3. Foundations: Nature & Earth – How you view nature and the earth, and your relationship with it.
My relationship with nature, and the whole world both mundane and spiritual, is characterized (ideally) by reciprocity.
I believe that every thing, creature, and place, has a soul. This is a picky distinction to make, so it might be difficult to describe: I don’t worship a tree, or the ground, or this lake; I worship the spirit that indwells a tree, or that watches over a piece of ground, or lives in the lake and participates in the life of its inhabitants. The same way the tales of a God do not limit that God, or fully describe Them, a spirit of a thing or place is not reduceable to its objective form.
Ideally, people’s religious life would inform all of their actions, and their relationship to the spirits of the things and places around them would take up quite a lot of their attention. The relationships, devotional or friendly, contentious or harmonious, would be as individual as the people and spirits involved in them. The reality of those interrelationships (not only between people and spirits, but spirits and spirits) would impel people to treat the places they live respectfully, to not hoard or waste, to recognize individuality rather than interchangeability, and to ask for help and give help when it is needed.
The modern world has pulled us away from two facts: no matter how post-processed any of the things we need and own are, everything around us comes from the natural world. The air we breathe comes from plant life. The food we eat was once living beings. The computer monitor in front of us was once sand, and metal from the most dangerous and toxic of mines, and the increasingly scarce blood and bodies of primordial life, and thousands of hours of labor of our fellow humans.
That one is hard to internalize. But as abstracted away from harvesting and craftsmanship as we may be, it seems to be even harder to remember that individual humans are not only dependent on the earth, we also participate in its life. So many people focus their environmentalist efforts on becoming more and more invisible: To eat less of the wrong things. To recycle and compost their personal garbage. To get so wrapped up in the evils that human civilization has committed that we can only envision the ideal world as one where there were no humans at all.
But that in some ways ignores both our culpability and our power. We made this civilization, and we can unmake it, but we have to set our focus on stopping and changing the parts that are broken: the parts that deny individuality, that are based on interchangeability, that pull people away from the lives around them, and that externalize costs onto things and people that are denied power. To continue to not address the harm going on around us, and to instead buy a glass water bottle and start composting is like cleaning the kitchen because you feel bad your cat puked on your roommate’s bed. Yes, okay, do that too. But first clean up the puke.
“clean up the puke,” my environmentalist manifesto. Okay!