“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet”.

Thich Nhat Hanh

For this piece, I am combining the recent death of the great Buddhist teacher Thich Hhat Hahn, the crisis in Ukraine and the global climate catastrophe. A ridiculously over-the-top attempt at trying to be current and the combination is a bit bumpy at times for which I beg your forgiveness.

I missed the day we had “Walking” for our prompt but have felt compelled to write on it now motivated by the death this past January of Thich Nhat Hanh. He passed away a few months ago at the age of 95 in Hue, Viet Nam. Thay, as he was called by his students, a word that means teacher, taught a form of engaged Buddhism. This engagement meant for him an active antiwar activism and got him booted out of Viet Nam in the late sixties. His exile and continued antiwar efforts led him to the U.S. and a significant relationship with Martin Luther King, who nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize. After exile, he settled in the south of France and at his monastery called Plum Village.

Decades were spent in the south of France at Plum Village which along with other monasteries that are still going strong today. In 2005 Thay was allowed to return to Viet Nam, but his continued activism again got him tossed out of the country some years later. 2014 he suffered a debilitating stroke leaving him unable to speak. He was eventually able to return to Viet Nam and his last few years were spent there where he died in the city of Hue.

The above quote about using, one’s feet to kiss the earth brings to my mind the topic for today which is migration. So much of the human migration happening today is done on foot. Whether or not from central America to the U.S. border, from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean or urban centers in Ukraine to the Polish border to mention just a few. These migrations most often are by folks kissing the earth with their feet.

It would be nice if all of the many migrations underway these days were met with the same kindness and generosity that is so frequently greeting the Ukrainians. However, many involve people of color and therefore the reception is often anything other than welcoming. The largely Caucasian Ukrainians are mostly migrating to neighboring countries that are also predominately white. The blatant racism that greets so many migratory people of color cannot really be ignored. It has certainly been brought to the fore by the current Ukrainian crisis.

I fear that even more worldwide migrations will soon be occurring spurred on by the ever-evolving climate crisis. Quoting here from a piece in the Huffington Post this morning reporting on a United Nations’ announcement (4/4/2022):

“For the world to have any chance of preventing catastrophic climate change, it needs an immediate, collective and herculean effort to phase out fossil fuels and rein in greenhouse gas emissions.”

I do appreciate the powerlessness one faces on an individual basis when confronted with this reality. It can be downright depressing when one realizes that many of the options available to us as individuals are rather pathetic attempts to distract us from the enormity of the problem and the major shifts in societal and corporate policy and behavior that are needed to affect meaningful change. Meatless Mondays and recycling all single-use plastics are worthwhile endeavors but close to meaningless in the big picture.

I admit wanting to throw a brick through my TV screen every evening when the Oil and Gas industry commercials come on reminding us how lucky we are to have them contributing to our tax base on a yearly basis. Natural gas is a fossil fuel and contributes significantly to the overall problem. These commercials are a daily reminder of the powerful interests trying to convince us that we can have our cake and eat it too. I am sorry Blanche, but we can’t.

The entire human race including the most powerful need to walk as if we are kissing the earth with our feet.