Friday, December 9, 2011

The Unity of Life

Not too long ago I was out cleaning up the wet-weather creek that flows from the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area through our property. Our lots back up to this 80,000-acre preserve owned by the State of Tennessee. I was cleaning out sticks, wild water grasses and weeds. As I would pull a clump of vegetation the roots, all mired in creek muck, contained all sorts of bugs, beetles, and other tiny critters. Each clump of muck was its own little universe. It was a remarkable moment, as I tried to imagine life in that clump of muck from the perspective of the inhabitants.

In a short while I knew the muck would dry, the critters would either die or scatter, and the water vegetation would die. One day the creek muck is alive as its own little world and the next it is apparently dead. What happened? What's missing? What the heck is Life, anyway?

The Native American Indians – and, as far as I know, many other indigenous cultures e.g., Amazonian, Alaskan Inuit, Polynesian – have had an intrinsic reverence for this thing called Life. Attributed to their Great Spirit, Life was Life – whether in stones, deer, themselves, frogs, birds, plants, rain, or snow. Life was a mystery and was revered. Not some of life was revered some of the time. All life all the time. There was no hierarchy in Life. Human life was not more valuable than animal or plant life. Life was Life. It was a mystery. It was honored.

The Indians didn't consider their form of Life to be superior to another. They had no more right to be alive than a stone or a maize (corn) plant. This was not an intellectual deduction from repeated observations. This was embedded in their hunting, defending, family life, crafting, ceremonies. In short, it was their culture; it was who they were. They were at one with their world. Just a piece. Not superior. Not a user. Simply an interactive part of the whole system of Life.  They didn't see God's creation as something beneath them to be used. They simply saw themselves as one part of God's creation.

They were not above the environment; they were not users of the environment; they were an integral part of the environment. As I was sensing this unity I felt very, very peaceful and content. It was a ONEderful moment.

It's difficult for me to see this unity if I am not living in the Now. If I am obsessing on the future [I remember an AA definition of fear: Future Events Appearing Real] or if I am reliving a positive or negative past event, then my monkey mind is concentrating on my own self-created non-events. I will not notice those miniature revelations of the unity of life embedded in a universe of creek muck.
The following quote is from the novel, Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber, W.W. Norton & Company, 2003:

“Sirine is almost asleep as [her uncle] tells a story. ‘Not everyone knows this, but in addition to the real mountains there are purplish ghostly mountains that sleep behind them. And you should never look too closely for too long at just about anything unless you’re willing to let yourself perceive this other world, the world behind the senses, the world not of things but of immutable, unknowing being.’”

When I’m focused on the Now, I am open to the “…world not of things but of immutable, unknowing being.” I know that I’m very peaceful there. Maybe this is the Peace that passes all understanding – the peace that comes from experiencing “…the world behind the senses.” Maybe this is where we encounter and experience the Kingdom of Heaven, which is in you and all around you. (cf. Luke 17:20-21 (where the Greek can also be translated “…the kingdom of God is within you.”); Gospel of Thomas 3, 113).

Regardless, I find it amazing that somewhere deep inside me I found a calm, a peace, a serenity from an inside-me identity with a small clump of wet-weather creek muck.

Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward this, if you choose.
#1 – December 2011

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