“Give a hoot – don’t pollute!” You may recognise this as the cry of Woodsy the Owl in public service announcements for the U.S. Forest Service in the 1970s. Woodsy had a great point: don’t litter! Don’t be callous! Take care of the environment around you! This article isn’t an environmentalist plea, however; at least, mostly not. It goes deeper than that, and feels like a good way to start off a new year.
In a discussion with friends after church a while back, it occurred to me that Woodsy’s is a great all-around motto. “Give a hoot, don’t pollute __” – you can fill in the blank with just about anything, and it works. Don’t pollute your physical environment with litter or garbage. Don’t pollute your head-space with selfish or lustful thoughts. Don’t pollute your relationships with accusations or anger. Don’t pollute the air waves around you with foul or hurtful language. Don’t pollute any environment with any kind of garbage.
To think of it another way, ‘put the needs of others before your selfish wants’. The Heavenly Doctrines offer valuable spiritual perspective on this concept. ‘Pollution’, in the Writings, is held in contrast to ‘purification’ and is used in reference to a person’s regeneration – which is useful but doesn’t really address our effecting of pollution. If we consider that not polluting implies being kind and not selfish, we might find more to substantiate this notion:
When selfishness and materialism are our reasons for doing things, we cannot possibly be kind people. We do not even know what kindness is. We have no concept at all that wanting and doing good things for other people – and not just to get something out of it – is heaven in us. We cannot comprehend that there could be as much happiness in the desire to do good things as the angels in heaven have – and the happiness of the angels cannot even be described! We think that if the enjoyment from the prestige of status and wealth were taken away from us, there would be nothing left to enjoy. Actually, that is where heavenly enjoyment first begins – and it is infinitely greater. (The Heavenly City, A Spiritual Guidebook #105)
We also learn in the Doctrine of Life 73:
“The Lord teaches good and loving actions in many passages in the Word. He teaches such actions in Matthew when He instructs us to be reconciled with our neighbor:
If you bring your gift to the altar and in doing so remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. …. (Matthew 5:23-)
Being reconciled with our brother or sister is turning our backs on hostility, hatred, and vengefulness. We can see that this is turning our backs on these evils because they are sins.
The Lord also tells us in Matthew,
Whatever you want people to do for you, you do the same for them. This is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
[We should do] nothing evil, then; and [this is said] quite often elsewhere. Then too, the Lord tells us that killing is also being angry with our sister or brother or neighbor for no good reason and harboring hatred against them (see Matthew 5:21-22).”
It all comes down to one simple, yet difficult, task: do no evil. We should do good, too, but start by doing no evil. Turn your back on hostility, hatred and vengefulness. Don’t be angry with others and harbour hatred against them. Give a hoot – don’t pollute!