Tag Archives: nature

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.” 

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The Celtic Soul

I have been contemplating the nature of the soul in Celtic Spirituality for quite some time now, and as I work my way slowly and thoughtfully through John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara, I am reminded again of this very precious and beautiful gem of history. Frank MacEowen also addresses this belief in The Myst Filled Path.

The Celts believed that the body was contained within the soul. The soul extends beyond our body and reaches out to connect with other souls. In fact, all things have soul. The trees in the forest, the mountains, the hawk soaring above, the fish in the river, even the rocks under foot. The Earth herself has soul. We can connect and communicate with the soul of the beings around us.

This is very foreign and strange to our Western ears, which for so many of us have heard that the soul is contained within the body. When we were born, a soul was put into our bodies. When we die, the body decays and the soul moves on. A bit like on Loony Tunes, when the white angelic spirit wisps away from the dead character. It is very Western to think in terms of body and spirit, or body and mind. O’Donohue writes that it is the soul that connects the body and the mind. It is the soul that is connected, and connects us to, God-in-all-things.

So I have been sitting with this for quite some time now… because it really is such an incredibly different way of seeing the world and God and myself and my connection to God. I am drawn to a more mystical expression of my Christian heritage. I am drawn to the wild places, the mystery places, the times between times when the veil is thin. I am drawn to knowing Christ in all things.

This notion of the body being contained within the soul changes so many things. I now am drawn to consider how I care for that soul that is holding and enlivening everything within it. I am now faced with that deep connection that I feel in the presence of my beloved or in the magic of the sun-kissed horizon. To do damage to the soul of another being is to do damage to my own soul. Implications… consequences… connections.

The marks of a progressing civilization

I’ve been reflecting on a quote from Thomas Moore, in his book, The Re-Enchantment with Everyday Life. I posted a part of it on Facebook and it has raised some really good questions.  Moore writes,

We mark our progress as a civilization by what we see as advances in hardware, and that criterion, assumed so readily by the population at large, blinds us to other possible values such as community, reverence, wisdom, the care and education of children, and the condition of the natural world. I would wish to be a member of a community that judeged itself on the happiness of its children rather than on the unhindered flow of its mechanical inventions… Enchantment arises whenever we move so deeply into anything we’re doing that its interiority stirs the heart and the imagination.

An enchanted ecology comes into being when our concern for the environment goes beyond materialistic elements in nature and culture: to children rather than machines, trees rather than excessive paper products, and home rather than shelter.

When I desire the happiness in our children, and mark our progress as humanity by that, I am not referring to children as never crying. I am not ruling out other marks of a progressive society, but merely desiring a shift in priority. What does our society claim as proof of our progression? Happiness is something more than self-satisfied, self-interested, and self-serving. It something greater than an innocent or unaware naivety. There is a fantastic article in YES! Magazine on the History of Happiness.

The Lakota Indian tribe have a value that they seek to make their decisions with a full consideration of the next seven generations. Do we do this? Continue reading The marks of a progressing civilization

The forest knows where you are

Just wanted to share this poem… so beautiful:

Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask it permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

~David Wagoner, “Lost”