“To take care of the environment, we must first take care of the environmentalist.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh had been speaking in the auditorium of a wealthy Christian Church in St. Louis. As always he emphasized the need for the U.S. to stop bombing and killing in his country (Vietnam). There have been many questions and answers when a large man stood up and spoke with searing scorn of the “supposed compassion” of “this Mr Hanh.”
“If you care so much about your people, Mr Hanh, why are you here? If you care so much for the people who are wounded, why don’t you spend your time with them?” At this point my recollection of his words is replaced by the memory of intense anger which overwhelmed me.
When the man finished I looked to Thich Nhat Hanh in bewilderment. What could he – or anyone – say? The spirit of the Vietnam was itself had suddenly filled the room, and it seemed hard to breath.
There was a silence. Then Thich Nhat Hanh began to speak – quietly, with deep calm, indeed with a sense of personal caring for the man who had just damned him. The words seemed like rain on fire. “If you want the tree to grow,” he said, “it won’t help to water the leaves. You have to water the roots. Many of the roots of the war are here in your country. To help the people who are to be bombed, to try to protect them from this suffering, I have to come here”
I may not be watering my roots if I don’t even know where they are…
How am I going to do this if I’m not happy about it? How am I going to take care of the environment if I’m not taking care of myself?