Editorial: Preaching to the Choir

Featured in Mountain Record 25.1, Fall 2006


After more than a decade of living in the Catskills, I am still amazed by the incredible beauty and lushness of this landscape, at the same time that I can’t help but fear for its future. I fear that this land’s rich resources will eventually be depleted, that its soil will turn sterile and that a harsh, unforgiving climate will become the ruling factor of our lives.

And I am not alone in this fear. There are now thousands of films, books, lectures which address the unsustainability of our global lifestyle and that present an array of solutions to what threatens to be an irrevocable ecological crisis. But despite all of this information and the many options available for action at the individual, community and international levels, the “environmental problem” is worse than ever before.

It is clear that information, technology, legislature and even faith have not succeeded in curbing our headlong rush to self-destruction. Is there anything that will?

Daido Roshi often says that the most powerful fuel for action is love—love born of intimacy. In his Mountains and Rivers Sutra, Master Dogen says, “Although we say that mountains belong to the country, actually they belong to those who love them.” What does it mean to love a mountain, a river, so completely that there’s no longer a distinction between the lover and the thing loved?

This premise of love, of intimate care, is what this Mountain Record is based on. The love that each of the contributors shows for nature is unmistakable. Peter Forbes, Kathleen Dean Moore, and Bill McKibben address the environmental crisis directly, stressing that the clear understanding of our intimacy with the universe is the only viable solution. Rachel Carson, Saint Francis of Assisi, Walt Whitman, choose to sing out nature’s praises, reminding us that we’re both inseparable from nature, and that we share its inherent wisdom and self-sustaining power. In other words, that we already know how to take care of our body, the body of this great earth.

Then from a dharma perspective, Daido Roshi leads us through a detailed study of the Five Ranks of Master Dongshan within the context of the Mountains and Rivers Sutra. Inthis special five-part section titled “Teachings of Mountains and Rivers,” Roshi poignantly illustrates how our ever-deepening understanding of the relationship between the absolute and relative realms informs the actions we take to protect the environment.

“But the thing about an issue like this,” said one of the copy editors, “is that it’s preaching to the choir.” In a sense that’s true, but it is also true that we never know who might be thinking of joining. That’s the first step. The next step is for the choir to get off the choir loft and into the fray.

It is never too late

Mn. Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor