We are each a part of many systems, though our "system consciousness" varies considerably.
We are principally conscious of our individual bodies and thought processes - our primary system - and usually think of ourselves as discrete, independent beings who inhabit a world filled with other independent, unconnected beings.
From a broader perspective, life appears as an integrated web of primary systems, each in turn functioning as a subsystem for a variety of larger systems, and also as a supersystem containing myriad subsystems.
We're aware from time to time of the existence of some of the subsystems in our bodies, usually when they're not working normally. Who hasn't occasionally been reminded of their digestive system and its demanding stomach, intestines and other organs?
Most of us are also conscious of the role we play in a variety of larger systems, such as "my family", "my community", or "my country," whose well-being depends partially on us, and on which our own well-being depends to some extent. Our consciousness of our relation to larger bodies varies of course, some of us identifying beyond our country with all of humanity, others with all of life on Earth.
There are also those among us who identify with the entire system of life we're a part of - the cosmos, the Divine Mystery, with what some of us call God. These include the scientists who have discovered the interconnectedness of all physical events throughout the universe, the mystics for whom "My me is God," and others for whom "Thy will is my will," or "Not my will, but Thine be done."
When we commonly speak of "public-spirited" or "community-minded" people, we refer to those who share in the spirit of a larger system, such as a local town or other community, breathing life and energy into it, and receiving life and energy back from it.
Our local and regional ecosystem is another broader community we're a part of, whose well-being and ours are mutually intertwined.
These broader shared systems include our children and grandchildren, our present human communities at the local, regional and global level, and the natural environment worldwide. All are jeopardized when we fail to understand how connected we are.
Our challenge, which we can meet if we are faithful, is to live our daily lives in ways that are true to our identity as individuals, as members of broader communities extending forward and backward in time, and to the Spirit that is the source of our being and of all things.
Earth Day 2010 this Thursday is the 40th anniversary of what is considered the birth of environmental consciousness or of larger-system awareness as it relates to ecology and habitat. As part of the observances this year, we are asked to look at more sustainable practices, both for our personal, primary systems and for our larger community systems.
We are fortunate locally to have many concerned citizens working on ways we can be true to ourselves in all our dimensions. The Earth Day Fair at Walla Walla Community College Thursday from 9-2 p.m. and the Earth Celebration Fair on Saturday from 10-3 p.m. at the Farmers Market site are occasions to learn new ways and to relearn old ways that are again useful but have been forgotten.
Green Days of Worship sponsored by Walla Walla Valley Faith Communities for Sustainability this weekend, and the community-wide Green Commute Day Competition this Thursday are also opportunities to develop more sustainable ways of living and moving around in our community and beyond.
Let's expand our consciousness of who we are and our relationship with all of life, and begin to live out that expanded awareness in more thoughtful and sustainable lives. Earth Week reminds us of how important this is; today is a good time to start.
More information on the activities mentioned above is available on the web at www.wwfaithcom.org and www.sustainableww.org.
Daniel Clark is a retired attorney, and serves as clerk of the Walla Walla Friends Meeting, a local Quaker group. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.