him, referred to Earth as mother, I liked that. The world took on a different order for me, a nurturing order. It wasn't that I saw my mother, my real mother. I just suddenly felt a relationship-that's what you're talking about, isn't it? You changed the language.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: It is, exactly. Listen, we all come from the bodies of our mothers. I mean, this is not simply a phenomenon of females in any way. This isn't-this perspective is not limited to women.
3RD WOMAN: It feels important to acknowledge your audacity and your courage in saying the things that you've said. There are many, myself included, who have been unable to sit in churches for years because of the restrictive views that are engraved in our holy books. These books have been given to us as holy revelation, as the word of God and as such, it has not been acceptable to question or to allow other words, other revelations to be accepted and heard or even considered. And therefore, my question is how can we address this issue of revelation in these books and deal with that in a constructive way?
SALLIE MCFAGUE: One of the things that I see going on in scripture is people attempting, in the concepts and images of their own time, to express their relationship to God and to other human beings. That language and those concepts come to us from several thousand years ago. One of the things, I think, that we are called upon to do is to do something of the same task that they were doing, that is, to think in terms of our own time in ways that are continuous with our tradition and I have a very strong stake in that. That is, I believe that the reforming kind of work that I am doing stands within the Christian tradition. When I said that, to me, the basic, as it were, "good news" of the Christian faith is that God is on the side of life and its fulfillment of all of creation.
3RD WOMAN: Thank you.
3RD STUDENT: Why, if Christianity misrepresents metaphorically and through its tradition, so badly the proper relationship of man and God, man and nature, God and nature-why stick with Christianity at all?
SALLIE MCFAGUE: There are many who have left for precisely the reasons that you are suggesting. I'm a student of H. Richard Niebuhr, who, among other things, said, "Christianity is our religion," that is, the Jewish and Christian traditions are the main traditions of the West. I stand within that tradition. It is the story of my life as well as, in many ways, the story of our western civilization. It isn't as if I, therefore, in a way had the choice to simply pick up and become a Buddhist or Taoist or-I want to stay with this tradition long enough to see whether it is salvageable. The enrichment that the tradition gains by talking about God as mother, lover and friend is immense and, as I say, something that most religious traditions have included. Therefore, I'm simply saying I don't think it's that all radical.
4TH STUDENT: If I learn to save this world, it's not because I think the animal is as great as me or the grass is good as me or that I have no right on the grass. If I'm going to save it, I want to save it for myself and only for myself and only because I think human beings, no matter what, are the greatest creation on this planet.
9TH STUDENT: God isn't going to move me to do something. Whatever happens, it's coming from inside me. I don't feel a spirit is pushing me to do anything, so with this whole symposium in religion, in my mind, I haven't connected the two, in a sense, because I don't feel a divine force is going to push me now to do anything.
3RD STUDENT: I think that it's very important that the symposium is called "Spirit and Nature" and not "God and Nature" and I think that Sallie McFague made a really important point that actually-I don't think it's compatible with what you guys are saying. She was saying not to use the metaphor of king as God because that removes God from us, but to use the metaphor as mother and home and lover. And therefore, God is not separate from us and He's not separate from within us and the Spirit is not separate from us. It's not a king. It's not some guy that's up there, he's like, "Here's a carrot, baby. You can do it. Save the world and you get this heaven carrot," you know. It's not like that. He's here, it is here, the mother, the Earth and it's not a God that's removed from us. It's a God that nurturing us and that's loving us.
Rabbi ISMAR SCHORSCH, Chancellor, Jewish Theological Seminary of America: Shabbat is the Jew's country home. That's where he decompresses. The clock stops and silence descends and it permits one to find one's voice, find one's friends and family and join together in community. And we will daven this evening in community. This is a service that is connected to nature. As we read the psalms, you will find some beautiful allusions to the natural world. We will begin with the lighting of the shabbat candles.
TWO WOMEN: [after lighting candles] Praised be Thou, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe who has sanctified us by Thy commandments and commanded us to kindle these shabbat lights.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: Amen. I am extremely [grateful] that Rabbi Rachel Cowan is with us here for this conference and she will preside with me. It is the ritual of religion that touches most people in their daily lives. We do have a lot of power to transmit constructive values. If scientists point out the danger to the planet and we accept the challenge, I think that it is possible for us to reach a lot more lives than scientists could do.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Ismar Schorsch is a leader of Conservative Judaism. Born in Germany, Rabbi Schorsch has written about the experiences of European Jews. He is Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York and Professor of Jewish History.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: Meaning is to be found in limits and integral to that ethical system of self-restraint is the vision of man as steward and not overlord, for as the Bible so often avers, the land ultimately belongs to its Creator and we mortals are but His tenants. In a society that has made of extravagance a commonplace and of distraction a fiendish art, Judaism, at its best, holds out one model, a strain of asceticism blended with a love of learning. To learn to live with less in this land of milk and honey will demand of all of us, each in his own way, a rapid expansion of our inner resources. Thank you.
10TH STUDENT: I would like a commentary on the sense that I have that it's going to be difficult for my generation to respond to this crisis because we're afraid to adopt a standard of values. And yet, I'd also like you to comment on this crisis in such a way that we're not simply adopting a standard that's not questioned.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: What I think you face in your life is not the fear of imposed norms, but the challenge of voluntary norms. And we have been to the future and it ain't so great. A personal life without limits and boundaries is not truly freedom. That's what I think we are experiencing in our own day. Where everything goes, where everything is possible, where everything can be savored, where so much comes too soon, we're not very happy. And I think that the quest for personal meaning that pervades your generation is a healthy one. It reflects a realization that without the adoption of personal constraints, personal values, of self-imposed limits, life is not going to produce much meaning. That is what I think the teaching of Judaism amounts to.
11TH STUDENT: It seems that if any of the changes that you're suggesting are to take place, a substantial transformation needs to take place in the economic community and I would imagine some bitter resistance in that particular area. I was wondering [if] you see this change as necessary and how you feel it should be dealt with.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: Look, all I can do is share my anxiety with you. Nothing is easier than to turn to government or international agreements to solve these problems for us, but I don't believe very enthusiastically in the wisdom of bureaucrats. I don't think we're terribly good at social engineering. I believe that, ultimately, the key to this problem — at least in the West where our dilemma is prosperity — the key here is not what government has to do for us, but what we have to do for ourselves out of a recognition that what every individual contributes is of ultimate significance. And that's why the churches and the synagogues and the mosques are being mobilized for this effort. As consciousness is raised, we will rein in our appetites and the social consequence will be of immense benefit to all of us. [to Moyers] There are other ways of getting spiritual values than through material acquisition.
BILL MOYERS: But "more" is what America has been all about for the last 100 years, since the Industrial Revolution took hold here.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: I think that these are changes that are going to have to work from the bottom up, gradually and-
BILL MOYERS: And religion can speak to the habits of the heart?
ISMAR SCHORSCH: I'd like to believe so. If it can't, then who needs it? Who needs it? We don't need it for theology, we need [it] for behavior.
BILL MOYERS: You mentioned the sabbath very eloquently in your speech and there's a good example. The sabbath in your tradition and mine was once upon a time a day not only of rest, as you say, but a day of restraint. We were not to do certain things that make demands. But the sabbath, at least in my tradition, the "Sunday" of the week now, has become a secular observance in the culture of consumption. We have football games, sporting events, stores are open, shopping malls are attracting people by the tens of thousands. It has been the history of our experience. Is it inevitable?
ISMAR SCHORSCH: I would not like to reverse that through legislation. I would like to reverse that through individual demand or lack of it.
BILL MOYERS: You're not going to get modern America to become ascetic.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: A little bit of asceticism, I think, would be very helpful.
BILL MOYERS: But, practically, you're not saying-you're not taking that extreme that argues for-
ISMAR SCHORSCH: You know, something? I think you're wrong, Bill. I think they are becoming ascetic. We just don't see it. They're preoccupied with what they eat. How many foods out there that they don't eat? They're preoccupied with running. If they'd run to work instead of run after work, we've save a lot of energy. We're worried about living longer and we're willing to adopt all kinds of asceticism in order to live longer. Well, that's what religion is talking about. It is talking about a kind of holding back, but for more spiritual values than just living longer.
12TH STUDENT: Rabbi, I've heard representatives now from three major religions talk on similar subjects and I've heard, three times, them say that, "Ours is the environmental religion." And it occurs to me that if this were so, we wouldn't be here today in this symposium. So 1-what my question to you is, what the reality outside of the Talmud Judaism today? Where did it get off track and how can we get back on track?
ISMAR SCHORSCH: That's a wonderful question. I spoke about the ideal and not the real and you want to know about the real. We can spend a lot of time looking backwards. I'm not sure that it's really helpful. Who got us off the golden way? Who is responsible for the culture of excesses that marks American life? Is it Renaissance humanism? Is it one strand of modern science? Is it the economic system? My own feeling is that looking for villains is not a historical exercise, it's usually an exercise of therapy. What is most important today is that religionists are becoming sensitive to the environmental crisis and reaching out a hand to the scientists. We were not there first. We usually aren't on most of the important social issues, so what value is there in bringing the tradition to bear? We are the most effective public educators in the business. We do touch people's lives at existential moments when fear and anxiety overcome them. [to Moyers] All of these traditions are rich enough to find values and rituals in texts that address the ecological dilemma. MOYE,RS: Because they address the spirit?
ISMAR SCHORSCH: Correct. They address the place of the human being in the cosmos.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: The extraordinary story of the life of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is known to many of you. He was born into a peasant family on July 6, 1935. However, at the age of two, he was identified, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as a reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama. Accordingly, he received a new name-Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso Dalai Lama-Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Eloquent, Compassionate, Learned Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom.
13TH STUDENT: I came with my parents. We came all the way from Philadelphia.
4TH MAN: We are told by friends of ours, who know him and know his work, that he's an incredible person and an incredible experience.
4TH WOMAN: But I've never heard him before and that was just really special to me to be able to.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: At the early age of 15, he was called to assume full political responsibility as head of the Tibetan government and he found his homeland facing a growing threat from China. At the age of a Middlebury college student, he conducted negotiations with Chairman Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping and with Prime Minister Nehru of India. When the situation worsened and the Chinese army occupied Tibet in 1959, he was forced into exile. Since then, he has resided in Dharmsala in India, where he heads the Tibetan government-in-exile. His extraordinary leadership in the cause of peace on Earth and with Earth earned him the Nobel Price for Peace last year. Your Holiness, with joy and enthusiasm, we welcome you back to Middlebury College.
DALAI LAMA: Brothers and sisters, I think you come here with some expectation, but essentially, I have nothing to offer to you. Simply, I try to share some of my own experience and my view. You see, taking care of our planet is nothing, nothing special and nothing sacred or nothing holy. It is just something like taking care of your own house. We have no other planet, no other house except this, although [there] is a lot of disturbance and a lot-there is a problem there and it is our only, only alternative. We cannot go to other, you see, planet. I think of moon, like moon, you see, from distance appears quite beautiful. If you go there, stay there, horrible, I think. So you see, our blue planet is much better, much happier. So therefore, you see, we have to take care about our own, you see, place.
BILL MOYERS: Is there anything in the Buddhist scripture that encourages a way to look at the environment? Is there anything that Buddhism has to say, in particular, today?
DALAI LAMA: Firstly, the Buddhist very much respect not only human being, but all, you see, other sentient being.
BILL MOYERS: All sentient beings?
DALAI LAMA: Yes, all sentient beings.
BILL MOYERS: By sentient beings, you mean-
DALAI LAMA: As insects, as birds or animals, as things like that. So therefore, through that way is kind of, I think, concern or, you see, respect, the natural environment.
BILL MOYERS: Does this mean-
DALAI LAMA: And also-
BILL MOYERS: Excuse me.
DALAI LAMA: Ah, yes, also, where they read, you see, in Buddhist teaching, I think, like many other religion, you see, contentment, self-discipline. That also, I think, makes some differences.
BILL MOYERS: Self-
DALAI LAMA: Self-discipline.
BILL MOYERS: — discipline?
DALAI LAMA: And contentment. These, I think, and for individual, you see, life, they're self-discipline, contentment, there is something-something important, something useful.
BILL MOYERS: Does this reverence for all living things mean that I shouldn't have hit that mosquito that bit me here? No, I'm serious about that. Is there a danger of excess in this? A lot of people say, "Well, you who care about the environment are going to extremes on it."
DALAI LAMA: Usually my practice, you see, is something like this. One mosquito, you see, one mosquito come. Then if my mood is something quite happy, then I usually give some blood, you see, to the mosquito. Then, you see, second time come. Then, more impatience, so sometimes, I do like this, blow, blowout. Then, third come. Then, sometimes-[slapping motion]
BILL MOYERS: Three strikes and you're out, as we say.
DALAI LAMA: [lecturing] After all, human being is a social animal. I often tell, you see, my friend that, you see, no need to study philosophy or these professional, you see, complicated subject. Just look, you see. Those innocent animal or insect, like certain, you see, ants or like, you see, bees. And sometimes I really, you see, develop some kind of respect for them. How? They have no religion, no Constitution, no police force, nothing; but, you see, because, you see, because they are nature existence, you see, nature law of existence, you see, you need harmony. You need, you see, sense of responsibility because of nature, so they accept nature. They follow according to nature's system, I think, nature way. We human being, what is wrong? You see, we have such, you see, intelligence, I mean, human intelligence, human wisdom, but I think we often use human intelligence in wrong direction. As a result, in a way, we are against we are doing certain actions which essentially against the basic human nature.
BILL MOYERS: Spiritual democracy-that's a wonderful term in your own conversation, spiritual democracy. What do you mean by that?
DALAI LAMA: I think, you see, basically the respect others' right and listen, you see, different ideas. So, you see, in deep sense, you see-in deep down there, if you have, you see, compassion and love, human affection, then, you see, naturally develop, you see, the respect to others. Therefore, you see, you will develop not only , you see, respect other, but some kind of essential responsibility. And then, you see, that create, I think, some kind of, I think, the attitude, you see, respect. I mean, listen, you see, others' views and some kind of, you see, will or desire, you see, to join, to make a common effort.
BILL MOYERS: That's an unusual philosophy to come from someone who, in previous incarnations, was a king, was a powerful, authoritative figure, talking here at the end of the 20th century about freedom and democracy. It's quite a difference over the centuries.
DALAI LAMA: Because of the change of the circumstances, isn't it?
BILL MOYERS: Yes. Circumstances do have a great deal to do with our philosophy.
DALAI LAMA: And according to our own, you see, experience. [lecturing] In some-in a certain viewpoint, religion is little bit a luxury. If you have religion, very good. Even without a religion, you can survive, you can manage, but, you see, human affection without that, we cannot survive, you see. [to Moyers] Although, you see, anger and hatred, like, you see, compassion and love, are part of our mind, still, I believe the dominant force of our mind is compassion, human affection. Therefore, you see, usually I call these human quality as a, let's say, spirituality. .
BILL MOYERS: Spirituality?
DALAI LAMA: Yes, not necessarily as a religious, you see, religious message or religious thing. So, in that sense now, you see, science and technology with human affection will be constructive. Science and technology under control of hatred will be destructive.
BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting that religion, like science, is a tool for the human being, in that it is through an act of will that we use religion to transform attitudes from hatred to love, from jealousy to sharing? Is religion a tool like that and if so, how do you learn to use that tool for good purposes?
DALAI LAMA: If we practice religion properly and I think the a— yes, properly, genuinely, then religion is not outside, religion is here. So I think essential-essentially or essence of any religion is good heart. Something I call, you see, love and compassion is a universal religion. That's my religion. Complicated philosophy, this and that, is sometimes creates more trouble, more problem. So you see, if this, you see, sophisticated philosophy become useful for development of heart, good heart, then good, then use, fully. If these complicated, you see, philosophy and system, you see, become obstacle for good heart, then better to leave it. This I feel. Do you think it is wrong?
BILL MOYERS: I don't think it's wrong. I believe it myself, but when I look around the world, from the Middle East to Tibet, from-in my own country, I see religion is not only failing to save the-to inspire a new ethic about the environment, it can't even inspire us to love our neighbor, much less our enemy. And I say, "How do we learn this good heart?"
DALAI LAMA: I think if we look closely about human nature, as I mentioned earlier, the affection is, I think, a key thing. I feel, you see, mother is the symbol of compassion. So, therefore, I think, you see, the-by nature, from the birth, we learned how much value about human affection. So now, that, I think, that spirit should keep. The good heart is precious thing, most precious thing, most necessary thing and something really valuable which everyone have that seed there. Only thing is whether we take care or not or with realization the value of compassion.
3RD STUDENT: For me, this week, the embodiment of the conference was the Dalai Lama. He wore simple clothes, he had a simple dignity about him. I think that is the essence of what we're talking about is humanity.
7TH STUDENT: I realized I was kind of frustrated halfway through the conference because I was thinking, "Well, you know, what's happening here? I'm not hearing what I want to hear." But then, hearing him talk, I realized that what he said was so simple and yet, it was so profound. He talked about responsibility. That was his focus-responsibility towards-in your life, taking responsibility in every way towards your fellow man, towards the Earth, in everything that you do.
BILL MOYERS: Does it require a holy man to connect this intimately to the world around us?
3RD STUDENT: I think it's a powerful symbol, you know. It's, yeah, I think you need a symbol. I think symbolism is important in life and for me, he is a symbol.
14TH STUDENT: But I don't think you necessarily require a holy man only. It's the simpleness and the humanity that you require, but not necessarily a-
BILL MOYERS: Did this week cause any of you to think that there's something holy in you?
15TH STUDENT: I think there's a little bit of that spirit in everybody that exists in every part of nature as well as in every human and every animal, that's innate to all of us. We're all neighbors. We're all a part of this Earth and we need to come together and just realize that. That would be a first step to all our problems if we'd come together as neighbors.
BILL MOYERS: In your speech, you called for a collaboration and cooperation between religions. When you did, I thought, "How can Islam and Judaism agree on the fate of the Earth when they can't even agree on title to the West Bank?"
SEYYED HOSSEIN NASR: You're completely right. One of the great tragedy of the last few decades has been that there has been very little dialogue directly between Jews and Muslims. Every dialogue carried out, except for a few exceptions, has been carried out actually with the West also present as either the third partner or as the background within which these discussions take place. And there's been very little discourse between them because the Muslims see this problem as not only a problem between Judaism and Islam, but as the last remnant of western domination over the Middle East. Because they see in Israel not the religion of Judaism, but of western European culture, people-in fact, many of them are agnostics, they're not very much into the religion, but they can run a state [unintelligible] and so forth very well. And I think the only solution to that problem will come when the two sides will be able to speak together as human beings and as children of Abraham.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: There is much that Islam has to say to Muslims on the ecological condition. There is much that Christianity has to say and Jews, also. And I don't think that what we want to say has to be a carbon copy of the other. We-there is a beautiful Chinese legend about an emperor who received a jade as a gift and the Chinese worship the jade, its texture, its solidity. And he called in his sculptor and he said, "I want you to make out of this large jade stone a mountain and a waterfall." Months later, the sculptor came back and what was left of that stone was a little fish and some pebbles. And the emperor was angry. He said, "What did you do with my jade?" And the sculptor looked at him and he said, ''Your Majesty, there was no mountain or waterfall in that jade. There was only a fish and pebbles." And that story says to me that we have to be true to our spirit, to the legacy that we inherit from the past. We ought not to pervert it and distort it. We ought to apply it as best we can, given its limitations, given its specificity.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: Religion has often been on the side of claiming the sacredness of every individual human being while being willing to wipe out whole species of other creatures as well as not being concerned, really, about ourselves as a species among species. We're into a scenario that we do not know the end of, that is, this is a revolution in which we are self-consciously having to participate. We are having to do something unprecedented, which is to think about everything that is. We never had to think that way before. You think about piecemeal parts of things. But to think about everything that is unprecedented. I mean, human beings have never thought that way. They've gone through the agricultural and industrial revolutions more or less unselfconsciously. We are now at the brink of a revolution in which we are having to be the conscious participants and it is, by far-the only way to go through this is to expect the worst and to minimize the risks, that is, what happens if we end up with 10, 12 billion people?
3RD STUDENT: I think what is the issue is it's not that there are five billion people on Earth, it's the issue that one billion people of this Earth or maybe less are consuming three-fourths of the energy. So it's not a question of the number of people. It's a question more of what these people are doing and what these people are consuming that is the issue.
16TH STUDENT: I'd have to disagree with you there, Casey. Thinking back to the analogy that Mr. Prescott Allen made of a cake that you can take from and it comes back, but if you go too far, if you consume too much of the cake, there isn't going to be anything left. And I think the more people you have, the faster the rate of consumption
3RD STUDENT: Yeah, but I think
16TH STUDENT: Regardless of who's consuming how much, I think if you have a far smaller human population that has a far smaller impact on the environment, you know.
3RD STUDENT: I think you missed the point of what I said, but the point of what I said was, as the gentleman who spoke yesterday on Islam and the environment pointed out, one football game in this
country consumes as much energy, which would, you know, basically what a medium-sized African country would consume in a month. Now, you will not have a better quality of life if you watch one extra football game in your life, but you will watch-for a better quality of life would be to get enough food and education.
ISMAR SCHORSCH: The kind of redistribution that you call for can only be effected by the Lord Himself. We mortals will share a lot less and what we are willing to share is consumed in the underdeveloped countries by the growth in population. So the problem cannot be addressed only by redistribution.
STEVEN ROCKEFELLER: The common meal is designed to be a celebration of the gift of life here on Planet Earth. It is a time for thanksgiving and rededication of ourselves to the life of this planet in the great community of life of which we are all a part.
RONALD ENGEL, Professor of Social Ethics, Meadville Lombard Divinity School: It's interesting. Before the word "ecology" itself was used, the idea was-or the name for this discipline was the science of communities. It's that active understanding of citizenship which we see appearing within community organizations, we see appearing within grass roots movements, we see appearing within the environmental movement. We see it flickering and appearing. [lecturing] We need to understand why the ecological crisis is a crisis of citizenship. By definition, a citizen is a member of a community of persons who considers him-or herself morally accountable to the community as a whole. If there is a common cause of global warming, overpopulation, unsustainable economic growth, loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources and the needless suffering of humans and other animals, it is the failure of we the people to take moral responsibility for our world.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Ronald Engel teaches social ethics at Chicago's Meadville-Lombard Divinity School. He is active in the international conservation movement and is author of the award-winning book, Sacred Sands, about one community's effort to save the threatened Indiana dunes.
RONALD ENGEL: If we say a principal cause of the ecological crisis is our failure to take seriously the particular places in which we live, to see how each human society is embedded in a local ecosystem, this is rooted, surely, in our failure to see the actual bounds of the communities to which we belong, to practice what Aldo Leopold calls "the land ethic" which changes the role of homo sapiens from conqueror of the land community to plain member and citizen of it. If we are not conscious of ourselves as citizens, we will lose the idea of ecology itself.
BILL MOYERS: What does religion have to with all of this? What can religion do to help us solve this crisis?
RONALD ENGEL: Conscience, which is the human innate moral sense, is very closely connected and, in fact, depends upon and outgrows of what I would call the innate spiritual sense and that is accountability and a sense of responsibility.
BILL MOYERS: To?
RONALD ENGEL: What one loves-finally, to what one loves.
SALLIE MCFAGUE: It is time, well beyond the time when we need to heed the call to love the Earth. It needs our love, our tough love, which means the best thinking, technology, judgment and cooperation we can muster. Liberating the Earth from Our oppression will not be easy. The first step is one of love because we will work for what we love.
3RD STUDENT: You saw people from very, very different backgrounds and different settings sitting together in one place, if not there to-even the ritual, the very fact that we could all sit in one room and appreciate each other. I mean, most of the time, we are always-you usually-let's be frank about it. Usually, you'd always have a Jew never sitting next to a person of the Islamic faith.
5TH MAN: [reading] "One night, Jonas Olesadamaki, a Masai elder, and I sit around the fire, telling stories. 'My people worship trees,' he says. 'It was the tree that gave birth to the Masai. Grasses are also trustworthy.'''
7TH STUDENT: [reading] "From the very earliest time when both people and animals lived on Earth, a person could become an animal if she wanted to and an animal could become a human being. Sometimes, they were people and sometimes animals."
3RD STUDENT: [reading] "May there be peace in the heavens, peace in the skies and peace on Earth. May the waters be peaceful. May the grasses and herbs bring peace to all creatures and may the plants be at peace also." [to Moyers] It did expose me to this idea of the divine and how we have lost the idea of the divine in our own daily lives and the idea of human beings.
17TH STUDENT: You can make sure in spiritual changes which will then hopefully, you know, come to living a lifestyle which is positive and which is more in tune with the Earth and which is what this-the Earth as a system is.
18TH STUDENT: We all want limits and guidance and I think that's a big part of religion, is giving us that guidance.
4TH STUDENT: I always fight against this, that you must restrain yourself to do something else. It must be something you want to do. It is not-restraint is an artificial-this thing which has been imposed upon us.
BILL MOYERS: But religion also talks about responsibility. I heard that here, too. Does that
7TH STUDENT: It can be positive and you can look at it positive, in terms of responsibility. For example, the restraint not to cut down trees makes you-
BILL MOYERS: A responsibility to that tree?
7TH STUDENT: Yeah, it's responsibility. That's another way of looking at it.
3RD STUDENT: And it's self-imposed. It's not-I mean, it's a self-imposed responsibility.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: All of the elements within this cycle of creation work together harmoniously and Our balance-our place to keep the balance is to use them right, to use them wisely and to re member to give thanksgiving. Many of the elements are now out of balance.
BILL MOYERS: As you were talking, I looked up and there, the Dalai Lama was sitting, listening to you and I was struck by the paradox that here are two people representing great traditions of respect and reverence for nature and those peoples have been run over by the — by "civilization" that is based on technology and science and abundance and plenty, ambition, affluence, prosperity.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: But it's abundance, affluence of a very different value system.
BILL MOYERS: Explain that. Elder. SHENANDOAH: Prosperity, you say-I remember my grandmother telling me that we were rich because we had such good land to grow our crops on, that we had such good fish to eat. I can remember my father going out and spearing fish for our breakfast. Now, we have no fish. The fish, you can't eat. The fish are not fit to eat, the waters are so polluted. And I can remember my grandmother saying now how rich we were that we could have this fish, so fresh. This is what made us prosperous. It was right out of the water and onto our table. I can never remember my grandmother saying we were poor because we had all this. We had the hills to appreciate, you know, and in those times when she was still alive, there were people coming to our nation with these grandeur ideas about how wealthy we could be if we would allow them to put a ski resort at the top of our beautiful hill. And I can remember, especially that time, my grandmother saying we would be poor if we allowed them to take that hill and make it into a ski resort because we would lose everything that's on that hill and it would make us-it would twist us. It would twist our minds.
BILL MOYERS: When you mentioned in your speech, about a sense of obligation to the seventh generation, someone reminded me that you had recently been in the room when your granddaughter's baby was delivered by your daughter, the midwife.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Do you really think, Elder Shenandoah, that you can keep those values intact for this new great-great-granddaughter you've just helped to bring into the world?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: I am trying.
BILL MOYERS: Don't you feel up against the odds, though?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Very much so. All we can do is keep trying, but the power of our Creator is there. We are striving to keep the thanksgiving ceremonies going, as we were instructed.
BILL MOYERS: Giving thanks to all of this?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Yes, giving thanks to all of this and all it has given for us.
BILL MOYERS: You talk so much about giving thanks.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: That's our whole way. We just finished six days of giving thanks.
BILL MOYERS: The ceremony?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: That's a religious act, is it not?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Well, as I said, we don't have what is called "religion." In our language, it isn't followed, I guess, in that way because we don't have that word. It's-
BILL MOYERS: But thanksgiving is praise. That's religious in nature.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: It's not praise, it's thanksgiving. There's a difference between praising the trees for what they do than to give thanksgiving for all that they provide.
BILL MOYERS: It's not a worship of nature, is it?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: No, it isn't. No, it's thanksgiving_
BILL MOYERS: That's a stereotype.
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Yes. It's a thanksgiving for all that is in our-what's called nature because we cannot-we're not allowed to be-to feel dominant and superior over the rest of the living things, the Earth and everything in it.
BILL MOYERS: Because?
Elder AUDREY SHENANDOAH: Because we're equal. We are created equally with the Earth and then, as I said, we were given that very special intellect, the power of reason to make decisions. We have options of what we do with our lives, our behavior and how we treat the rest of the living things. [lecturing] In Our word, there is no such thing as a wilderness. It is only a free place. It was not feared and there's no need to fear it now except away from my home because now, people no longer know what is in that onetime free wilderness, so many things that we have to be on guard about. So I think if we, everyone here, can try to have this thanksgiving in our minds and this respect to our, what is called in English language, "nature," because we are part of it. It's a part of our lives. But somehow, we have to get the message to those who are in command of the technology and the industry. We have to somehow reach and soften that thinking that they have, if it is possible. We have to let as many people as we can to know that we've got to make a turnabout now.
This transcript was entered on May 18, 2015.