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Painting by Elisabeth Sonrel

“What I sought in books was imagination. It was depth, depth of thought and feeling; some sort of extreme of subject matter; some nearness to death; some call to courage. I myself was getting wild; I wanted wildness, originality, genius, rapture, hope. I wanted strength, not tea parties. What I sought in books was a world whose surfaces, whose people and events and days lived, actually matched the exaltation of the interior life. There you could live.”

Annie Dillard

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This is my message to the western world — your civilisation is killing life on Earth -Nemonte Nenquimo
“…This forest has taught us how to walk lightly, and because we have listened, learned and defended her, she has given us everything: water, clean air, nourishment, shelter, medicines, happiness, meaning. And you are taking all this away, not just from us, but from everyone on the planet, and from future generations.”

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Have you heard the biblical story of Jonah, who is called by God to go to Nineveh and teach the people there? Jonah, terrified that he might fail at the task he has been given, boards a ship to get as far away as he can from his calling. When the vessel encounters heavy storms in the Mediterranean, the sailors suspect that someone has defied God, and they toss Jonah into the sea, where he is promptly swallowed by a whale. He remains in the whale’s belly until he is finally spat out, on the shores of Nineveh. The moral of the story is clear — that life will drag us kicking and screaming to our destiny, however much we try to escape it — but what’s less evident about this story is the whale and what it represents… our emotions…

The Four Winds Society #albertovilloldo

Our culture seems to have lost its inner gyroscope. Older cultures complain about our profligate ways, how we just trash the sacred forests and fields with our poisons. Our throwaway society lays waste to our hearts. We are cut off from nature just as we are severed from ourselves. Trying to live a meaningful life in this time pits you against the received wisdom of our civilization.

“Whoever wants music instead of noise, joy instead of pleasure, soul instead of gold, creative work instead of business, passion instead of foolery, finds no home in this trivial world of ours.” — Herman Hesse

Feedback from the natural world, which is currently screaming in pain, is inaudible to us. We have evolved a strange insensitivity to the suffering we cause around us. We don’t notice the pain we cause although it’s obvious to members of cultures that have lived countless centuries in peace with the natural world. We call them primitive because they haven’t developed a technology that can overwhelm nature and kill off bothersome species.

It’s not enough to have food in your belly and a roof over your head. You have to have beauty and meaning too. You need to feel connected to creation in a way that nourishes your soul. Life seen through the optic of separation and isolation twists us into strange neurotic shapes. We’re not the heart-full humans we might be if we could perceive how we connect with and contribute to existence. Our awareness of the subtleties of the energy flowing in and around us needs augmenting.

I think we are born with a sense of adventure and a need to put something of ourselves into the world, something that someone else needs. Few people come to that way of life without some struggle. Wanting a real life, something with substance, drama, beauty and intensity is what most of us want. Does anyone really want a perfectly predictable and facile life? Would an endless stream of decorous tea parties do it for you?

I didn’t think so. What we want is to pour our spirit and soul into the world via some creative endeavor. We want to uncover what is in us. We have come bearing gifts. Let’s not get confused or distracted before we can give them.

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