“Only now can we see with clarity that we live not so much in a cosmos (a place) as in a cosmogenesis (a process) — scientific in its data, mythic in its form.”
~ Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story
Environmentalist James Lovelock proposed that the Earth is not only alive, but innately intelligent, regulating the conditions that allow life to exist. Now we’re learning how to co-exist — not only with our global siblings, but with our Mother. Our ancestors grasped this connection organically: they knew they were kin to Gaia, because they had a direct daily experience of how the land produced their food and materials for shelter.
Divorced from our origins, we’ve fallen into the sleep of self-forgetting. Lynton Caldwell, who helped write the U.S. Environmental Protection Act, said, “The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit.” Wrapped in our smart phones and iPods, living at 110 decibels, we’re anesthetized against an undefined yearning, what Teilhard de Chardin called “almost a sensual longing for communion with others who have a large vision.” Having lost touch with the wilderness within, we savage the Earth and each other in an effort to combat our loneliness.
Living intention, rather than in tension
Yet despite pacific cultures, past and present, peace is not intrinsic to the human experience. Cultural historian Thomas Berry writes, in The Dream of Earth: “The universe, earth, life and consciousness are all violent processes… The elements are born in supernovas. The sun is lit by gravitational pressures. The air we breathe and the water we drink come from the volcanic eruptions of gases within the earth. The mountains are formed by the clash of the great continental and oceanic segments of the earth’s crust.”
So if life itself is born from struggle, how can we hope to be peace? By embracing the hermetic dictum, “As above, so below”: knowing ourselves as the universe, and beholding the cosmos in each individual. Blake put it more poetically: “To see a world in a grain of sand/And a heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour.”
Human and planetary survival now depend on a resourceful resolution of our antipathies. In other words, neither violence nor peace is the answer, but rather, the highest state of creative tension that we can hold as a species.
To create Pax Gaia, the Peace of Earth, we need to truly view Earth as a global village — biologically, geologically, theologically. Berry says, “The Peace of Earth is indivisible. In this context the nations have a referent outside themselves for resolving their difficulties.”
Now we’re getting juicy. Evolutionary emissary Jean Houston speaks of her tendency to “mythologize rather than pathologize… What often appears to be chaos is really cosmos in its most literal sense — world making and remaking.” How might we adapt this philosophy on a planetary scale, so that instead of seeing problems needing solutions, we seek the grander story, the connective tissue that unites the issue?
Tom Atlee, author of The Tao of Democracy, tells a fascinating tale of being part of a mobile community that reached consensus without making a decision. Somehow, the group “knew” how it was going to function on the Great Peace March of 1986. Much later, Atlee learned that this is standard operating procedure among the Iroquois: in the tribal council tradition, participants simply talk until there is nothing left but “the obvious truth.” It’s a bit like boiling sugar down to syrup, or an oyster spinning a pearl from the irritating grain of sand in its shell.
Thinking like a flower, not a tailpipe
How do we midwife the obvious truth? Atlee admits the Great March breakthrough came only after all the feelings, stories, and information had cooked awhile in group consciousness. “[It’s like] the necessary cultivation of the earth in preparation for planting, like making compost… ‘setting the conditions’ needed to help the natural truth emerge, that takes into account all the different pieces of the puzzle. The struggly, juicy work early on provides the nutrient base for the ultimate discovery of that big truth” — which is then birthed in “an ad hocracy rather than a bureaucracy,” to borrow Houston’s evocative phrase.
The more we can perceive ourselves as cells in the body of Gaia, ever-evolving, willing to leap creatively across chasms of confusion and miscommunication to form elegant, improbable connections, the greater the possibility we seed for creating the Peace of Earth, rather than the pieces of Earth over which various factions routinely fight. As the cosmic comic Swami Beyondananda says, “If we put all the little pieces together, pretty soon we’ll have one big Peace.” One planet, indivisible. It’s a thrilling concept, and a refreshing response to the disruption and divisiveness playing out in the wake of the 2016 election.
As one strand in the system grows healthier, the others must follow, since we are all interdependent. Kirstin Miller, executive director of Ecocity Builders, suggests we “start thinking like a flower, not like a tailpipe.” Devise ways to pollinate instead of pollute.
We might also invoke the essence of the creative commons license, which allows people to share their work as long as proper credit is given, and no third party profits. Our air, water, and land resources are all ripe for “creative commons” protection and usage.
And this kind of cultivation, at once mythic and mundane, will accelerate our global guardianship into warp drive.
Copyright © 2009-2017 Amara Rose
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