Monday, May 21, 2012

What If Everything Were Alive?

What if everything possessed life? Not just trees and flowers and plants and animals; mammals and humans and fish.  I'm talking about everything.    

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Dirt.  Stones. Mountains.  Snow. The shoes on your feet. Your guitar (mine is pretty alive sometimes). 
A bouncing ball.  
A paperclip. Fire. 

Indigenous people in the not too distant past listened to the natural world and viewed everything in it as alive. And they listened. They listened to rocks and mountains; to sticks and clouds; to inanimate things like books and beads and glass. 

The difference between the Western view and indigenous people is we Westerners view this listening as metaphor as opposed to something real.

The American Indian writer, Vine Deloria said this: "I think Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people, especially science, reduce things to objects, whether they're living or not. If you see the world around you as made up of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, not only is it inevitable that you will destroy the world by attempting to control it, but perceiving the world as lifeless robs you of the richness, beauty, and wisdom of participating in the larger pattern of life.” I bolded that last part because I would like you to re-read it, again, slowly.
Like a Canadian lumberman once said: "When I look at trees I see dollar bills." If you look at trees in this way, you will not see the tree for what it is, its inherent aliveness, its contribution to the beauty in your yard; how planting and caring for that old tree fed your soul. You'll remember the tart apple pie your mom made from apples you picked at the local orchard. You'll remember tree sounds: the flapping and rustling of leaves in the wind, the creaking of worn out willow branches, and the sound of jumping in a mammoth pile of crisp autumn leaves. 

Have you ever seen an islander climb a coconut tree? Have you ever sat triumphantly at the top of a sprawling oak, feeling comfortable and happy in the soft curve of its branches?


I'm not saying never cut down a tree. I'm saying maybe the tree deserves your reverence. Maybe asking permission to cut the tree, and thanking it for its beauty and shade will set your mind in a different groove; a compassionate, gentler groove than if you were to charge in absentmindedly with your chainsaw, acting like a conqueror. Talk to the tree as if it can hear you.

Maybe it can.

Like that old beater van you drove for 13 years. Ready for the pile heap. It's not even good anymore for parts. What a piece of junk. I deserve a new car. I've put up with that tin can for long enough.


And that junker put up with you long enough!  Your negative words and drag-me-down language. Your heavy dissatisfaction and lingering, repetitive disappointment (see how you're making yourself  feel?). Maybe the car that gave you so many years of service can hear you. So...

Thank you, dear junker. Look how far we've come together. Traveled back roads and super highways. You took me to the beach. We rode together to work everyday. Remember when I tied my canoe to the top & we had a lovely day at the lake? Remember the road trip across the Continental Divide? Or that time we veered off-road to take pictures of desert cactus?

I'm convinced if we gave reverence to everything, animate and inanimate, our all-encompassing perceptions of the world would change. If we looked at everything as being alive we'd care for things differently. Our attitudes and relationships would change for the better. 

How do we listen to the world? Communication occurs without words. Think of your pets. They don't understand English, but we talk to them anyway. We just need to take a little time to read things. To listen to the unspoken language of imagination and intuition.  Maybe it will take more effort and patience.  Maybe there's value in the silent things, living or not. Just because we can't hear them speak doesn't mean they have nothing to say. 

So I'll keep talking to stones. Kites. Beach sand and spoons. They're saying feed me, see me, sail me; they're practically screaming. 

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Listen.                                                                                           

17 comments:

  1. I love this idea Monica. But for some people a refresher course in talking to other people with respect and reverence is in order.

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  2. Maybe learning to yield, not push. And to listen effectively...that's the most difficult part. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  3. I'm convinced, too, Monica. Sometimes I forget, especially with paper clips. I want to remember even with the little things, even more!

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    1. Everything boils down to remembering, and bare attention; what we pay attention to, and how...

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    2. As I've aged, I find myself clinging to objects both around me and off in a distance, that mean as much to me as my friends. My old '67 Dodge van, Mildred, and my current '98 Dodge van, Millie, named after 2 aunts.. they became major parts of my life the first time each broke down, ha, and saved my life several times. My Yale Key knife, looks like a key, fits on my chain, a WWII icon, gift from a friend's dad when I was a kid. Has assisted me in car surgeries, house wiring, flute repairs, bicycle repairs, entry when a real key wasn't available. and objects I don't own, like the Mac Bridge, all the UP roads I know intimately by bicycle, my Harley, Mona, yes they all have women's names.. like the big ships. I eschew my expensive guitar for the one my mates bought me in Basic when I couldn't remember lyrics to even my own songs... saved my sanity. And now we see the big companies destroying our inanimate world. We have to stop them, remind them that things are people too...ah. I have returned to the religion of my Human friends (n.a.), pray to the sun, moon, earth, rock.. the things that last longer than the living.. Thanks for the friendly reminder..
      and I worship your guitar too.. ah. Thanks.. love, Mike

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  4. Oh I do so love those little stone toes!

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  5. yes, I thought they illustrated my point perfectly!

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  6. love your feet stones

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  7. Love this post Monica....I'll be talking to Doug's 1954 Panel Truck..... not look at it as a clunker. We share the same birth year :)

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  8. Hahaha! We're all clunkers. To be married to a Devine is to be married to the pack rat nation!

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  9. I love your art and writing. You speak to my Inner being and I am always uplifted when I eagerly open your postings and slowly savor the contents. Thank you for sharing your gifts with me.

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    1. You are so kind. I appreciate hearing your voice, too. We are on opposite ends of the country; you south, me north...and there is so much to examine and explore and ponder! Thank you, Lena.

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  10. ah, yes, a "what if" that, with the right attitude, is not a what if at all. you got it, you caught it all, monica. love it and I LOVE YOUR LIVING STONE FEET, too. keep talking, girl!

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  11. I shall, mignon, keep talking, that is. As long as there's something to notice; even if it's just a lowly paperclip!

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  12. Listening is worth the time and attention it requires. Thanks for these reminders! Ever since a mentor suggested "talking with trees," I've noticed that I can not only talk TO trees but that they often have something to say to me. Please write more about your conversations with nature in Alaska; I'm all ears!

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  13. It is always such a joy to mingle with others and share our ordinary, everyday stories. There is much to notice in the little things around us. Thank you for visiting!

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