the morning’s inspiration

Forgive me, dear reader
too long since my last um . . . entry
( yes, again! )

well, this morning there is something i need to add
adele & i have this practice of sharing readings first thing
bit like church right in our living room

can’t tell you how often she finds something that hits home
tells me how she’s earmarking it for the book she’s writing
have to say this morning laugh’s on me
my turn down the mine shaft

anyway, too good not to share with you
while waiting to find the right moment
to tell you about paul gilding’s book just finished

this morning, picked up an old friend
fell open to chapter twelve
much to carry me through this rainy day
here’s an excerpt . . .

According to an old Jewish folktale, one day a child, Honi, saw an old man digging a hole in the earth. Honi asked the man, “Must you do heavy work at your age? Have you no sons to help you?” The man kept digging. “This work I must do by myself.” Honi asked, “How old are you?” “I am seventy years and seven,” answered the man. “And what are you planting?” “I am planting a breadfruit tree,” was the answer, “and the fruit of this tree can be made into bread.” “And when will your tree bear fruit?” asked Honi. “In seventeen years and seven.” “But you surely will not live that long,” said Honi. “Yes,” said the old man, “I will not live that long, but I must plant this tree. When I came into this world there were trees here for me. It is my duty to make sure that when I leave there will be trees here also.”

At its base ecological awareness is spiritual; it is a return to the simple, profound respect for and responsibility to the earth that our ancestors knew and practiced. Ecological philosophy, like spiritual philosophy, teaches that we are all one, all united. No matter how deeply we look into the fabric of material being -the biological level, chemical level, subatomic level- we see that life forms are interdependent, co-conditioning and co-evolving. Every human effort, civilization, thought, and spiritual insight, requires and is supported by the whole of organic life.

“Pantanjali, Buddha, Moses, and Jesus did not go to workshops or seminars or even churches,” says Dolores LaChappelle, author of EARTH WISDOM. “They went directly to nature: sat under a Bodhi tree or on top of a mountain or in a cave. We’ve been living off the residual remains of their inspiration for thousands of years, but this has about run out. It is time to return to the source of this inspiration -the earth itself.”

The first step toward rediscovering this spiritual fountainhead is simple: go out and observe the natural world (yourself). We need simply to look very closely. In this way the earth teaches us its eternal message, quietly, in a way unlike the textbook learning about nature.

As Robert Hunter says in O SEASONS, O CASTLES: “In nature, there is no such thing as a clash of colors. The more carefully you look, the deeper the subtleties of harmony. It is not so much that things flow into each other or around each other like perfect jigsaw pieces; rather it is that there is only One Thing out there. And, somehow, it is not really ‘out there’. Somehow, it is ‘in here’ too. Inside. At the furthest wavelength of thought, the sea and the wind and the trees and sand are … me. It is a thought that blinks into the mind, like a giant laughing eye, and then is gone for a long, long time.” . . .

One of the most stirring and beautiful ideas to have emerged in our time -the Gaia Hypothesis, described as a “wedding of the traditional intuitive wisdom to contemporary scientific insight”- was first put forward by James E. Lovelock in 1975, in the book GAIA, A NEW LOOK AT LIFE ON EARTH. Lovelock rejects the popular notion of the planet we live on as an inert lump of rock. Instead, he suggests that “the entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to bacteria and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity … endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts.”

In other words, the world is a giant living creature that sustains us in the way a body sustains bacteria. Lovelock gives this theoretical super-being the name Gaia ( pronounced like “maya” ), which is the name the ancient Greeks gave to the goddess Mother Earth.

Interestingly, we have a distinguished scientist telling us in the last half of the twentieth century that the ancient Greeks were right after all. The native Indians, too.

Lovelock used the techniques of gas chromotography to measure and compare the atmospheres of Mars and Earth, and made the startling discovery that while Mars had been dead for millions of years, something had been manipulating Earth’s atmosphere during all that time, maintaining a perfect temperature for life to thrive.

“This led us,” Lovelock writes, “to the formation of the proposition that living matter, the air, the oceans, the land surface, were parts of a giant system which was able to control temperature, the composition of the air and sea, the pH of the soil, and so on as to be optimum for survival of the biosphere.”

Lovelock carries his idea one step further. He suggests that the human race, collected together as a species, is Gaia’s emerging nervous system and brain. We are the planet becoming aware of itself, awakening to some kind of incredible consciousness, greater than anything any individual human could ever hope to know.

Something of this special feeling that one, indeed, is probably part of an entity like Gaia ( at the very least ) is expressed by another scientist, John A. Livingston, in his 1953 study of humanity’s fancied separation from non-human nature, titled ONE COSMIC INSTANT, A NATURAL HISTORY OF HUMAN ARROGANCE:

“Though I do not expect that I shall be reborn directly as a crocus, I know that one day my atoms will inhabit a bacterium here, a diatom there, a nematode or a flagellate -even a crayfish or a sea cucumber. I will be here, in myriad forms, for as long as there are forms of life on Earth. I have always been here, and with a certain effort of will, I can sometimes remember.

In his 1979 attempt to express the awareness that had evolved in the previous decade, Theordore Roszak, the historian, published a book titled PERSON/PLANET in which he stated:

“The needs of the planet are the needs of the person. And, therefore, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet. If a proper reverence for the sanctity of the Earth and the diversity of its people is the secret of peace and survival, then the adventure of self-discovery stands before us as the most practical of pleasures.”


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