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Burning Love: A Parrot Shows How to Put Out Fires of Human Desire

This has been a year of fires in Latin America. Jarring our sense of well being and future hope for the planet, one headline after another warns of the dire consequences of very high level of forest burning in the Amazon this year. A neighboring country, where One Earth has parrot conservation projects, is also burning. As of the end of August, 91,429 acres had been burned in two locations in Paraguay. Other acreage charred has not been tabulated yet, such as the fires in San Luis National Park, whose flames and smoke we drove through last week.

Burning entrance to National Park San Luis seen through haze that makes the setting sun colors vibrant against the grey landscape

These fires are related to the intense agricultural pressure on threatened habits, including cattle and soy, of which much of the soy goes to Asia to feed animals there for eventual slaughter. Human love for meat is "killing the planet."

Love can also save the planet. When in Paraguay over the last 3 weeks, it was the parrot breeding season. I was outside for 12 days, all day, and nearly every day I was privileged to witness courtship and copulation behavior of parrots. The trees were full of avian eroticism! Their activities were not only beautiful, but powerful. These birds reminded me of the potential of human love, in all its various forms, that can cause us to move mountains, and put out the fires of our desires.

Two nanday parakeets mating

At times (okay most of the time) it seems as if the odds are long and hard against any kind of success. How indeed do we extinguish human desire soon enough, or at all? An ancient Buddhist tale offers us wisdom of how to go forward when the world is burning around us. It ends this way....

...the little parrot says she has spotted a way [to put out the wildfire] so she must try.

She wets her feathers in the river, fills a leaf cup with water, and flies back over the burning forest. Back and forth she flies carrying drops of water. Her feathers become charred, her claws crack, her eyes burn red as coals.

A god looking down sees her. Other gods laugh at her foolish­ness, but this god changes into a great eagle, flies down, and tells her, as it’s hopeless, to turn back. She won’t listen but continues bringing drops of water. Seeing her selfless bravery, the god is overwhelmed and begins to weep. His tears put out the fire and heal all the animals, plants, and trees. Falling on the little parrot, the tears cause her charred feathers to grow back red as fire, blue as a river, green as a forest, yellow as sunlight.

She is now a beautiful bird. The parrot flies happily over the healed forest she has saved.

Love causes us to grieve what we have lost, and to come together to work with great commitment to save what we can, even when it is hopeless.

And it might just be that the spirit of broken hearts will heal us, and the earth.

(To learn how to grieve and mourn, and turn this into committed actions, refer to our book, Nurturing Discussions and Practices.)

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