Miner's Canary

Some folks are miner's canaries.

One of the liabilities of mining is that there are all sorts of gas pockets in the mantel of the earth. Miners would run into them, and because often they are odorless the miners would asphyxiate. Canaries are little beings, and their bodies have a much lower tolerance for poison. A miners canary sacrifices (in most cases unwillingly) it's existence so that a much greater body can survive.

When we look at the conditions of society at this point in time, we see that the influences of the cultures and environments in which we steep are similar to being miles under the earths crust. We are somewhat blinded by the issues and troubles that seem epidemic in our world: war, greed, persecution. We are at a loss for what it means or what to do.

Although many animals have gone extinct, although many ecosystems have perished, we have not been able to hear the call of those canaries. When humans take their place, is there more of an imperative to listen?

Bradley Manning is a miner's canary.

Arron Swartz was a miner's canary. The children who died in Newtown, Connecticut were miner's canaries, as were the desperate people jumping out of the buildings on 9/11, and the Palestinians who are malnourished and murdered and robbed by their neighbors in their own country. Fukushima is a miner's canary.

The thing about being miner's canary is that you don't always have to know.

Taken away from the emotional charge, the bird itself is merely a component in a larger system: a light switch, a release valve, a whistle. It's function is to notify the larger system that there is a problem.

To the system, these individual 'units' are expendable on some level: it can loose a few cells here and there. The organism's overall health only becomes compromised once the sustained losses begin to interrupt the functioning of it's organs.

The soldiers and civilians who have died in various wars, and garbage dumps, and asylums and dark bedrooms around the world were, each and every one, miner's canaries. That guy who got swallowed in his sleep by that sinkhole in Florida was a miner's canary. How much potable water are we going to flush down our toilets and factories before we realize that we are creating pockets inside the earth big enough to swallow us whole?

How much further down the looking glass as a people do we have to go before we correct ourselves? How many more people and ecosystems and futures are we going to loose before we can rise above this low bar that we've accepted?

We must learn to see the beacon; to hear the whistle. We must not let these sad stories happen without cause.

Only because we can be so beautiful.

Only because in our best forms we can inspire the heavenly planets and stars to shine. Together we are a great and weightly beast with the grace of a child's smile. When we choose to love, we can love so simply and sweet, and with such depth and connection, that angels fall to meet us.

We may be little cells in a larger body, but we are individually gorgeous.

And I mean gorgeous. Like that cleaning lady who stole babies from the Warsaw Ghetto, and feverishly documented every last one, and returned them each if their families were still alive. Or like this little shoeless girl who was playing the cello like an upright base with her family at the park, and singing with the voice of a bird.

Or the old little wrinkled cute thang that sings 'buenos diaaaaaaaas' every morning when I take my dog out to pee. Or the customs officer at the Guatemalan border who had to explain to us how to get around the system on account of how dumb (but cute ;) we were.

When will we learn to let these little fires we each are graced to inhabit burn brightly? When will we regard ourselves with the dignity and honor that befits the technology of a machine such as ours?

When will we stop being miner's canaries?