Love Amid Climate Change and Vaccination Emergencies

It is interesting, I think, that in yesterday’s DM about climate change and in today’s news about rising COVID cases amidst people who refuse to get vaccinated, the word “selfishness” comes up as the problem most interfering with solutions. 

“Sovereign.” Photo by Becker1999 on Flickr.

Environmental lawyer Dr. Gus Speth has said that he used to think the number one obstacle to environmental sustainability was climate change and ice melting and floods multiplying and wildfires exploding—but no!  The number one problem is humans who succumb to selfishness and apathy.  And refuse to face climate change.

Might it be that our culture and its extreme individualism has penetrated many minds and souls with the notion that we are isolated individuals?  And that thinking of others is for suckers?  Whether those others be my neighbor who has just as much right to be spared a virus that can harm them or even kill them as I do? 

Or a fellow human being miles away or in another country or on another continent with the same rights to a healthy life and healthy air as myself?   Or other species including trees, insects, animals, birds, whales, fishes who also strive to live full and productive lives in their own way?

We probably all know what “selfish” means, it’s not exactly an esoteric word.  Here is how Webster’s Dictionary defines it: “Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”

Getting the vaccination for personal and public health. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

What would the opposite of “selfish” be?  Concern for others?  Regard for others?  Caring about more than just oneself? 

Love.  Compassion.  Seeing and feeling beyond oneself.  Sort of the opposite of narcissism, isn’t it? 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Has that advice been tossed aside?  Is it no longer useful?

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.

Also see Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.

Banner Image: “Age-Adjusted Rolling 7-day Hospitalization Rates.” From Griffin JB, Haddix M, Danza P, et al, “SARS-CoV-2 Infections and Hospitalizations Among Persons Aged ≥16 Years, by Vaccination Status — Los Angeles County, California, May 1–July 25, 2021.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 24 August 2021. Freely available on CDC.Gov. Reference to specific commercial products, manufacturers, companies, or trademarks does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government, Department of Health and Human Services, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the transcript to today’s meditation, click HERE.

Queries for Contemplation

What does “love your neighbor as yourself” mean to you?  Who is your neighbor?  Does it extend to those who can die from coronavirus if we do not get vaccinated?  And those dying from effects of climate change such as floods and wild fires and more?  What does love mean in those circumstances?

Recommended Reading

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Upcoming Events

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13 thoughts on “Love Amid Climate Change and Vaccination Emergencies”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you for the knowledge and insights you share! Please note that I would argue that perhaps adding the family and faith-based institutions along with ‘the American education system’ as failing AT TIMES to teach values. As a parent, former Christian education director, and current professional educator in a public high school I would say all three work together (or don’t) to raise up a child. Several days of hearing how our educational system fails at teaching values is a bit too much of a sweeping generalization as this ABAR teacher masks up and reaches and teaches her subject AND models values that respect each other and our world and it’s inhabitants.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Mary, I agree that the family, faith-based institutions, and the American education system need to teach values–however the question always is: “Whose values?” And if it is such an issue, that this is why our educational system is failing, we need to change things!

    2. Avatar

      Mary… thank you so much for your thoughtful response. This particular segment filled with blame was distressing to me after so many others that were inspiring. I come from a long line of educators in the public sector, and I am married to one as well. Each and every one of those dedicated educators has done their level best to teach and model values that include compassion, neigborliness, kindness, The Golden Rule. Often thwarted by the law that includes test scores as the ultimate goal, families who blamed schools for their childrens’ behavior, these educators persevered. I am proud of them. That was a gut-punch. Again, your response was the first I saw and helped me to dispel the hurt I felt on their behalf. Thank you for your continued efforts to bring values to those students whom you teach. I know they appreciate you. I know I do.

      1. Avatar
        Theodora Maestre

        Thank you Linda for your comments, as well as Mary’s. I am an elementary school teacher and teacher educator, retired in 2013 after decades of teaching. That phrase “gut punched” hit me as well. I saw (and continue to see) so many dedicated teachers in both public and Catholic schools who continue to teach and model compassion, empathy and care for others. There are many programs that have been going for decades: Mindful Schools, Project WET, Project Learning Tree, Educators for Social Responsibility among them. I’ve seen students who reach beyond themselves to care for classmates and for others around the world. May they continue!

  2. Avatar

    There is never only one perspective to a choice not to vaccinate. Some who are immune compromised can not receive the vaccination or the pharma solution. Are they selfish? Maybe the immune compromised follow protocol and isolate because they have no choice and they care about others. There is big difference between someone who chooses to ignore the virus and not follow protocol and someone who can not receive the vax and does their part to follow protocol and protect. We can not label everyone who is not vaccinated same. It’s just not that simple. There are also other solutions which help protect and keep people safe but big pharma indicates one solution only. Would this be greed based?. If we would all just sit still for three weeks, we might just move beyond this. Wouldn’t that be a reserection in Unity?

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Karen, you are right. I work with some elderly people who even their doctor’s have told them to not have the shot because their health is already so compromised. This is not an excuse it is just a fact. I agree these people should not be lumped in with those who either aren’t vaccinated because of various conspiracy theories out there or because, they are just plain irresponsible.

  3. Avatar

    We live in a time when information that is counter to the standard narrative is being censored. Weighing in on this debate risks the danger of othering those whose views are being silenced.

    1. Avatar

      The “standard narrative” may be correct, after all. One has to exercise judgment and consider always the sources. I, for one, look to the science. And the results of ignoring it. Here, in Florida, because of the refusal to take ordinary precautionary measures that are standard during any outbreak of infectious disease, or to vigorously encourage vaccination, the hospitals are stretched beyond bearing. One local hospital is looking for increased morgue space. A local elementary school has the current highest rate of COVID. In this state, the views of those who are trying to stem the tide are being silenced, and counties who are trying to implement simple procedures to protect children and teachers are being threatened with the cut off of funds.

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Joan, if information that is counter to the standard narrative is being censored–how do we know it is censored, unless we believe we already know the truth. Something to think about…

  4. Avatar

    With regards to your reflective question in today’s DM, in all honesty and in my personal experience, most people do not love themselves, and this
    is then projected onto the ways they love their neighbor…. mostly expressed unconsciously. When I think about these words Jesus spoke that you referenced, how I look at it is, love yourself and your neighbor as God loves all. To me, one must first allow oneself to be loved by God, as only God can, does and always will, in order for one to love self and others. The more one experiences this love of God, through the intimacy of a personal relationship of friendship and the spiritual reality of this, then the more one really begins to love oneself, which then filters into other relationships. For me this experience of life shared with God is the ever unfolding journey of BEING LOVED TO LOVE.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, “Love your neighbor as you LOVE YOURSELF”–you say, in your personal experience, most people do not love themselves–and that in turn is seen in the way they treat others due to our own projections as you mention…

  5. Avatar

    I think that the selfishness stems from fear, which has caused toxic masculinity, which includes toxic individuality in my opinion. Soul carnage, as you have pointed out often, is the result. I don’t think that our religious institutions have taught “love your neighbor” very well and often end up just substituting “me” and “my group” to the complete exclusion of the “other” however that is defined. Many religious institutions have followed culture rather than leading in teaching and embodying core values like the Christian great commandment. As you have often pointed out, churches supported slavery for centuries, oppression of women and the LGBQT community, etc.

    As far as the vaccination crisis, some of it is from selfishness but some of it is also from choosing to believe other than scientific evidence and falling into conspiracy modes. I am immuno-suppressed and still got the vaccine. I don’t think much of big Pharm either, but the disappearance of all the dangerous childhood diseases is due to vaccination. Of course, these are making a comeback due to resistance on the part of parents to inoculate their children, thus exposing others. I would not mind at all if they did take precautions to protect others, but too often they do not. It can be a very emotional issue, based on little but scare tactics and misinformation. I am very emotional about the fact that I contracted paralytic polio just before the vaccines were available, and I would not wish that on any child or family. That is simply a fact.

    Thank you for your daily wisdom and inspirtation.

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