The Last White Rhino

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Last week I read that the last, male, white rhino on planet Earth, had died. This means white rhinos are, barring a miracle, about to be wiped off the planet. I felt such pain in my heart as I allowed the gravity of this to sink in. We move so quickly these days, inundated with news, choices, activities, to-do lists, social media dopamine hits, vying for our attention. It’s easy for the more momentous events to slip passed unnoticed, like this one.

But why, one might ask, would we need to care about this at all? Okay, it’s sort of sad, but species have become extinct before and the earth keeps spinning, no big deal. It’s just cycles of life, right?

While it’s true that extinction has been a part of life since life came into being, the rapid and increasing depth and breadth of extinctions that are causally linked to human activity, is a scientific fact that is both unquestioned and ignored at our peril. But I don’t want to explore the science of extinction, rather, this love sermon is meant to explore the heart of humanity as we live and breathe and act on this miraculous planet.

We were never meant to exist here alone. Everything, every being, that we share the planet with exists both for it’s own purpose, and the deeply interconnected webs of purpose that link all of life.

In the Bible, Genesis 1:26 tells the story that humans would have “dominion” over animals and the earth. Clearly this has been interpreted by many as the God-given right to use, take, control, master, and bend to our will, the earth and her inhabitants. But a moment later, Genesis 2:15 exhorts humans to take up the task of tending the earth, immediately setting the precedent that our “dominion” doesn’t mean we are meant to extract all that we want and lay waste to the planet, but that we are the species most dearly charged with the responsibility to care for, nurture, and protect planet earth. Imagine what could come from a change in our attitudes, if we began to cultivate this perspective?

Indeed, Psalm 24:1 tells us that the earth belongs not to humans, but to God. Consider that God didn’t give the earth to us, like a busy parent gives a soccer ball or iPhone (things that we tend to use and discard). No, we are the stewards of God’s planet, the caretakers. Take the astronaut’s viewpoint from space. Whoever has had that view, seems universally to speak of earth with profound awe, wonder, and gratitude. They see, as do astronomers, that we are a speck in a vast multiverse – not the pinnacle of evolution but rather, an occurrence of life on a miraculous, yet fragile, life-giving planet. What if earth doesn’t belong to humans, but to life itself?

We have turned our backs on this sacred duty, we have been driven by our egos. And God weeps. We are not only destroying the planet and her non-human inhabitants, we are literally creating the conditions for our own extinction.

Where is our compassion? If we can’t feel compassion for the millions/billions of innocent creatures who live at the mercy of humanity, can we not feel compassion for our own children, who also live at the mercy of adult decisions?

What if we could consider turning inward to look at our avarice, to see into our lack of love or concern for anything beyond the next fix. If we do, imagine the beauty we can manifest! We can decide to ensure that habitats are not destroyed, but instead, revitalized. We can take actions to help the powerless multitudes survive and thrive. We can decide to stop being relentless takers, and assume our sacred duty as stewards of this miracle, Earth.

Recently there was a terrible fire in Southern California and I saw a video that breathtakingly exemplified this possibility. The sky, almost black with smoke, glowed menacingly orange. The roadside along the 405 freeway was on fire, yet despite this extraordinarily dangerous situation, a man had pulled over to the side and was trying to save one little bunny. You could feel his fear and frustration as he tried to lure the tiny creature to him, but in its’ fear it continued to run, to try to escape from the hell it was trapped in – but there was no place to go, everywhere was fire. Somehow the bunny allowed the man to grab it. He picked it up and cradled it to him, and both were safe. It was so beautiful to see this risky, selfless act of love, to save one tiny, frightened, bunny.

This is our power – to rescue, to revitalize, to regain our status as honorable stewards. It may be too late for the White Rhino, and many other species, But, if we are to live as Love intends, then we must seek truly to become good and faithful stewards of this beautiful planet earth.

There are miracles waiting for us when we do.


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