Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015: A Personal Journey

Father Mississippi                            Walter Inglis Anderson, American, ca. 1955

I don't mind celebrating Earth Day.  In some way, in fact, a celebration of the planet takes place in our home every day.  And it happens in spite of the full-on seizure of environmental themes by the radical left - the green movement - that came with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. Even the unhinged need an anchor but it's sad they selected such a universal idea. In the last generation it's even sadder because the New Media Age often isolates us even more from the outside, making it more difficult to experience, understand, appreciate, and protect our planet. All of my adult life, I've fought hard to erase that isolation. These words 
were the inspiration, more at revelation, first heard in 1971:

...we divide our spirit in two parts, what we do and what happens to us. This is the great illusion. There's really no difference as the joyous ones in the heavens know. What happens to you as well as what you do is fundamentally your doing. And when we say it's your doing, it's not the ordinary you that you call your ego or your conscious mind, it's a deeper you than that. It's the you at which you are one with nature for man and nature form a single pattern of activity, one process, just that man is a little bit more complicated than the trees. But he goes with them and the whole thing is one single process. It isn't that nature pushes you around or that you push nature around. If you are awake, if your eyes are wide open and you look at things freshly instead of with your ordinary patterns, ordinary ways in which you have been taught to think, you see that the whole process of life is something that just happens. The Buddhists call it tathata. We translate that "suchness," "just like that."

If you think that the world is going somewhere, that there are certain things that are supposed to happen and there are certain things that are supposed not to happen you never see the way it is like music. Music has no destination. We don' play it in order to get somewhere. If that were the way, the best orchestras would be those who got to the end of the piece the fastest.  Music is a pattern which we listen to and enjoy as it unfolds. In the same way, "Where is the water going?" Where do the leaves go? Where are the clouds going? There not going anywhere because nature understands that the point of the whole thing is to be here, to be wide awake to the now that is going on. So when you listen to music you don't try to hold in your memory what is past or to think about what's coming. You listen to the pattern as it unfolds and so watch it as it moves now. It's a dance. And dancing is like music for when you dance you dance just to dance. You don't aim at a particular place on the floor that is your destination of the dance. You listen to the music and you move your body with it [as if] your eyes are following the patterns of the water.

The secret is to spend some time every day in which you don't think but just watch, in which you don't form any ideas about life but look at it, listen to it, smell it, feel it. And when you get rid of all the talk in  your head, all the ideas about what I do as distinct from what happen to me or what's the difference between man and nature or between what's mine and what's yours it all goes. and it's just the dancing pattern, what the Chinese call "li," the word that originally meant the markings in jade, the grain in wood, or...the pattern on water. When you let go of the definitions, of the attempt to try to pin down nature, to pin down life in your mind so that you can feel you are completely in control of it, its all based on the idea that you're different from it, that you have to master it. When you don't pin it down anymore, when you don't try to cling to it as if it was something different from you then your whole life has about it the sensation of flowing like water. It always goes away. but it always comes back because away and back are two sides of the same thing. Let it go!

And here is the foundation upon which that revelation took place:

Psalm 104 
1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. 9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. 10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. 11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. 13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. 14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate-- bringing forth food from the earth: 15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. 16 The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. 18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. 19 The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. 20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. 21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. 22 The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. 23 Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. 24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-- living things both large and small. 26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. 27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works-- 32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. 35 But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.
Earth Day 2015 may be ending shortly in my community, but these passages where East meets West tell us that every day is an Earth day. For me the celebration indeed flows like water. It is a joy to be immersed in nature. Everyone should experience it and I hope these words move you to that realization.   

First quotation, Buddhism: Man and Nature, Alan W, Watts, Hartley Films, 1968
Psalm 104, The Bible, New International Version, 2011

No comments: