Dr. Seuss , beloved children’s author, penned The Lorax over 40 years ago, soon after the first Earth day, but its theme of ecological ruin, greed, and implied regeneration of the Earth is as timely as ever.
The story relates the tragic account of a character called Once-ler, who discovered a land “where the grass was still green, and the pond was still wet, and the clouds were still clean and the brightly colored Truffula Trees swayed mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”
Old Once-ler falls in love with those Truffula Trees. “The touch of their tufts was much softer than silk. And they had the sweet smell of fresh butterfly milk.”
But instead of simply reverencing and appreciating their beauty, our anti-hero sets up a family business with all his relatives. The new company chops the Truffulas down, knits them into “Thneeds,” which everyone needs, he rationalizes, and hawks them as one-size-fits-all products for a parade of consumers.
At the beginning of the chopping melee, there appears a furry little creature with a bright yellow mustache. The Lorax is a Biblical-like prophet if there ever was one. He warns Once-ler to close up shop.
“I speak for the trees,” and all of the critters who depend upon them and the land for their food, the water and clean air, he says. Once-ler, however, justifies his actions since “I had to grow bigger… and I biggered my money, which everyone needs.” A saddened Lorax vanishes, leaving behind a small pile of rocks with the one word. “Unless.”
Of course, pretty soon, the land turns into a desolate wasteland of clear cutting. Once-ler has used up all his resources. All the trees are gone. The sky has “turned bad smelling and the stars are smoke smuggered.” The creatures, sick from the pollution and lack of food, have gone.
The CEO goes into a state of despair. He retreats into his inaccessible tower-house. When a little boy comes to visit, Once-ler confesses, via a telephone, that he has “worried and worried away with all my heart” about the situation. Suddenly, however, as he gazes at the little child, he realizes what the Lorax’s word “Unless” means.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Then Once-ler lets something fall from his tower of isolation: “It’s a Truffula Seed. It’s the last one of all. You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”
Hope prevails with one little seed. As I reread this story, Judy Cannato’s thoughts on morphic resonance from her book The Field of Compassion came to mind.
Now, Rupert Sheldrake’s biological theory that “like attracts like,” would seem to be a Universe away from a Dr. Seuss story, but is it? According to Cannato:
“[G]enetic material alone cannot account for the development of living systems. Sheldrake proposes that systems are surrounded by non-visible fields that carry information or memory from one generation to the next, thus making a new behavior patterns easier to learn. …The human person is a field of energy and information rooted in the body but extending out from the body, interacting with the energy and information of others. None of us is a discreet, separate unit, but an integrated system of interactions and relationships connected to all.”
Cannato suggests that we can alter our energy and information fields by the choices we make…and “can become increasing aware of who we are and how we influence our environment, and that we can and must make choices that are life-giving for all.”
Using the image of the morphogenic field as a template, she says, “we can look at the mission of Jesus. Although he never could have used these words, Jesus was about creating a morphogenic field, one in which love is the standard operating procedure and genuine concern for the other is the behavioral norm.”
Cannato believes that the only way to save the entire planet will come from “a groundswell of compassion that changes destructive systems into life-giving communities in which we all live life to the full.” She holds that such a groundswell would be a sign of the fulfillment of our religious tradition.
Could we be seeing morphogenic fields of action in motion right now? There are many such instances, but one immediate example is only days old. Since last week, 1,200 people have been arrested in Lafayette Park in DC for participating in civil disobedience.
A press release from Tar Sands Action says it was the largest civil disobedience on climate change in U.S. history. Participants were protesting the impending approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial 1,661-mile pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to Port Arthur, Texas.
Although the U.S. State Department has said there will be no significant impact on natural resources affected by the pipeline route, environmentalists fear that the pipeline will be a security threat because of its potential dangers and that it presents ongoing harm to natural resources.
In a story from the Minnesota Post, Bill Erasmus, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief for the Northwest Territories, told CBS News Saturday that the pipeline will likely harm the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers 450,000 square kilometers and includes portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
“If there was a spill in that aquifer, it will mess up the water for about four million people,” Erasmus said.
The story notes that federal regulators shut down Keystone following two leaks, on May 7 and May 29. The first released 400 barrels, or 16,800 gallons of crude oil, in Sargent County, North Dakota. The second involved a leak at a pump station in Doniphan County, Kansas, which released 10 barrels, or 420 gallons of crude oil, into the environment. The pipeline restarted a few days later.
Significantly, among those 1,200 protesters were more than 60 religious, including Rose Berger, a Catholic and religious witness organizer for Sojourners; Marie Dennis, director of Maryknoll’s Office of Global Concerns; Bill McKibben, Methodist environmentalist; Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, chair of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Directorate for the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province; and Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.
It would seem that morphic resonance and the fulfillment of our religious tradition is happening. Judy Cannato, who died from cancer last spring, would be encouraged.
So would Dr. Seuss, who knew the importance of planting tiny seeds of hope through a story book character in The Lorax.
Morphic resonance begins small, but with grace, compassion, and persistence can spread, just as Jesus envisioned for “the realm of God.”