Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Damnation of Unconnectedness

I think the more "sophisticated" we've become, the more stupid we act - the dumber we've gotten.

The following quote is from the novel The Dreaming by Barbara Wood, Random House, Inc., New York, 1991, Pages 36, 42.  [After seeing some Aborigines disappear off the road, Joanna, new to Australia, asked Hugh where they were going. He answered,] “’I’ve heard that this road used to be what they called a songline. Maybe that’s why we ran into them here.’

“’A songline?’

“’I’m not sure I can explain it to you,’ he said. ‘Songlines are part of the Aborigines’ sacred lore, their beliefs. It’s taboo for them to speak about sacred things, especially to a white man, and so there is little we know about them. But as near as I can determine, songlines are like invisible tracks. They mark the routes the Aborigine ancestors walked, thousands of years ago, and on up until fairly recently – thirty five years ago anyway [the novel is set in the late 19th Century], even less in some parts. Songlines are sort of invisible roads, crisscrossing the continent. Apparently way back the ancestors walked all over Australia, and as they walked they sang out the names of everything they encountered. They believed they were singing the world into existence. The Aborigines believe that song is existence – to sing is to live.  And that is why, too, to the Aborigines, everything in nature is sacred – rocks, trees, waterholes.’ (p. 36)

“’…The Aborigines believe the dead are always with us. They go back to the Dreaming, but they are still with us.’

“’The Dreaming?’

“Hugh picked up a stick and stirred the embers. ‘It’s a concept white men have little understanding of, including myself…. As nearly as I can judge, the Dreamtime, or the Dreaming, is what the Aborigines call the distant past, when the first people walked the earth and sang everything into creation. Their spirituality is very earthbound. From the earth we come, by the earth we are sustained, and when we die, to the earth we return. To wound the earth is to wound ourselves. That’s why the Aborigines never developed farming or mining or anything that altered the environment in any way. They were not just part of nature, they were nature.’” (p. 42)

In an earlier message, “The Unity of Life,” December 4, 2011, I wrote: “Not too long ago I was out cleaning up the wet-weather creek that flows… through our property…. I was cleaning out sticks, wild water grasses and weeds. As I would pull up 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?

… Indigenous cultures 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…. 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 were not above the environment; they were not users of the environment; they were an integral part of the environment.”

Just like the Aborigines.

I think the more “sophisticated” we have become as a civilization, the more separated we have become from nature. The more separated from nature, the more separated from our true Selves. The more separated from our Selves, the more we see people as simply tools and resources to be used – just like we see our environment as something to use.

On NPR recently my wife and I heard a story of a woman who was transforming vacant lots in Detroit into small vegetable or herb gardens – growing native Michigan plants and herbs. She’s involving whole neighborhoods in the growing and care of these small fresh food sources. The local residents are loving it!
She told of how a wee tot asked her, “Can we plant the trees that grow pizza?”

In some ways it’s a cute statement of childlike innocence. In other ways it’s a serious damnation of our society’s total irreverence and lack of connection to the natural world of which we are very much a part.

The more intelligent we have become the dumber we have gotten. We have come to believe we are bigger than Mother Nature. We treat the environment as an unlimited reserve of materials just lying there ripe for the picking. Unfortunately, that disconnected view of our Earth and its resources has led us to treat people the same way – raw material to be used and abused. People are now simply renters, day laborers, consumers, a steady stream of patients, congregants, vote totals, cashiers, or ignorant drivers.

I personally like the spiritual world-view of the Aborigines better. It’s more intelligent. It’s healthier. I am more spiritual when I am connected to the Earth.

Thanks for listening and, as always, you may forward this to those whom you believe might find this discussion stimulating.


Donald O'Dell

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