Cell by cell


Pedro Walpole’s article in this edition of Eco-Bites is particularly inspiring, not because of any lofty aspirations but quite the contrary. It gives a simple and moving account of how the advent of plastics in the Indonesian island of Bali in the 1960s resulted in years of denial and a mountain of garbage and how, in recent years, people have begun to ‘frame the contradiction’ and to live in it. This is not about doing nothing. Far from it, this ‘framing the contradiction’ is a living of the truth. First and foremost it is a form of life whereas denial is death.

It is easy to forget how life is lived. It is not lived in grandiose gestures but in small microscopic realities. Life is lived cell by cell, each one seemingly insignificant, and yet from the tiniest organism to the mightiest whale life can only exist through the multiplication of microscopic realities. The movement to care for our common home has to be thought of as a form of life. How else can we overcome death?

In the name of life first thing we need to do is to look death in the face. There are attitudes and habits and economic and political structures which, when allowed to have their way, bring death. In differing ways, we are all affected. We don’t want to look but, unless we do, we will fail to see something of immense importance. Only if we look this reality honestly will we come to the awareness that this – death – is not us. We will also become aware that others are looking with us – side by side and without pretence.

We can make a choice. We can ignore each other or each of us can encourage others to live – cell by cell. If each of us does our microscopic thing, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. That is the nature of life – something gentle, which works in microscopic ways. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Those who have no gentleness or who despair of gentle ways will suck the life out of everything including themselves. Those who reach out and who do not despair at the little they can do, are truly alive.

Edmond Grace SJ
Secretary for Ecology