credit: Andy Reis
We serve life not because it is broken, but because it is holy. ~ Rachel Naomi Remen
A friend recently shared a beautiful article by Rachel Naomi Remen about the difference between helping, fixing, and service. Her basic point has to do with the importance of approaching good works from an attitude of love and connection.
Coming from the position of the detached expert who is going to fix the problem is inherently disempowering and objectifying. In the article, Remen shares an experience of shame created by this sort of fixing. Many practitioners of holistic healing arts make this same point, and do their best to ensure that they are not reinforcing clients in unhelpful passivity or victimhood. Similarly, social activists emphasize the importance of empowerment, dignity, and solidarity.
This is essentially about the energy of the process. Remen suggests that service emerges from the energy of oneness and reverence, and that helping/fixing comes from the energy of separation and brokenness.
What I want to add is that this same idea applies to environmental work. It was clear to me during my years in environmental nonprofits that the culture was very much one of fixing instead of loving, sacred service. Because that type of approach remains in the energy of separation and brokenness, its efficacy is ultimately limited.
I am convinced that when we work in the service of ecological restoration it is absolutely vital to hold the vision of the earth as both holy and whole. While we may at times feel grief when we witness destruction and suffering, we must also hold space for nature’s wisdom, tenacity, and power. She is sacred and she will prevail. With or without us.
Again, these words from Remen’s piece apply to our service to nature:
Service is not an experience of strength or expertise; service is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. Helpers and fixers feel causal. Servers may experience from time to time a sense of being used by larger unknown forces. Those who serve have traded a sense of mastery for an experience of mystery, and in doing so have transformed their work and their lives into practice.