There must be a box for that

There must be a craving for organization in our lives. Big box stores have aisles of storage boxes1containers, shelving, and closet organizers. Bookstores have shelves and shelves of self-help books on organizing one’s clutter. Type in “organizing ideas” in a search engine and you will be given about 60 million options to check out. Your search will yield optional additional searches which will no doubt turn about millions of more results.

Even though my life seems to be chaos most of the time, I agree. Life is better when our stuff is not scattered helter-skelter around me. I used to be very organized. Then life happened and my stuff took on an existence of its own.

We seem to be happiest when our thinking is organized as well. We like things to be compartmentalized. Life is easier if the issues we face can be put in neat little boxes. Decisions can be made more quickly if we can narrow our focus to the one thing. We don’t want to think about other points of view or possible consequences.

We are told to think about things like climate change, technology, pesticides, medicine from the point of view of “good science.” The Pope has recently been criticized for writing a paper on the church’s obligation to focus on climate change as a moral issue as well as a scientific one. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is quoted as saying the Pope should “leave science to the scientists” and should not comment on issues of climate science (even though the Pope has a masters degree in chemistry and former Senator Santorum is a lawyer). Others accused the Pope of meddling in the politics of climate change.

Often politicians are asked to make decisions based on science and science alone even though their decisions are political and must also consider issues of ethics, economics, the common good. Science doesn’t exist in a vacuum and neither does politics.

Scientists are not isolated from politics.

Scientists delve into politics all the time. Often scientists are asked to present findings which support a political decision. Experts testify for and against all kinds of legislation from the effects of early childhood education to the regulations mandated for riparian buffers along waterways, and the siting of oil pipelines.

Scientists’ work is also influenced by the politics of regulatory agencies which set up rules for various kinds of research, the politics of foundations granting funds for their work, the politics of the institutions of higher education for which they work. They regularly involve themselves in influencing political decisions.

If I have learned anything from nearly forty years of organic farming, it is that all things are connected. If there are weeds in the wheat, it is connected to the health of the soil, the plants that grew there last year, what I spent time doing last year, the rain that fell or didn’t, what machine broke and kept us from doing what needed to be done. If the butterflies disappear, it may be because we did too good a job eradicating all the “weeds” or wild flowers in our pastures. Often our problems occur because we don’t look far enough either backwards or forward. We forget to look at the connections.

What we do in our homes affects the earth as a whole. Our work affects our homes and others’ health and well-being. What seems like a small thing, like a single plastic bag or water bottle thrown in the ditch when multiplied by millions of bags and bottles that seem like small things become really big things.

Cardboard-boxesThe Pope is right to call care of the earth a moral issue. It is also a scientific and political issue. There are no storage containers for issues like climate change, same sex marriage, GMOs, student debt, health care. They all fit in many boxes: politics, science, morality, justice, equality.  These are not small issues and there are no simple decisions or organization systems to keep everything neat and tidy. Life is just messy.