The Tip of the Iceberg
Where it wasn’t scorching hot in North America this past summer, it was flooded. But it wasn’t just in North America. Large parts of Europe and Asia seemed to be either blazing (literally) or submerged under flash floods, mudslides, or overflowing rivers. And where harm didn’t come from the sky, it came from beneath the ground: Peru is recovering from a deadly earthquake, and in Japan the biggest nuclear power station was shut down after a quake triggered radiation leakage.
These disasters, as many scientists already admit, are merely the tip of an iceberg whose immensity is immeasurable. The occurrence of another monstrous catastrophe is more a question of when than of if. Could it be that we’re beginning to feel, as environmentalist James Lovelock titled his book, The Revenge of Gaia (Earth, in Greek mythology)?
On August 29, 2005, after many unheeded warnings, Hurricane Katrina battered the southeast shores of Louisiana, devastating New Orleans, Biloxi, and other neighboring towns, killing almost 2,000 people, and costing more than any other storm in history. Today, more than two years after the deadly storm, the scars of Katrina are far from healed, and the tormented Big Easy is farther from being at ease than ever.
Moreover, a quick survey of worldwide natural disasters in the two years since Katrina struck reveals a pattern of events of escalating severity and frequency. The catastrophes that struck this summer alone are enough to make any sane person shudder. Floods killed hundreds of people in North Korea; hundreds more were killed in an earthquake in Peru; thousands died in China’s monsoon-triggered flashfloods. Fires in Italy and Greece set aflame tens of thousands of acres, including numerous settlements that were simply turned to smoldering ashes. These villages, once picturesque, will be uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.
On the other side of the ocean, numerous areas in the American Midwest were sodden with ceaseless rains that caused rivers to rise far above their flood levels. As a result, thousands of Americans were displaced and lost their homes. So many disasters occurred this summer, it’s hard to keep track of them all: the California fires and the tornado that flattened Greensburg, Kansas are just two examples. Perhaps the term “severe weather warning” should be changed to “hostile climate threat.”
Climate Is in Vogue
Even Hollywood has taken this topic to heart. Two blockbusting documentaries—Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, and 11th Hour, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio—are prominent examples of this trend. Sections on the environment can be found in any serious paper, and climate related topics make daily headlines. It seems that nearly 250 years after the industrial revolution, we have finally begun to acknowledge its consequences. If in the past we were mostly concerned with the survival of certain species, today the survival of all species is at risk, including our own. If we don’t revolutionize our modes of thinking, nature will do it for us, and will charge extremely high tuition for its schooling.
A New Eye on Nature
According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, the cause of the present crisis lies in the rules that govern nature and how we, humanity, relate to them. As science now knows, nature maintains itself in constant harmony and balance. When this balance is threatened, nature utilizes mechanisms to restore it.
The most fundamental of these is the principle of interconnectedness and unity. This principle determines that all parts of nature work not to sustain themselves, but to sustain the system as a whole. In other words, as uncanny as it may seem to the human eye, each element in nature cares for all other parts of nature, not for itself. This is the (real) natural way.
Unlike humans, the drive to maintain balance is an inherent trait at all levels of nature: still (inanimate), vegetative, and animate. Humans are the only exception to the rule. Hence, in the entire universe, humankind is the only disruptive element. Therefore, mending human nature will automatically mend all other parts of nature, whereas continuing to disrupt nature’s balance would inevitably prolong and intensify our troubles. Kabbalah teaches us that the only thing we can do to help ourselves and our world is to “work” on ourselves, to replace our desire for self-gratification with a desire for “system-gratification.”
Dog Eat Dog
Day by day, we are growing more egoistic, increasing our alienation from one another and from nature’s unity principle. Man not only exploits other humans, animals, plants, and minerals, but also enjoys building himself on the ruin of others. In doing so, we consistently breach nature’s most fundamental law of unity. But nature cannot be changed; its rules are constant. Each breach of nature’s rules triggers its balancing mechanism into action and prompts inevitable repercussions. And the more egoistic we are, the more powerfully we activate nature’s actions to restore balance. This is why we feel that nature is taking revenge. But it is not; it is simply trying to correct the harm we’re causing it.
Nature does not, and cannot make concessions. We can keep burying our heads in the sand, but if we do we are likely to find our heads buried in the sand through nature’s unsolicited act. Today, the clock is ticking and time is almost up. We can still pull ourselves out of the mud, but we must resolve to do it together. This will be our first attempt to operate like nature—for system-gratification.
As we previously mentioned, humans are the only species without the inherent drive to maintain balance, harmony, and reciprocity with the environment. Instead, we take what we want for ourselves. But since nature’s rules are predetermined and unchanging, we have no choice but to “choose to unite and reciprocate voluntarily.” This actually holds a benefit that is uniquely reserved to human beings: the ability to understand how and why nature works as it does, instead of blindly following its rules.
The wisdom of Kabbalah offers a time-tested method of self-study and self-transformation. At its base is a coherent explanation of nature’s laws, tested repeatedly by Kabbalists for almost five millennia. While the Kabbalistic terminology has changed over the years to adapt to the needs of the students at each time, its principles have remained as fixed as nature itself, since nature is what these principles describe. And while nature did not equip us with inherent capabilities for reciprocity, it did provide us with the means to acquire it through our own free will. Moreover, in doing so, the reward that nature guarantees to those who “graduate nature-school” is nature’s omniscient and omnipotent capabilities. All it takes is our will to do so.