Nature/Religion (part 2)
[Again, this was written while in Tasmania, so my thoughts reflect my experiences there.]
Our lack of intimacy with each other is in direct proportion to our lack of intimacy with the land…the land is love. Love is what we fear.
– Terry Tempest Williams, from The Forests by Matthew Newton and Pete Hay
Let us rethink our definitions of Nature. We are Nature and Nature is ourselves. We are these towering trees, these slow moving clouds, these green rosellas, these echidnas and wolf spiders. We are the sun. We are beyond the sun.
Yesterday, I taught a dedicated group of Tasmanian forest activists some energy and breath techniques to help them in life and in their confrontations with loggers and police. We hiked into old growth forest and did our work at the base of a 1,000 year old myrtle tree.
Afterwards, four of us hiked down – well, scrambled, climbed, slipped, balanced, jumped, crouched, and sometimes crashed down would be more accurate for two of us – an untracked, activist-blazed path to the Weld River. This is a beauty of wild proportions. We drank it’s tannin colored water and ate our lunch on rocks at the bank while small green butterflies chased each other overhead. I began to sing, “Oh, children, let’s go down… down to the river to pray.” One of the men said, “This is our church.” Yes.
Thus began a discussion of disconnection and being part of place. Some of the activists feel that they are not part of great Nature, but rather must work to stop this alienated human destruction of it. I replied that in sensing we are not Nature, we instantiate the rift that causes the logging and wood chipping of the old growth that they are fighting. Alienation and disconnection are the same, whether one thinks humans are superior or inferior to the land, the trees, the animals and the sky.
We need a deep realization that we are one with all of these. That we are the same. That the call of the koorawong is our call. That the rocky outcropping high above the Weld Valley, with its view of clear-cuts, masses of trees, the glorious white of the soaring grey goshawk over the appearing and disappearing shine of river is a vision of the connectedness and disconnectedness of our very lives.
The satisfied grunting of the mother pademelon chewing grass as her joey peaks from the pouch to do the same is little different from a human grunt of enjoyment at a perfectly steamed broccoli floret. The screaming of a raptor and the crying of trees rubbing together is little different from human voices raised high in anger or in lust.
We are Nature. We are of place. We are born. We live. We die.
We are all indigenous to this planet and this solar system. I am indigenous to the state of California. My practices of religion, inspired though they may be by the magic of the ancient tribes of Europe and rooted in the folk practices of the US and the ceremonial practices of the late 19th century are also informed by my animal body responding to the ocean near my home, to the particular quality of light reflected upon hills or buildings, to the strange quirks of weather on the little peninsula at the Golden Gate. Place informs me and I inform place. My practices are no more nor less indigenous than those of any other migrating people. Something that was invented to root us in this particular place or contemporary time is no less authentic for being 40 years or 40 minutes old rather than 4,000.
Some people have religious practices that are indigenous to place. They claim that. I respect this and feel no need to make such claims for myself. Were I to ever leave my beloved San Francisco Bay and the San Andreas Fault for some other land – such as this paradise of Tassie – or some other planet, even, I would be no less part of Nature, no less a thread in the fabric of life and the fabric of God Herself. My soul and body – one in the same right now – are both evolving. We can all evolve. We are all travelers on spaceship earth, whether we call ourselves indigenous or not. We are Nature. We would do well to not forget this.
-T. Thorn Coyle