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Opinion: We must be like Earth, the ultimate activist

BY BILL TALEN | The Earth is sending an urgent message through our bodies. Because the fire and flood and disease and drought are so disastrous, we know that the Earth is sending an extremely clear message through our bodies.

All right, but what does that have to do with my activism?

The Earth is the ultimate activist. The Earth’s messages are traveling long distances, like the songs of whales, vibrating through many different kinds of media: water, breath, solid rock.

Good, and what is the Earth saying with these messages?

There is more death now and there is more life now. The edge of death might be a scream that goes to a sigh that goes to silence. It is a communication, like a suicide note. The edge of life goes from silence to a sigh to a scream, like a declaration, like a cardinal making those swooping whistles at the top of a tree.

So what do I do?

Be like Earth. Because the Earth is making arguments for continuing with this idea called life. The Earth’s main job description is keep life going. And that is the meaning of the language you hear in a superstorm or eruption of lava or flooding waters drowning a city.

Well I can’t do that.

We translate the Earth into our human drama and offer it to each other and to the Earth as our gift. The Earth is breaking walls and washing out borders. Emma Goldman said that “Love defies laws.” Because love is everywhere, ecstatic — with the false power of walls trying to stop love. Because disaster is everywhere, because Oklahoma has twisters, the Great Barrier Reef bleachings, the Himalayan glaciers melt into great rivers. Each geo-place has a way of expressing and each of us does, too.

You’re saying that our activism should be large-scale magic?

The Earth is being political and we are not. Because there is so much love that inanimate elements come to life. A searing pleasure rips through solid rock a mile underground, sending life geysering upward. We need to find our equivalent.

You keep speaking in metaphors.

Because the Earth keeps asking questions. We are overwhelmed with questions like a forest clearing. The trees are alive with communicating. A forest gives birth, grows, loves, works and kills and gives birth. The leaves are flapping and flipping in a windy forest and, if we stand there, open and ready, our walls are blown down.

You are saying to take the time.

Yes! Because the Earth is sending an unstoppable message to all living things, through our bodies. The Earth is a living being, conscious and purposeful. That’s the “earth culture” way of knowledge, and it is the way that activists from all backgrounds talk after volunteering to join the water protectors at Standing Rock and Line 3 and Fairy Creek and the Weelaunee Forest. Now we need to have that unstoppable love at Wagner Park and East River Park.

Because all the languages of life are talking about love, from hummingbirds to the volcanoes. A good listen makes the action.

Talen’s activist and performance persona is Reverend Billy. You can see him in person or livestreaming at on Sundays at 3 p.m. at the East Village’s Earth Church, at 36 Avenue C, at E. Third Street.

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