“There was a time when the language of the Earth was the language of our daily lives, of planting and harvesting, sunshine and storms. The words of the sacred were stars and seeds, mountains and rivers. The soul and the seasons of nature moved together; they spoke the same mystery, the beauty that is within and around us. It was all as natural as breathing, not needing to be remembered because never forgotten. How could you forget the wind on your face or the songs of birds? How could you forget the rise and fall of the tide? These were not stories written in books but lived from morning until dusk, until dreamtime wove another texture into the firelight.
But now we live in a time of forgetting, when the deep resonance between our souls and the soul of the world has been covered over. So there is a pressing need to remember, to recognize this hidden lifeblood of all that exists, its rhythms and movement, and how it makes itself known to us in different ways. We need to relearn how the inner and outer mirror each other, and how to listen to this music, this underlying story. It is, after all, our own story, as well as the story of the Earth, our common home. We can no longer afford to live solely on the surface of our lives, but have to keep open a doorway to this deeper dimension…”
— Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. From The Seasons of the Sacred
Guest speaker Kimmerer argued in her lecture to rethink the westernized ideology of land as property in favor of the Indigenous ideology of land as identity, sustainer and teacher.
“Most of our [western] institutions privilege this one view.” Kimmerer said. “[But] land is understood as the place where we enact our moral responsibility to all of life [in the Potawatomi Nation].”
“How might we give healing and medicine to the English language so we don’t have to ‘it’ our beloved relatives?” Kimmerer said. “[Mother Nature’s] gift or natural resource: words matter. I don’t think we need words and a worldview that destroys beings that sustain us.”
Being cut off from nature, we can’t know it, love it or relate to it responsibly. We don’t even have a vocabulary that reflects our true relationship with it. The word “it” is itself a killing concept when we speak of other denizens of our planet. Which comes first, the feeling or the word for the feeling? And if the feeling isn’t there can we understand the word? I think that if the concept is introduced to children through language they will be alerted to an aspect of reality that will form what kind of human being they will want to be.
How we imagine the world either gives life to the world or it doesn’t. Our idea of the world is one of a spoiled child, who imagines the natural world is there to be used and abused with impunity. Nature can’t survive such treatment.
Approaches to this situation that don’t include close attention to the details of natural interrelationships, that leave out love and respect for all life forms, is doomed.
Just that little blind spot can turn our planet into a moonscape. We have yet to admit we are committing genocide of natural species and that we have a history of genocide of Native peoples on our continent. We seem to want to continue the institution of slavery and oppression of people of color by other means. Our level of consciousness and compassion has created our emergency.
Our refusal to see is connected to our inability to feel related. We have inherited a culture and a language that has created a society of reckless orphans. Our cupidity is baked into our sense of what the world is and how we should live.
With love comes responsibility. The ability to envision our place in the prodigious explosion of life around us and to take up that responsibility with both tenderness and courage is what we must remember to do. It’s our human role in this web of living beings on our planet.
We are just beginning to discover our blindness. We are just starting to notice how we project our own savagery onto peoples who live embedded in nature and who embrace their care-taking role.