Flat outstretched upon a mound
Of earth I lie; I press my ear
Against its surface and I hear
Far off and deep, the measured sound
Of heart that beats within the ground.
And with it pounds in harmony
The swift, familiar heart in me.
They pulse as one, together swell,
Together fall; I cannot tell
My sound from earth’s, for I am part
Of rhythmic, universal heart.
He sighed profoundly, and flung himself–there was a passion in his movements which deserves the word–on the earth at the foot of the oak tree. He loved, beneath all this summer transiency, to feel the earth’s spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be; or, for image followed image, it was the back of a great horse that he was riding; or the deck of a tumbling ship – it was anything indeed, so long as it was hard, for he felt the need of something which he could attach his floating heart to; the heart that tugged at his side; the heart that seemed filled with spiced and amorous gales every evening about this time when he walked out. To the oak tree he tied it and as he lay there, gradually the flutter in and about him stilled itself; the little leaves hung, the deer stopped; the pale summer clouds stayed; his limbs grew heavy on the ground; and he lay so still that by degrees the deer stopped nearer and the rooks wheeled round him and the swallows dipped and circled and the dragonflies shot past, as if all the fertility and amorous activity of a summer’s evening were woven web-like about his body.
― Virginia Woolf, Orlando
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod
For no matter whether the fairies are seen metaphorically or as real beings inhabiting their own real world, a study of them shows us that those who came before us (and many of that mindset still survive) realized that we are — no matter what we may think to the contrary — very little creatures, here for a short time only (‘passing through,’ as the old people say) and that we have no right to destroy what the next generation will most assuredly need to also see itself through.
If only we could learn that lesson, maybe someday we might be worthy of the wisdom of those who knew that to respect the Good People is basically to respect yourself.
A thousand grandmothers ago
Pyrrha and Deucalion repopulated
the world with rocks, bones of mother Earth,
a generation of my ancestors strained
from the mud of a drowned planet.
But I’m more interested in my earliest
grandmothers, their gills and wetness,
before they crawled from that blue expanse
and learned to carry the sea within them,
in their cells, between their cells, in their eyes.
The buoyancy of ocean has never left us.
It hides in skin’s complex reservoir
where we’re selectively permeable
and our bodies exchange the smallest life.
If we had no need to distinguish ourselves
from others we’d be missing the skin
that defines lovers and enemies
and opens itself to both.
We sleep, allowing gravity to hold us, allowing Earth- our larger body- to recalibrate our neurons, composting the keen encounters of our waking hours (the tensions and terrors of our individual days), stirring them back, as dreams, into the sleeping substance of our muscles. We give ourselves over to the influence of the breathing earth. Sleep is the shadow of the earth as it seeps into our skin and spreads throughout our limbs, dissolving our individual will into the thousand and one selves that compose it- cells, tissues, and organs taking their prime directives now from gravity and the wind- as residual bits of sunlight, caught in the long tangle of nerves, wander the drifting landscape of our earth-borne bodies like deer moving across the forested valleys.
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
Suppose two astronauts go to the moon. When they arrive, they have an accident and find out that they have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They have only two days to live. If you asked them at that moment, “What is your deepest wish?” they would answer, “To be back home walking on the beautiful planet Earth.” That would be enough for them; they would not want anything else. They would not want to be the head of a large corporation, a big celebrity or president of the United States. They would not want anything except to be back on Earth – to be walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature and holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon.
We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious beautiful planet. The Zen master Lin Chi said, “The miracle is not to walk on water but to walk on the Earth.” I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. In walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives.
We need myths that will help us to identify with all our fellow-beings, not simply with those who belong to our ethnic, national or ideological tribe. We need myths that help us to realize the importance of compassion, which is not always regarded as sufficiently productive or efficient in our pragmatic, rational world. We need myths that help us to create a spiritual attitude, to see beyond our immediate requirements, and enable us to experience a transcendent value that challenges our solipsistic selfishness. We need myths that help us to venerate the earth as sacred once again, instead of merely using it as a ‘resource.’ This is crucial, because unless there is some kind of spiritual revolution that is able to keep abreast of our technological genius, we will not save our planet.