On the one hand I find a small comfort in the idea that our so often insane and dissociated human consciousness has evolved to the stage that we at least bring attention to the honoring of our planet one day a year. However, even well meaning conversations about environment usually betray a profound disconnection from reality. In the words of Wendell Berry, “The idea that we live in something called the environment is utterly preposterous… environment means that which surrounds or encircles us… a world separate from ourselves, outside us. The real state of things, of course, is far more complex and intimate and interesting than that. The world that environs us, that is around us, is also within us. We are also made of it; we eat, drink and breathe it; it is the bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.”
So what will it take for us as a species to behave as though we truly belong here? What does it take for each one of us to belong in our lives, in our communities, in our world?
Apparently we are welcome to engage in behaviors that solidify the fantasy of our disconnection, and free to entertain notions that keep us paralyzed in a sense of unworthiness – but no matter what we do or where we believe we go, we can never actually leave who we are. And the relief is that who we are in truth is exactly where we belong. How could it be any other way? We imagine that we make ourselves, make the best me that we can and find somewhere to fit, and yet the path of belonging is the path of surrendering that ‘me’, and all the craziness that comes from it, into the growing and humbling recognition of the one we belong to.
I remember about 20 years ago when I first learned how to talk with trees, waterfalls, springs, and other nature relatives. For many years I had envied those people who reported a genuine ability to communicate like this. I believed that they must be somehow more special or possess some kind of psychic ability that someone like me had lost in the distancing of my ancestors from the earthy belonging of indigenous ways. And my deep sorrow at the seemingly unstoppable drive to consume the planet for profit had me more often than not weeping with shame when I was in beautiful nature places, imagining myself as a human unwelcome, a kind of parasite, and yet desperate to communicate my sadness for what we are doing. And yet somewhere along the path, life’s merciful but ruthless grinding down of my sense of separation opened up a chink through which I could begin to hear a new stream.
And the first words nature had for me? Were they an admonishment for our poisonous human disrespect for the mother earth? No. The same theme came through time and again, whether from twisted old pines on the Mendocino coast, from a hawk family, or from a freshwater spring in the mountains: “in the center of your heart lies the umbilicus of the mother of all creation. Trust the one voice that abides here. That voice is yours, as it is ours, and it speaks with you now.”… “Do you not see that only ignorance is served through perpetuating a sense of humanity’s unworthiness here? You cling to the very sense of separation that gives rise to all the twisted toxic confusion that devours the earth, and call this humility? It is not arrogance to assume that you can talk with us your relatives, as one of us. It is not arrogance to recognize and acknowledge that true nature which is given to you through no special privilege, but as your birthright.”… “How do you embrace all that you are, all that you have been? It is impossible if you position yourself outside of the heart.”
And so my prayer this earth day, is that we drop deeply into the kind and essential truth of our belonging, that very source of beauty and creativity from which we may see and follow a way through into a world of human belonging.