Tag Archive: natural world


One 1600px-Tongass_National_Forest_4

By Sharon St Joan

 

The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.

 

The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is a treasure for many people who visit it. It protects many wild species by providing their habitat.

 

During the interview, footage was shown of this incredibly spectacular land – tall cliffs covered in green forests rising up out of clear lakes.

 

I do absolutely completely understand that in trying to defend old growth forests from logging and other destruction, it is useful to appeal to concerns that are meaningful to most people. It is helpful to stress the importance that the forest has for human health – replenishing the earth’s oxygen – it is also much loved and enjoyed by visitors. It is the essential habitat for so many animals, and wild animals – really all of them – are quite endangered. The forest is useful, it is loved, it is rare now on the planet, and it is important to take care of it. Absolutely!

 

Two 1600px-Brussels_Zonienwoud

 

A missing element

 

But there is a missing element, which is a very key element. The forest – quite apart from its value to humans and other animal species – also has an intrinsic value all its own. Its value does not lie solely in its usefulness to human beings or in its beauty as perceived by humans. The forest is not just a thing. It is not an object – and this is true of the entire earth. The trees, the rivers, the cliffs, the lakes, the sagebrush, the moon and the sun overhead, the clouds, the birds – these are not just physical things. They have a spirit.

 

So, what is the point of actually saying this – of making sure that we mention it often, whenever possible? Of speaking up, without being intimidated or being afraid of being ridiculed? After all, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that people laugh. As long as we do not mention what we see as the truth, then we are ceding the most important point to the side that wishes to objectify the world of nature. We are tacitly agreeing that the natural world really only has value if it is beneficial to us as humans – or has value only by preserving habitat for wild animals so that we may go and visit them or at least watch them on film.

 

But ceding this point is not right. It is not correct.

 

Protecting the earth isn’t all about us as humans.

 

It is the objectification of the natural world by human beings – especially in modern times, and especially in the west (where this worldview originated) — that is the root cause and the justification for the destruction of the earth which is taking place all around us. It is our collective alienation from the natural world that gives some the excuse basically to kill nature. We’re not just talking about climate change – though it is that as well – it is also the very direct, immediate destruction through industrialization and pollution – drowning the earth and the sea in chemicals – and removing the sand that holds water that prevents drought.

 

A great many people, myself among them, feel that all the beings of the earth have a spirit and a spiritual dimension – not only the animals, but also all the trees and the plants, and even the rocks, the cliffs, and the oceans. They are not just physical things. This is not as odd a concept as it might seem. Virtually all tribal peoples and all ancient peoples saw the earth this way. It is only the modern world that differs from this age-old, traditional view. It is the modern world that is the outlier – and perhaps not coincidentally, it is the modern world that is dismantling all the life of the planet more rapidly than any society that has gone before us. So, are we modern people as wise as we think we are? Perhaps we are simply more decadent, and farther removed from the basic truths of existence.

 

717px-Urban_Coyote,_Bernal_Heights

 

 

An older, wiser view

 

It is well-known that Native Americans viewed all of nature as alive and as having a spirit. Among some of these stories and legends, known and not-so-well-known – the Abenaki nation of Maine see the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The Munsee of Delaware tell of great thunderbirds that cause storms and lightning. The Shoshone people of western states tell stories about the trickster coyote, and his elder brother, the wolf, who is a creator hero. The north wind, known as Winter or Biboon, is the spirit of winter for the northeast woodland tribes, like the Iroquois. The Paiutes of Utah have a story about a mountain sheep who became a star. In other words, all of creation is seen as alive and sentient. There is no sharp distinction between animals and rocks or lakes or other geological features – all are considered living beings. This appears to be true of all tribal people everywhere – from the Americas to the Pacific islands to the native peoples of Australia.

 

Furthermore, it is not only tribal people who see the world in this way – virtually every early civilization and every civilization which still has some connection with its roots also recognize a spiritual dimension as belonging to the earth and to every aspect of nature – from the ancient Egyptian, and on into modern times – to the Chinese and Japanese, just to mention a few.

 

The most striking example is the complex, intricate beliefs of Hinduism, which go back perhaps 10,000 years and which, even today are as alive as ever. The moon, the sun, and the wind are among the millions of gods. Every major Hindu god has an animal vahana or vehicle. The rivers are goddesses and the mountains, generally, are gods. All things have life. And, as is stated in the earliest writings, all the gods and all that exists are ultimately part of one God, Brahman. A deep reverence for nature is intertwined with the Hindu worldview.

 

In March of 2017, The Guardian reported that a court in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand had accorded the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers the status of personhood, citing as precedent the declaration by the New Zealand government of the Whanganui River, long revered by the Maori people, as a living entity. This modern legal recognition of the personhood of rivers is in accordance with the perception of many people all over the world, today, as always in the past.

 

It is exclusively a modern, western viewpoint to assume that the world of nature is composed of objects or things – that rocks, rivers, mountains have no spiritual nature, and even in the western world, this may be a minority view. Many everyday people acknowledge the spiritual nature of the living world around us. Sadly, it is those who seek to exploit the natural world that talk about it as inanimate, lifeless, insentient – and existing only as “natural resources” to be gobbled up by mining, oil and gas, fracking, and every form of destruction and desecration.

 

River in Karnataka, IndiaDSC01419

 

Intrinsic value

 

For those of us for whom the earth and all the beings of the earth, have an intrinsic value, a profound beauty in and of themselves – the more we say this clearly, the more accessible that view will be to more people – and the more we all will be able to see plainly that the Tongass Forest, for example, is far from being just a resource to be devoured by humans. It is a living entity filled with spirits and presences, and astonishing beauty, which as humans we can only begin to see and appreciate.

 

Among environmentalists, all perspectives that value the earth are very much needed – scientific facts, legal arguments, and also views that take into account the benefits to humanity. Our lives and happiness do indeed depend on the natural world.

 

Still, the many millions, billions, of us across the planet, who see the natural world and the earth as spirit, as well as physical, should not be afraid to say so. As is so often quoted, “We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.” The earth is Mother Earth and is a living being – far older, greater, and more worthy of reverence than the human race could ever be.

 

Standing up for the essential life-essence of the earth is a missing key in the fight to protect and preserve our fast-vanishing planet. We who see the earth, and all of nature, as spectacularly alive with an intrinsic beauty and validity must speak up and not be silent.

 

It is our alienation, as humans, from the natural world that leads to its destruction, and it is our re-connection with the earth that can hold the prospect of some help for all the myriads of beautiful, majestic, innocent beings with whom we share the planet. So, we must see clearly, and speak bravely.

 

Photo Credits:

 

One) Mark Brennan from Oakton, Virginia, United States of America / Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Tongass National Forest

 

Two) Donarreiskoffer/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Beech trees in the Sonian Forest, Belgium.

 

Three) Frank Schulenburg/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. / Coyote in San Francisco.

 

Four) Sharon St Joan / River in Karnataka, India, near Mysore.

 

 

To learn more:

 

http://www.native-languages.org/legends.htm

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/21/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-beings

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

 

Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in South Africa.

Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in South Africa.

 

 

By Sharon St Joan

To read part one first, click here.

And for part two, click here.

Susan Boyle came from a humble background in Scotland; her father was a miner and her mother a typist. Until her mother died she lived with her, and she now lives with her beloved cat.

For years she struggled to achieve some success with her music. Recently, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease, which could explain why her social relationships had always been awkward. Most of her life she had been been subjected to ridicule, and must have endured many unhappy and very trying times — until that one evening, in which, like a rocket leaving the bounds of earth, she shot into stardom.

Illustrating how not to be a victim — Susan Boyle’s is a rags-to-riches story, which, in its own way, is a testimony to the great power of not allowing oneself to remain victimized, but instead, with the help of the angels, of magically overcoming obstacles.  It is  a simple story – she has not transformed the entire world, but it is a remarkable one, and has certainly altered her own life and touched the lives of many others.

Her strength is not only her musical talent itself, but her undying faith in her music.

None of us has to remain stuck in the box that we find ourselves in.

Nelson Mandela during a meeting with Bill Clinton in 1993.

Nelson Mandela during a meeting with Bill Clinton in 1993.

The second example of rising above limitations is Nelson Mandela. A figure on an altogether different scale, he was one of the great men of history, who had a transformative impact on our world. Though he came from a tribal royal family, as a boy, he herded sheep, then became a boxer, then a lawyer. When he was imprisoned for 27 years, spending part of the time breaking rocks in a quarry, it must have seemed to him, that there could be no hope even for his own freedom, let alone hope for any success in his life.

If he had emerged from prison, embittered, to lead his people on a crusade to make his oppressors pay for their crimes, that would hardly have been a surprising turn. Yet he didn’t. Somewhere he found the grace and wisdom to forgive his captors and to lead South Africa beyond the threat of a bloodbath, into the light, to stand as a democratic nation. In the process, he spared the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and avoided a prolonged time of darkness for generations of South Africans. South Africa is not a perfect country. No country is, but it has avoided these catastrophes, thanks to the wisdom and greatness Nelson Mandela.

Neither of these two people, very different from each other in their scope and their impact, is a saint. They are examples of people who did not allow themselves to remain victims, but instead, with the grace of the angels, overcame and rose above obstacles.

We do not have to be victimized by our circumstances, sinking under the weight of our situation, and blaming heaven, the stars, or those around us for the obstacles in our lives.

There is always a higher level, where God, the Gods, the angels, the universe (or whatever we wish to call the spiritual level) live —  and it is from this level that strength can be drawn and magic and miracles can come into being.

To return to the concept of the myth of progress – it would be a great mistake to confuse this higher level of otherworldly strength, inspiration, and clarity, which occasionally breaks through the clouds, with the current, ongoing state of  the human world in which we live.

Were we to put our faith in the “human spirit” or in the “inevitability” of human progress and the advance of human technology, we would find ourselves sadly misled. We ought not to sit waiting for the train of human “progress” to carry us along to utopia, because it won’t.

Many of us, probably most of us, have seen miracles happen – of one kind or another. Miracles are very real. They come from beyond and above the level of this world.

The world does not get better by itself, and, sadly, human nature does not make it better. There is no inevitable progress of the “human spirit.” We are not the culmination of evolution, and we have not, in creating the “wonders of civilization” brought peace and enlightenment even to ourselves, much less to animals and the natural world. Instead we have left a trail of destruction in our wake. And the natural world seems to be reminding us of this regrettable fact through rising tides, catastrophic storms, and other upheavals.

Yet all is not lost, and if – beyond the smoke and mirrors of the image we have fabricated, as a species, of our own success – this is, in truth, a dark hour and a dark age, there is still a real light at the end of the tunnel.

The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.

The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey.

Consider this – a curtain is being lifted that had long veiled the past. All over the world are being found now, in recent decades, remarkable archeological discoveries that speak to us of great civilizations, with magnificent art and culture, that we did not even know existed, and some are many thousands of years earlier than the accepted dates for the beginnings of civilization. (We will be writing more about these.)

The cyclical view of history informs us that this age of limitations that we live in is neither the only age nor the last age.

The 15 billion year old star cluster M80 (NGC 6093).

The 15 billion year old star cluster M80 (NGC 6093).

There is much, much more to the Cosmos than we know – other levels, other dimensions — more to the past and more to the future.

Our “modern world” is not the pinnacle of creation, it has an ocean of problems.  But as we come to acknowledge this, there are great gates that swing open – to the magnificence and mysteries of the very distant past – and to the possibilities of magic and miracles, both in our own lives and in the world ages that lie before us – possibilities of nearly-forgotten connections with higher mystical levels and the restoration and renewal of the natural world of innocence that we have so nearly destroyed.

As our current world age dims, other lights of intelligence, perception, and clarity—those, older and wiser, who were here before — will re-awaken and shine again.

 

 

©  Sharon St Joan, 2013

 

 

The thoughts expressed here are personal views that do not reflect or represent those of any organization.

To look at Sharon’s ebook, Glimpses of Kanchi, on Amazon, click here.

 

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Laura SA at the English language Wikipedia / Mapungubwe Hill, a sacred hill in the Kingdom of Mapungubwe in pre-colonial South Africa.

 

Second photo: As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain. / President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA, July 4 1993.

 

Third photo: Author (photographer): Teomancimit / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The 12,000 year old megalithic ruins of Gobekli Tepe, Urfa, Turkey.

 

Fourth photo: “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.” / This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy…all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years)….