“…the greater the sense of separation from nature, the greater the need to return.”
In light of my upcoming concert in honour of the Earth, I’ve been exploring a lot of my research, experiences, notes, poems, stories etc. on the subject of healing the relationship between our human species and its natural environment, which has become one of the most (if not the most) significant concerns facing us in our burgeoning global-centric culture. While myriad conflicts motivated by nationalism, religion, ethnic clashes, and neo-colonialism still continue on this planet, what is increasingly emerging into mass awareness is that these conflicts are futile in the face of the larger conflict between ourselves and the Earth. This too often forgotten ecological war is reaching fever-pitch as the devastating effects of pollution, global warming and the continuing exploitation of natural resources causes more and more havoc in the form of extreme weather, the mysterious dying off of millions upon millions of animal life and whispers of the horrendous effects of environmental disasters such as the Fukushima meltdown and perpetual oil spills and their massive toxic consequences. What is insane about this war is that it’s actually us at war with ourselves: we’re destroying ourselves for we are part of Earth.
This blind-spot in our collective vision, that we are part of nature, is one of the great historical threads and involves a dynamic tale of religious imperialism, indigenous genocide and even some profoundly radical investigations into ill-inclined extraterrestrial invasion upon the human psyche (all documented in a 2 000 year old document unearthed in upper Egypt in 1945 known as The Nag Hammadi Library. See John Lamb Lash’s extraordinary text Not In His Image for more info or read this synopsis over at Reality Sandwich). As a result of our devastating anti-ecological activities, our living environment is becoming less and less sustainable. We are committing what some are calling ecocide but in reality it’s more like collective suicide for it would be brazen to think we could destroy the planet, though realistic that we can destroy our ability to exist upon it. The stakes are truly that high.
“What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
― Henry David Thoreau, Familiar Letters
This is a lot of the reason why there is such an intense countercultural movement on our planet in resistance to the antiquated system of capitalism: people are recognizing that if we continue to exploit the planet, our species is not going to survive much longer. This is already too obvious. Part of the countercultural movement, intensely manifesting in the Occupy movement and more recently in the Idle No More movement, is understanding what is it about capitalism that has distorted our human nature to be psychopathically benumbed too the harm we are assaulting on the planet and ourselves. This is an exciting frontier of human thought and is beyond the scope of this piece but many luminaries are helping us to understand the more inner-dimensions of the human psyche that give rise to outer-dimensions of human culture and their effects most tellingly on the environment. This is an endeavour that reckons with the very foundations of human beliefs and opens new hope in form of much needed revisions about what we believe about our species, our planet and even the universe at large (to this endeavour, I highly recommend Rupert Sheldrake’s book The Rebirth of Nature which discusses the quagmire of modern scientific beliefs and its mythos of world domination).
I believe there’s a growing sense of shame directed toward ourselves as we apprehend what we’ve being doing to the planet. Moreover, I believe this shame is galvanizing us in unified experience and inspiring us to call on a heroic reaction to what is a growing display of our insanity. How long are we to go on allowing a culture based on mechanistic scientific principles to see the Earth as an inanimate, biological machine to be detrimentally and ceaselessly manipulated, without any foresight to its implications? I wonder if any of the corporations and their corporately controlled states have ever considered (as many indigenous peoples do) the consequences of their present actions for the many generations of our species to follow. But I don’t have to wonder too long: what is clear is that our modern corporate culture vehemently does not. Worse, the ‘powerful’ echelon of our society (power equated with financial worth as rendered in a capitalist system) are bridled to a dangerous psychopathy of elitism that has shut down all empathic ability to feel any kind of grievance for the horrendous effects of treating nature so wantonly. In fact, the word manipulation is quite an understatement: we are witnessing a raping of the Earth. It is also telling that the culture of rape has received significant attention in 2013 with the shocking events which have occurred in India and elsewhere, coalescing humanity in outrage and collective denouncement of the continued desicration of women. I see this as a living parallel to the growing awareness of the rape of the Earth and nature, which has traditionally been associated with the feminine.
Challenges here are immediate: how can we as part of the corporate culture, continue to distance ourselves from it and envision new paradigms and begin to create a new world in the old capitalist world’s place? How can we make this the most intimate of perspectives, so that we begin to amplify awareness to all of our choices as the true source of power in this world? How can we empower ourselves as creators to transform the world?
These are big topics but exciting ones too. It involves actually the revitalization of one of the oldest mythic elements which has been a force of ennoblement for millennia, that being the quest. A quest gives us a passionate aim in life that involves engaging a relentless force of desire which can be activated in all. A quest ennobles us by consolidating us into a harmony of aim, pulling in disparate elements that otherwise might leave us lazy without guiding principle, toward a greater purpose. This is what stands before us and is one of the greatest potential turning points in human history. We’ve never been more connected and knowledgeable as a species. What is needed is knowledge to be allowed to continue to flow freely and grow strong through more cross-cultural-fertilizations, open dialogues, and a great spirit of experimentation using an expanded and revived holistic perspective of science. It’s time to stop fighting the old world order and create a new world one, based not so much on human applications of order, but adhering again to the natural ordering principles in nature itself, revering the ecological intelligence of Earth and considering how we may not stick out and dominate but fit in and integrate with the great web of life.
What is needed is a resacralization of the Earth and the natural world. This also involves recovering an understanding that we are also inherently a part of nature and that the long separation we’ve experienced has most viscerally impacted a detrimental division from our own fullness of being, specifically rendered in the conflict between mind and body which was been waged by religious and scientific ideals alike. Our culture has become largely one of disembodiment. We’ve been relegated to our heads as it were, seeing thinking as our primary skill as a species, while excluding a larger sense of mind which includes, emotions, the experiences of our senses and even intuition and mystical realms. The result has been a culture that is rife with mental illness and physically degenerating by tantamount chronic diseases. In the great turning toward a more holistic sense of selfhood and world, one excellent evolution has been in the popularity of yoga which is an art of deep embodiment—yoga literally means ‘connection’ and the world over, our disembodied culture is flocking to yoga studios, perhaps unconsciously, but nonetheless to experience being more alive in our bodies and returning to the wisdom within it, exuding from our human nature.
“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”
― Chief Seattle, The Chief Seattle's Speech
Part of the challenging endeavour to restore a sacred relationship to nature and Earth is reducing the massive magnitude of the adversity we face to create possibilities in our lives where we can participate in the rectification of our evolution in harmonious relations with nature. I believe one of the most significant steps to create a foundation to lead such a life of harmony is to begin openly engaging the idea that the Earth is alive; is, in fact as our ancient ancestors attested, a massive, planetary organism of profound intelligence and beauty. This is already being felt as an immense recognition in mass culture. As Rupert Sheldrake attest: “…the acknowledgment that our planet is a living organism, Gaia, Mother Earth, strikes a responsive chord in millions of people; it reconnects us both with our personal, intuitive experience of nature and with the traditional understanding of nature as alive.” How does one go about this? It can be quite simple, in fact: whenever we find ourselves experiencing nature, whether it be sitting on our front porch and watching trees, or being in parks surrounded by greenery, birds and insects or more fortunately in more intense natural environs such as forests and larger wilderness, to simply extend one’s consciousness to connect with the natural world. Wonder, like a child, what it is to be a tree. Consider all life in the world as somehow conscious, alive and even soulful. If attention is held long enough in such considerations, there’s bound to be a shift of awareness. We may even find ourselves startled by a kind of response in our intuitive mind; we may feel what it is to be a tree. I’ve even had experiences following fasts and sweat lodges under the guidance of First Nations teachers where I’ve received actual messages from trees that carried tremendous wisdom. Foolish and unbelievable some may think? Well, I can’t convince with theory alone: this is wisdom that must be lived in order to be validated, which is one of the great assertions of traditional, nature-based sciences.
“To love all that is not human, animals and plants, insects, the atmosphere, empowers us to be human. Loving Gaia is the highest calling of humanity. It is also the path of enlightenment that can lead us to coevolution in the most direct way, the safest and sanest way…” John Lamb Lash
As Earth Day fast approaches, I ask of us not to let it pass as some empty day that seems vaguely expressed by our material-commercial culture. See this as perhaps a day to make an emphatic point to strike up a meaningful relationship with the planet Earth, with nature, and the nature that is alive as us. Moreover, this is an opportunity for us to join the massive cultural movement to transform human civilization into something profoundly beautiful, based on sustainable harmony with the Earth, a deep sense of unified spirituality based on understanding human nature as the ground of all of our experience and a reverence for the one home for us all, Earth. Ironically, it may be the perils of environmental devastation that draw us beyond all conflicts into a common field where we can thrive as one. I believe this is where the momentum of awakening is driving us. I also find it no trifle of irony that we stand positioned as a culture to vault from the challenges of the solar plexus chakra and the love of power into the heart chakra where love is understood as the true power and that the colour of the heart centre is green, which has always been connoted to the Earth and the environmental movement.
“There are no well-defined edges of reality, Dan. The earth isn’t solid. It is made of molecules and atoms, tiny universes filled with space. It is a place of mystery, light and magic, if you only open your eyes.”
Socrates from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
Perhaps even in the weeks leading up toward Earth Day, we can begin making space in each of our days to open up such connections. When one encounters the great wisdom of ancient culture, one finds a wealth of traditions that spoke with moving adoration about Earth as Mother; as sustainer, provider and caretaker for us all and all life flourishing so beautifully in her body and even her soul. As one teacher once told me, it’s about romancing Mother Earth. In my life, in so doing as a daily act of love and connection, I have found many of the great banes of modern, urban life have lessened, that being a sense of alienation, anxiety, depression, and existential nausea at the spectre of purposelessness. This has been because the Earth has responded to my attempts of connection and in so doing, I have never felt so far from alone. I’ve experienced wisdom pouring from my heart in the company of trees that has left me dazzled with awe and mysteriously, glorious companionship. I have found beauty and peace in the natural world that is everthere, ever present, unfailing. And despite all we have done to the Earth, it has never withheld from us sustenance and vital breath. It us who have withheld and in doing it is us who have suffered. The Earth is merely waiting to revel with us. How much longer shall we let Her wait?