Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So Ellsworth Huntington had a piece of the puzzle that Jared Diamond (in Guns, Germs, and Steel) left out. I guess in a roundabout way Diamond addressed climate when he talked about east-west versus north-south axes, but he never directly addressed it. Of course the personality of the land is shaped by its climate! Of course the human civilization that arises in a locale represents the confluence of land and sky influences. Of course each one of us individually is made from our environment--we are local phenomenon created by local conditions.

What the implications of our increasing rootlessness are, I’m not entirely sure, but it can’t be healthy. True health can only come from being part of our ecosystems again--full participants in the world that birthed us.

I’m getting close to another insight now. Sometimes it’s just a sentence or two here and a sentence or two there in different books I’m reading that triggers some new association. I think I’ve told you before about my favorite definition of genius: simply a keen ability to make novel associations. All learning is really about making connections you’ve never made before. Again it brings me back to the image of the matrix--everything is already here, already intricately interconnected; we are merely becoming aware of the connections. Learning (and genius) is simply making novel associations.

In one book I read (Rooted in the Land--a collection of essays by various people) there was an essay called “Coming into the Foodshed” by Jack Kloppenburg, Jr; John Hendrickson; and G. W. Stevenson. The following paragraph lodged somewhere in the recesses of my brain:

We understand the foodshed to be a sociogeographic space--human activity embedded in the natural integument of a particular place. That human activity is necessarily constrained in various ways by the characteristics of the place in question. Ignoring those natural constraints or overriding them with technology is one of the besetting sins of the global food system, the ecological destructiveness of which is now unambiguously apparent even to its apologists. In the foodshed, natural conditions would be taken not as an obstacle to be overcome but as a measure of limits to be respected.

Then yesterday I started a biography on Aldo Leopold (Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of the Sand County Almanac, by Julianne Lutz Newton) and I read this paragraph:

Leopold listened in the night air to the quiet rustle of leaves and the rippling waters. Here was a river that had not yet witnessed the American ideal of progress in action--the ideas, as Leopold later expressed it, ‘that every river needs more people, and all people need more inventions’ and that ‘the good life depends on the indefinite extension of this chain of logic.’ What did the ‘good’ in good life mean, Leopold wondered. And where did human inventiveness and power cross the line between positive creativity and destructiveness? Progress to most Americans was defined in a way quite different from the vision slowly developing and gathering cohesion in Leopold’s mind.

From these two paragraphs I’m turning over some ideas pertaining to: “human activity embedded in the natural integument of a particular place”; limits; and creativity.

At this adolescent stage of our human evolution we don’t respect or even seem to recognize limits. As separate, egoic individuals, we don’t recognize our embeddedness. We’ve become conscious of self but not yet of Self. We don’t yet comprehend our greater identity as a pattern in the greater matrix. We don’t even recognize ourselves as part of the pattern of our local ecosystem. If we did we would honor limits.

How does creativity bear on this? Creativity has always been quite a puzzle to me. Why as humans do we have such an insatiable need to create? Why are we constantly converting nature into “stuff”--taking, taking, taking along the way? But I’m trying to look now at creativity as a natural phenomenon; human creativity as a process of the matrix. Stuff blossoms in the same way as people, plants, animals, and weather blossom forth from the matrix. The problem with human creativity is simply that we aren’t yet aware enough to honor the limits of our ecosystems or the matrix.

As the foodshed article implied, limits are not obstacles to be overcome. Limits create the framework in each ecosystem for the blossoming of unique creations. What unique forms of expression might blossom from the matrix here through me? Honorable creativity is truly a product of the land and sky.

This helps me look at right livelihood more clearly. Simply manufacturing stuff to meet demand in a particular consumer markets does not respect the matrix or its limits. In order for me to find right livelihood, I must attune to my local ecosystem and try to figure out what wants to be birthed through me in this place (while honoring its limits).

Now this doesn’t answer my question about rootlessness. Here in Colorado I’m an invasive Pennsylvanian weed seed. I’m not a natural product of this ecosystem. Can I in my un-naturalized condition here positively contribute to this ecosystem?

In talking about my homesickness for Pennsylvania, I’ve described it as the place where I can most be who I meant to be in this lifetime. My understanding of that truth continues to deepen. That ecosystem birthed me. That’s where I’m in my most natural state and where I can function optimally.

But, being that I’m here, for at least another six years, how do I attune with and interact with this ecosystem? I don’t know yet, but I suspect that my “haunting” by the Native American spirits is a product of this ecosystem. I don’t think that I necessarily would’ve had that experience in Pennsylvania. Maybe all of the insights I’ve had in the past year are blossoming from this unique part of the matrix. Definitely there’s been a deepening of my thought processes since I moved out here from Boulder county three years ago. This area is more supportive for me than suburbia was, for sure. The suburbs were so unbalanced, and even with all of the destructive agricultural practices around here this feels like a healthier place.

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