It is definitely winter here in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Wind warnings and lots of rain. I am at work at my night auditor job. Took a break and pulled my head out of the computer and the numbers. Watched tree branches lashed by the wind. Then I pondered how I’d been able to ignore that storm for hours, focused on mental activity.
Because my senses are cut off from the cold and the wet as I sit in this temperature controlled brick fortress with a job to do and all the expectations that go with that.
At home in my trailer it is a little different. I often have the blinds down but storm sounds intrude on my tin roof and mental world and sometimes my kinesthetic sense gets poked when the wind is strong enough to rock the trailer. In that environment the storm is in the back of my mind for the duration.
I used to love storms when I was a kid. I lived in a house on the on the middle of the continent then and didn’t worry about roof leaks and falling branches. Thunderstorms were normal there (here they are rare). I’d smell the electricity and the rain and run with the energy of the storm. I’ve seen cats go racing around when the wind is up and I’ve read about chimps doing a rain dance in a storm. Now that’s being in tune with the planet.
And now I’m not. Or much less so. What happened? Daily human life. The way we humans structure our daily lives (in much of North America anyway) mostly shuts out what is going on with the Earth never mind the Universe. Until something like a hurricane or earthquake or wildfire puts us on notice that there is more to our lives than human-made symbol systems like accounting and money and status and social standing etc etc etc.
Why do we do that? Or rather, why did that way of doing things evolve? For fear of what might happen to our tiny selves in this vast universe do we just pretend it isn’t there? Or are we disdaining it and trying to conquer Nature with a superiority complex? Or is this extreme mental focus just the next step in human evolution? If you answer yes to that last question, then answer this: when do we know that we’ve crossed a line from evolving this function to retreating into it?
What would it be like to deliberately focus more often on our place on our planet Earth? Driving to and from work I now notice more often the textures of the trees and leaves, the vastness of the ocean, the total combination of rural beauty (as long as the moisture problem in my car isn’t demanding my attention). Then I feel grateful for living in such a beautiful place. When I’m thinking about possible earthquakes or falling trees, I am inching closer to thoughts of my own mortality. And I remember how Carlos Castenada’s Don Juan said Death is at our left shoulder and gives perspective.
I’m reminded of a lesbian coworker who commented that she suffered more prejudice in 6 years in the city than in her twenty some years living up country. I suggested that people up country are paying more attention to Nature and survival. The city people she refers to are insulated from Nature and their lives are defined by symbol systems such as money and the right social standing. So of course I said to her, what do you expect? They are divorced from experience. All they do is manipulate symbols and your differentness becomes a symbol.
Makes me wonder how societies would change if experience rather than symbols became their operating mode. You don’t have to be a lesbian to experience being treated as a symbol. I am thinking of two deliberate but nonchalant ageist twenty something females who claim hurt feelings easily but inflict discomfort freely on older folk. They’ll even talk about it if they figure they can get away with it. I happen to know that one of them is extremely obsessive and grew up in a punitive family. When upset, she will chew on it, get near to tears and be unable to sleep. So I have to wonder if reducing people to symbols is a defense against inner emotion.
I’m remembering an exercise I was given years ago by a person who passed on teachings of Gurdjieff. It is an exercise that helps one remember one’s place on this Earth, putting things in perspective. You sit quietly for a meditation and go through these steps: I am sitting in this room. I am sitting in this room in this house. I am sitting in this room in this house in this town (name it). I am sitting in this room in this house in this town in this country (name it)…on this continent…on this planet Earth…in this solar system…in this Universe.
This is about remembering our Selves. We all need to do it.
orignally published in naturecommunion.blogspot.ca Wednesday, 5 December 2012