Tag Archives: nature

Who holds the vision?

“Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” – Proverb

“In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.'” – Prophet Joel

The question is an essential one and the importance of vision and it’s role in the community has been held in cultures since the beginning. These verses from the Judeo-Christian scriptures demonstrate the importance for me. Who does hold the vision when there are so many divergent ideas about who and what we should be as human beings?

I don’t believe that there will be a time when vision is more or less prevalent than right now. Mythically, there are no “last days”… or perhaps, we are always in the “last days.” I would say that all last days are first days and all endings are beginnings. So as things are coming to an end, new things are being created. If we are in the last days, then the truth of the passage applies.

For me, God is synonymous with Life… the Spirit of Life is poured out on ALL people. Not just the Christians, not just the Jews, not just the Yogis, not just anyone. All people. Humanity has been immersed in the Spirit of Life and those who have vision, prophecy, and dream their dreams will come from all corners of the earth.

I love the mystical reality of vision, prophesying, dreams. Prophecy (Greek in origin), divination (Latin in origin), and seer (English in origin) all mean the same thing. Each is, in it’s essence, about telling, not even necessarily about foretelling. As a teacher of mine says, when we focus on observing rather than techniques or “how-tos,” that is when we gain the keen insight to infer the likelihood of what is to come. So the more acute attention we can have for what IS, and is in the present, the better will we can anticipate and speak into the becoming and the evolving of what may come to pass.

THIS is why the all-inclusive access to the Spirit of Life, the nature of reality, the bigness of the smallness, the “divine light in you,” the sacredness of all things is so absolutely profound. This is why paying attention and the slowing down and the stripping away leads people of all ages to see, and to see clearly. THIS is the time. Now is when we must pay attention. And what is seen must be spoken, manifested even. “Manifest”  has as it root, mani-, which is hand… so essentially “made at hand.” Again, the time is now and we must make vision graspable and tangible (“that which may be touched”).

True Vision is for all people and brings all things together. It leads to tangible, manifested love. It holds ALL of Life, the beginnings and the endings, the living and the dying, the light and the darkness. Nothing is too great and nothing is too small. It is physical AND spiritual. There is no dualism only unity. Anything short of this is false vision, and we get this over and over and over again from those who grapple for the spotlight of power. True power does not have to be fought for. It is found in vision. It is this vision that keeps “the people” from “perishing.” It is drawn from the deep ocean of the present, from Life itself, and it makes that Life tangible for the people of all times.

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How we are meant to see

My eyes need softening, my gaze the balm of what they were made to behold. We were not made to stare into that blue light of our screens. The computer, the television, the phone. None of these are part of our natural way of being. It is truest for us to see in the light of the sun and the moon, fire maybe too. It is good for us to take in the hues, the full spectrum of the natural world, the constant movement, rustling, shifting, drifting, and setting of nature around us.

I know this is true because I feel part of my consciousness cloud over after long periods of time in front of a screen. I wonder how many feel this and ignore it or consider it normal. I feel my eyes burning. I feel the longing to gaze upon the natural-scape. It is there that I learn to soften my gaze. It is there that I learn how to see another human being with compassion, empathy, and love on my face. If not for a softer gaze grown and birthed from time spent seeing what my body was meant to see, I would stare at others as simply sources of information, getting only a part of my attentions, easily losing interest, there to either satisfy my personal needs or nothing at all.

Give me trees, give me grass, give me a blue sky or rain drops, let the wind bring tears to my eyes. Let me find the bird in the branches, the deer among the trunks, the fish raising the surface of the water slightly as it swims by, the snaking of the centipede under the rotten log. These will train me to see as I was meant to see. These will unify my soul with windows to it and connect my body to how it was meant to be.

To be rooted to the land you walk upon

It means something to be where you are from. And not just your family, not just your culture, or your religion or your country… It means something unequivically significant to be an occupier of the land you live upon. I am quite certain that most do not have this sensibility, at least not consciously but perhaps when really pressed, would affirm how important it is to them.

What I am getting at is an extra level down into a deeper sense of one’s place in this world, one’s sense of self, one’s spiritual life, and one’s connection with all that is.

There is meaning to the old saying, “You are what you eat.” In a quite literal sense, our bodies our composed of the food and water that goes into us. What other way is there? This is why, when we lived in Oregon, we drank our water, straight from the land, straight from the spring. No filter, no chemicals. And food… Where is your body connected to if your food comes from thousands of miles away or is processed to the extent that it can only be called, as Michael Pollen terms it, “edible food-like substances.”

So it means something very literally in regard to our physical make-up. But what does it mean to be from the Fox Valley in WI? To have grown up on a farm and lived there your whole life? As a chaplain, living in one of the most “homegrown” cities in the country, it means something to talk to my patients about where they are from and wehter their parents grew up here too. For a person living in city and never having left, to never found one’s self in green space, with one’s hands in the dirt or toes in the sand… This means something to that person. Maybe an ungroundedness or a sense of nature as “enemy.”

There is a profound teaching in observing the greatest tai chi masters (watch a video of one on YouTube). Where do they draw this life force from that allows them to move people without even touching them or to be unmovable themselves?

Community, nature, and chaos

The church community I am a part of often shares meals together as a community. I have been noticing something that has given me cause to wonder. There is always a direction given before we start getting our food: “Women and children first.” Granted, I recognize this is a matter of respect and an effort to affirm their worth, but something else happens. The men hang back, and sit with, the other men, and the women find their places with the other women and children. It is a pattern that separates us into specific roles and ways of being as a community.

So I thought, what if the men went first with the kids? That would mix things up! Maybe make for some uncomfortability, maybe some new and creative ways of taking care of each other. Maybe a little chaos and disorder even.

Nature requires chaos and disorder for resiliency… is it any different for human communities seeking resiliency and health?

M. Scott Peck, in his book, In Search of Stones, writes in his chapter on Adventure that he loves storms. And not just small thunderstorms, but massive, dangerous Category 1 tsunamis. The thing he likes about storms is that they demonstrate the power to throw humans out of their element. Nature takes control for a while. It is the way of nature that chaos, disorder, and diversity are necessary and inevitable. I think also of forest fires and how our human efforts to control them have been a detriment to the natural life cycles of forests.

All nature requires chaos, disorder, and diversity to create resilient ecosystems and earth communities. Is it not the same for human community as well? We need to mix it up, to diversify the places that we gather, the rhythms that we participate in, the food that we eat, and the people that we spend time with. This is truth… a basic psychology, anthropology, community-building given. Don’t let each other get too comfortable. As one who is passionate about community resiliency, I for one will be promoting this till the day I die.

Building tools… is this only how far we have evolved?

An idea came to mind this morning as I was reading The Te of Piglet, by Benjamin Hoff. In his chapter, “Things as they Might be,” he writes to the pervading unhappiness that can come with living in our modern society with its layers of untruth, its mistrust and abuse of the natural world, and worship of technology. He includes a lengthy quote from Joseph Chilton Pearse which includes:

Our real criterion of value becomes the culture’s body of knowledge offering or promising enhanced tool production, possible domination of nature, and so some security. Potential is seen as an increase of tools. The training and education of children is designed to lead to better tool invention, production, consumption, and handling. 

He goes on to say that our body of knowledge is focused primarily on tool development, but this eventually “splits us off from our lives and creates anxiety and unhappiness, [conditioning] us to believe religiously that escape from our misery lies in perfecting that body of knowledge.”

So for the sake of my own process and reflection, I have to play this out a bit.

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I would say that it is pretty universal understanding that the use and creation of tools is a trait that marks species apart from others as intelligent more further evolved. It is one of the many things that sets humans apart from the rest of the natural world. The development of tools has allowed our civilizations to grow and expand. As tools get more sophisticated so does our knowledge and as our knowledge begins to expand so does our ability to create more sophisticated tools.

But is this the end of the line? Does human evolution hinge on our ability to use and create more sophisticated tools? How dependent ARE we on the tools that, frankly, others build for us? What is the answer for most “problems” we face whether they be mechanical, emotional, or ecological? Most likely it involves some derivative of the following… If there is a problem that needs fixing, we just need to find the right tool to do the job. (substitute “medication”, “theory”, or “professional expert created technology” for “tool”)

But there are other marks of human distinction that set us apart. Self-reflection, the ability to creatively and generatively nurture and care for other species, emotional intelligence, the conscious awareness of the divine, the ability to embrace paradox. And there there are those things we share with other species: a sensitivity to our own body to feed and exercise it in a way that sustains health, connection and communication with the natural world, instinctual perseverance to survive in the midst of environmental chaos, existence as part of the circle of life and death and cooperation.

These things are the things that I fear we may be losing in our dependence on technology that others have developed for us.** If our human evolution stops at the limit of tool creating (using, consuming, and distributing), we are lost.
What is the answer then? I don’t know honestly. I don’t know how to pull myself out of the tool addiction and I don’t know how you would either. Much of me thinks that awareness is the first step. Another deep part of me believes that time spent in nature is another significant help. Not using or abusing nature for our own human-centered fulfillment, but listening to the wild world around us. Talking to our more than human brothers and sisters. Praying, while in nature, to the Creator, the pervading Spirit that exists within all and sustains all. Cooperating with the natural order of things in our daily lives (living with seasonal awareness, eating our food locally, buying consciously). It is about paying attention and knowing that we are not the only agents of our survival or existence. There is a bigger world out there.

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**I only know this because I see it in myself. Even tomorrow, I will be upgrading my iPhone for a Galaxy S4, named the “life companion phone.”