“You must hate them, Nicky. You must hate them all!” Grasping her perhaps five-year-old son to her breast, the enrobed woman intoned the command into the ear of her transfixed child. (Ricky’s Restaurant, NW Calgary, c. 2006)
We often talk about protecting the environment, but it is the physical context we mean. Recycle cardboard. Put plastics in a separate box. Buy an organic bed. Be wary of noxious chemicals and electromagnetic pollution. Avoid lead-based paints if you are pregnant. Live green!
The Bedford Group says that, in these trying times, “patience is thinner, loyalty is weaker and understanding is more shallow”. We see business leaders locked into their work mode, forcing others to heed their demands. We see intellectuals and artists retreating into their private worlds, feeling safer creating or conceptualizing on their own.
What then, does it mean to live sustainably in relation to one another? People in sustainable, intimate relationships tend to value integrity, sharing, empathy, communication, and joy, and avoid superficiality, exploitation, abuse, and infidelity. People in sustainable, professional relationships often value integrity, respect, consideration, honesty, open communication, and harmonious interaction. They typically regret actions fuelled by selfishness, anger, and greed, and rife with carelessness, deceit, rudeness, and/or impatience.
Just as protecting the physical environment requires care and attention, so, too, does protecting the social environment. When we see that someone does not value sustainable relationships, we need to react, preferably without putting ourselves in harm’s way. We can exercise our influence, just as we do by modeling green behaviours and encouraging our friends and neighbours to do the same. We cannot assume that everyone is committed to the concept of sustainable relationships. We must be less complacent and more vigilant to maintain a culture of sustainability, be it physical, socio-emotional, mental, or spiritual. We can stimulate personal growth.
Fortunately, our democratic way of life provides us with the freedom to live generously and interact sustainably. Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
Within this context, sustainable relationships can thrive, and new associations blossom. We can promote tolerance. It is our responsibility to acknowledge and protect our culture, and sustain our key relationships. Ultimately, love is the way.