In her insightful 2013 book Braiding Sweetgrass, the scientist, professor and Native American Robin Wall Kimmerer recommends building a new relationship with the world itself:
We need acts of restoration, not only for polluted waters and degraded lands, but also for our relationship to the world. We need to restore honor to the way we live, so that when we walk through the world we don’t have to avert our eyes with shame, so that we can hold our heads up high and receive the respectful acknowledgment of the rest of the earth’s beings. – Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.
In exactly the same way, the Baha’i teachings ask us all to recognize the Earth as the source of every gift we have:
Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44.
With that feeling of humility and gratitude toward our shared planet, Baha’is embrace the duties of stewardship, protection, understanding and perfection of the Earth’s dominion that the indigenous peoples of the earth have long practiced and held sacred:
Traditional people of Indian nations have interpreted the two roads that face the light-skinned race as the road to technology and the road to spirituality. We feel that the road to technology …. has led modern society to a damaged and seared earth. Could it be that the road to technology represents a rush to destruction, and that the road to spirituality represents the slower path that the traditional native people have traveled and are now seeking again? The earth is not scorched on this trail. The grass is still growing there. – William Commanda, Mamiwinini, Canada, 1991
What does this ancient and yet new way of relating to the Earth mean in our daily lives, though? What does it call upon us to actually do? If we recognize the interdependence and unity of all life, what’s the next action step we can take to actually practice that unity?
I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy. – Black Elk, from John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks.
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, built upon these Indigenous traditions and spiritual insights when he proclaimed not only the oneness of the planet and all its nations, but the oneness of humanity:
Baha’u’llah has proclaimed to the world the solidarity of nations and the oneness of humanity. Addressing all mankind He has said, “Ye are all leaves of one tree and the drops of one sea.” The world of humanity has been expressed by Him as a unit—as one family. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 36.
As we understand from the many examples written and spoken by Indigenous people, all things are “alive” and speak in their respective Languages. According to the Bab, all reality metaphorically sings the praises of Divine Unity:
Thou art the One before Whom bow down in adoration all that are in Thy heaven and on Thy earth, Who art worshipped by all who inhabit the kingdom of Thy revelation and creation, each in accordance with its own reality: lightning shineth when it sanctifieth Thee, light flasheth when it praiseth Thee, water falleth when it beareth witness unto Thy unity, and snow filleth the air and earth when it magnifieth Thee. – The Bab, cited by Nader Saiedi in Gate of the Heart, p. 326.
So let us celebrate the convergence of these points of view—because, after all, both points generate from the messengers of God. The two most recent messengers—the Bab and Baha’u’llah—have brought humanity a restatement and revitalization of the most ancient messages, yet the truth they taught, and Creator they represent, is one, as are we.
We can best express our gratitude to the Earth and all of its living things, the Baha’i teachings say, by doing all we can to bring about human unity, despite all of our differences:
It is self-evident that humanity is at variance. Human tastes differ; thoughts, native lands, races and tongues are many. The need of a collective center by which these differences may be counterbalanced and the people of the world be unified is obvious. Consider how nothing but a spiritual power can bring about this unification, for material conditions and mental aspects are so widely different that agreement and unity are not possible through outer means. It is possible, however, for all to become unified through one spirit, just as all may receive light from one sun. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 164.