Here in the northern hemisphere, it's the beginning of harvest season. We've just passed Lammas, the seasonal festival that is considered the First Harvest in several traditions. Where I live, that doesn't mean grain so much as watermelons, fresh herbs, and more zucchini than anyone knows what to do with (as well as the not-yet-mature hazelnuts you see in the photo). But of course, the concept of harvest is symbolic as well.
It's common for people who follow earth-oriented spiritual traditions to include symbolic harvesting or reaping in their celebrations this time of year. The subject is usually phrased something like, "What have you harvested this year?" or "What would you like to harvest?" And of course, we think of good things: material and spiritual abundance, good friends, a stable home life, good health. But sometimes it's hard to focus on those good things when it feels like the world is being overwhelmed with bad stuff. Or at least, our online feeds are.
As with so many human inventions, the Internet has its pros and cons. On the upside, we have a far greater ability to connect with each other and share information than we ever did, and that's helpful when we need support or when there are social justice or other issues that we want to address. But the Internet pretty much comes without a filter. All the bad stuff shows up, too, in great quantity. Of course, we need to know about a certain amount of it; how else can we organize to work towards positive goals to make the world a better place? But sometimes being online feels like I'm driving at a slow crawl past an immense automobile accident and I can't look away. All the nasty little things that were left out of our local newspapers and TV news way back when, all the nasty people whose voices never carried very far...until the Internet. But I'm not sure whether the 'filterless' Internet is the real issue here.
Lately I've been feeling more overwhelmed by the bad stuff than usual. I'm pretty sure there has always been plenty of bigotry, corruption, greed, and general evil to go around. It just seems more present than usual now, even compared to the previous few years. And I've been thinking a lot about what we're harvesting, not just this season in one particular location, but within humanity as a whole. Are we any better, as human beings, than we were in the Middle Ages? Are we any less nasty to each other? Have we grown up any over time, or have we simply found new and different ways to be awful to each other and the world in which we live?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but the fact that I feel compelled to ask them probably says something about the state of the world. I'd like to think there is some kind of evolution over time, some kind of improvement, maturing, growing up as a species, but lately it sure doesn't look like it. The little bright points of love, cooperation, and support seem tiny compared to the bleakness of the wider world. So I'm back to my basic question: What are we harvesting? It takes a large team of people to reap a single field. How big a team will it take to reap justice, compassion, respect? Do we have a team big enough?