Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming | The On Being Project

Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming | The On Being Project
— Read on onbeing.org/programs/nature-joy-and-human-becoming-may2018/

Worth a read or listen! 🐾

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The Long Walk Toward Royalty

It was hard to resist walking this one. Having often seen the iconic view of this walk over the years when dreaming about future walking adventures, as well as gracing the cover of the best read on the history of walking (Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking), a free afternoon in Windsor and fair winds made this a most definite walk.

The walk (actually called the Long Walk), created by King Charles II (1630-1685), an inspired by the royalty of Versailles, planting 1,652 Elm trees to create the basis of the landscape we know today, commands a view that caused me to descend into some long thinking, where the rhythm of walking always tends to generate its own rhythm of thinking. An intelligence is really being worked on and drawn upon when in such a space, and the most intelligent thought streaming my way (meaning coming not from me) had to do this day with the whole nature of royalty. This park, which isn’t all that beautiful as far as a walk goes, entertains the sole purpose of drawing the eye toward the prominence, and preeminence, of the Castle; a symbol of power and royalty. The line of trees, and the lines drawn out and framed by the road itself, like two parallel lines converging at the point of infinity, draw the eye physically and spiritually to that point, value, and meaning.

What is it about royalty that attracts us so, and lends it its value? It seems to be invested with something much greater than tourist dollars, and its power finds its way into many modes of expression and manifestation. There is great excitement, hope, and promise everywhere you go with the upcoming royal wedding event for example, and bell towers rang across the country when a new Prince was just recently born into the land. Celebration is everywhere in the air and becomes quite infectious.

I had posited the same question regarding royalty to my students several years back when walking the Thames Path north from London, where after just passing through Runnymede (of Magna Carta fame), juxtaposing it with questions pondered upon a document constituting a fundamental guarantee of rights and privilege. And what we came to for ourselves, being on a LongWalk journey greatly influenced by river magic, was that the two are intimately connected. Played out in time on life’s stage they often constitute a tale, for many, that is viewed as the “history of crime”, but when taken deeper into the moment and given play upon the inner stage where true intelligence may communicate, we are all privileged with possibilities of royalty. It is a walk fraught with its own set of guidelines, yet it is what analogously gives rise to the pomp & circumstance, promise, and joy that reigns here in this most regal land. Guarded closely, as exemplified by another iconic English image pondering the role of St. George, our walk through this world intimates the privilege of a convergence with royalty if we but keep to the path. An intelligence within being that deserves greater pondering in these times, and one sadly on the wane in my land across the pond.

Eastern Cougars Declared Extinct—But That Might Not be Bad

“Cougars are very cryptic animals,” says Michael Robinson from the environmental advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity.

He’s referencing the fact that cougars often travel alone, often at night, and they’re hard to track. When most people come across one in the wild, it’s usually by accident.

To see one in the northeastern U.S. is even more rare, almost certainly a fluke.

Follow this LINK for more…….

NEWS Maps

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Most news today gets pretty old after a bit. It’s usually the same stuff – especially with politics – and you get to the point where you just shut it all out after a while. Or does your mind just go numb with the repetitious nature of the items being reported? It’s too bad really as the NEWS (that which informs us from the North, East, West, & South) is really what our awareness should be focused upon for it’s what comes to us from our immediate surrounding environment. And that should never be boring, or perceived as so repetitious that we stop paying attention to it! That NEWS is really what defines our sense of place – the region we tend to call HOME – and ultimately our understanding of ourselves too! The Irish call it “crack,” as good crack (“Craic”) is all the gossip and conversational news bits that keep cultural life going. It was the glue that holds our awareness relative to relationships in order. It’s all that our common sense was customarily built upon and informed by – once upon a time! This knowledge of our immediate surroundings though has taken a beating in the fast-paced, multi-tasking, virtual infested, sensory deprived world that we currently occupy. Many resign themselves to the conclusion that that’s just the way things are; that change is inevitable – life at 70 mph!

But not so fast! Life at three mph is a far different experience, and any NEWS coming to us when rambling about our home turf is well worth paying attention to. Remember Odin’s ravens (Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory)) who flew off every day at dawn to travel across the nine worlds, and at the end of the day perched back on his shoulders where they would whisper “news” to him? This Bringing of all the local life activity and the voices of its residents should be our news; that which shapes our thoughts and informs our memories! And a regular diet of it would serve us far better than the voices of doom, gloom, and despair that seem to make up the standard fare of the electronic news media today. Nature smart as opposed to electronically wired!

And this is where, and why, maps become such an utterly fascinating, useful accouterment to the pedestrian’s stock in trade. I am rarely if ever bored with a good map, and even if most folks rarely resort to their use these days, I can never get enough of a good map! It’s such good medicine for our brains! But many today don’t use maps at all! Most of us used to use a roadmap at least, but even that today is giving way to electronic navigational apps that dictate auditory directions to us. So, we can and do run the risk of becoming habituated to this kind of information, which then just becomes data as opposed to real navigational aid in respect to good NEWS! Imagine how well served we would all be if a daily regimen included a solid ramble around and through the neighborhoods country lanes, woods, fields, and byways that constitute our immediate sense of place, or home, these days? With an excellent map in hand to help facilitate our becoming grounded in this place we call home, we may yet discover that there is NEWS that can inform and nurture us in a more wholesome way than the varied unrelated, and disconnected, bits of sensationalism emanating from the electronic news wires today. The typical rough fare that deadens our senses and invalidates our connection to the biotic reverberations of the place we call home. Striking out on foot at all hours of the day or night puts us in better relation to our immediate neighbors, and the much more vibrant rhythms of life coursing through, and over, the seasons. Related to the miracle of the natural year unfolding regularly right outside our doors, and conveying a far more significant message of hope and promise than any prognostications from Wall Street or City Hall! The workings of the world may have indeed become a bit more complicated since the days of Gilbert White, but the simple pleasures derived from such close contact with all the NEWS making up the interconnectedness of the places we call home are eternal. Why not get out there and walk then, and take in this excellent NEWS? And to do so in a way where the maps we carry outwardly to help orient and ground us to these places eventually becomes internalized and part of the very fabric of ourselves; part and parcel of a higher, healthier reality of place – and self!

So, a pretty good plan; yes? I think so, but It does compete though with other “plans,” and ultimately it must become a matter of conscious choice for each of us to consider the following:

E.F. Schumacher, in his Guide For The Perplexed, has a bit to say about maps. He speaks about philosophical maps mostly, for those are the maps that most of us use today, whether we realize it or not. He states that one way of looking at the world as a whole is using a map, as “some plan or outline that shows where various things are to be found. Not all things, of course, for that would make the map as big as the world, but the things that are most prominent and most important for orientation; outstanding landmarks, as it were, which you cannot miss, or if you do miss them, you will be left in total perplexity.” He relates this rumination to an experience he is having with a “map,” but a map which fails to include things plainly right in front of him in reality. Why so might you ask? Because the map given had a particular bias to what it calls things (on the map as well as in fact), and this left him somewhat perplexed! A rose by any other name is still a rose of course, yet the interpretation, meaning, and ultimate understanding were far removed from his reality.

And it then dawns on him that there are many “maps” handed to us in life that are no different; planned steps and guidelines to take so one becomes happy or prosperous – philosophical maps, which are so manifestly abundant today. We’re handed (forced) many maps today; roadmaps to success, fame, maybe even fortune! Follow specific steps or pathways upon these maps, and you’ll wind up on Park Avenue! Most of these maps are subtle, but deadly in the long run as we become more and more accustomed to others doing our thinking for us. And that is easily accomplished when we live in the somewhat virtual electronic disconnect reality sold to us 24/7 over the airwaves.

What’s the answer? Not some expensive therapeutic course of action that requires the latest and greatest (expensive) technological wizardry, or pharmaceutical creation, but a simple wish to get out and walk the pathways of home, as well as the pathways of our minds, where we may yet create a reality based upon more wholesome NEWS! There isn’t much that the wheeler-dealers and guru’s of economic gain can do to pitch this simple human activity for financial gain. It’s almost free and in need of not much more than the thought out wish to put one foot in front of the other, and to do one’s thinking. So place that foot a step beyond the household door, grab a map and get ready to open yourself up to some of the best NEWS the real world has to offer!

ReWilding

ReWild by Nick Baker

I picked up a copy of Nick Baker’s book ReWild: The Art of Returning to Nature the other day. One of the first inspiring thoughts coming from reading it centered around the original concept of the term which has to do with the conservation and preservation work needed to secure greater access and availability to the wilderness for keystone species of wild mammals. Mostly by connecting already set aside and protected natural areas, creating key corridors, and thus opening up essential linkages allowing these creatures to follow natural instincts relating to health, survival, and species continuity.

The picture presented was developed out of a recognition that nature and human culture has drifted apart in alarmingly diverse ways to a point where humans have created a Noah’s Ark philosophy toward species conservation and preservation; where the zoo is the sad representation of such convoluted thinking. Cages and confinement, separation, isolation, and estrangement, are becoming our norm relative to the whole world of other. “Other” constituting the whole of organic life, which plays less and less of a role in human cultural relations.

Cited within these provocative pages were references to such ReWilding projects as the wolf restoration within Yellowstone National Park, which many can claim familiarity with through the video How Wolves Change Rivers. This work evolved out of Aldo Leopold’s ecological vision depicting series of trophic cascades interrelating, balancing, and sustaining the wealth of evolutionary involution and evolution processes within natural systems. Though the Yellowstone project is undoubtedly a success, it has not gone unnoticed that the certainty of survival for keystone species end at the Park’s boundary. ReWilding is an emerging and developing trend that pushes the boundaries of our thinking, as well as the physical lines upon maps which limit mammalian movement.

Linkages that expand upon cultivate, and ensure the capacity for a more significant field of relationship is critical. We need to relearn how to connect the dots!

And this by association got me thinking about this same pattern of thinking, and life estrangement from the field of life relationship in our educational process. We harbor a well-known penchant for straight and narrow pathways toward “success,” “life” and “value” that echo what Baker calls shifting baseline syndrome – the current “known” sidelining any and all other contextual clues from life. And we drift further and further away from all the contextual clues within life that compose the trophic cascades of evolutionary and involutional relationships that feed, nourish, and nurture our humanity as a niche within Nature. Hell-bent on a myopic view of purpose we walk blindly through a landscape of shadows. Though, if truth to power finds the light of day spoken, we don’t walk, we sit! A massive and elaborately constructed baseline of entrenched thinking constitutes the prescribed pathways of institutionalized educational landscapes, and youth are in dire need of rewilding.

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Corridors need establishing to allow for migration toward greater relational pastures where human need (greed) does not trump higher value and purpose. Higher as in meaning an elevated grasp of what our niche within what a full ecological vision may intimate.

Rewilding our youth isn’t something we need to do as much as it is to allow. Right education has moved beyond the sage on the stage to the guide by the side for many, but to go entirely wild we need educators who build the bridges, and then allow our youth unobstructed passage to regions needing to be traversed and for new stories then being told.

I’m for going wild. And I would often echo Thoreau’s assertion that “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” and add of the human species as well.

A Winter Walk

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It was a fitting way to start the New Year.

With temperatures ranging from a high of 6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to a low of -6 F, and wind chill temperatures down to -26 F, it was certainly a wintery day in keeping with Thoreau’s wintery reflection that “the wonderful purity of nature at this season is a most pleasing fact”, and “that a cold and searching wind drives away all contagion.”[1] And so, with those musings in mindI set out for a day of tracking, happy to put the contagion of 2017 behind me, while looking forward to the New Year with an eye (I) toward purification becoming more inner fact.

An intimation of intriguing possibility for the New Year’s resolve came to me as my wife, and I drove up to Maine the day before to spend time with our closest family friends on New Year’s Eve. We listened to two podcasts along the way, one on an interview with Gerald Dickens[2], the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, who has been coming stateside yearly since 2000 to do public readings of A Christmas Carol, and the other was a Ted Radio Talk on the nature and understanding of Beauty. What struck me most in the Gerald Dickens interview was the interviewer’s query about the meaning of the somewhat enigmatic picture of the two children sheltered beneath the folds of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s robe called “Ignorance” (a male child) and “Want” (a female child). Ignorance and want being subjective of course, but Dickens’ reply was steeped in his great-great grandfather’s social commentator’s role reflecting the “want”, or need of the masses, and the “ignorance” of those of means who stand ignorant of such need, which the Ghost of Christmas Present warns Scrooge to be most mindful of, as upon his brow was written the dire warning of our doom!! The significance drawn from the podcast on Beauty, for me, was its intimations upon our universal quest for meaning, and ultimately how that relates back to the children called “Want” and “Ignorance.” The commentary upon Beauty drew references to studies linking pastoral landscapes, and the color blue, as the two universal impressions most evocative of this feeling and concept of beauty within us, and it was thus with these two seeds of thought that I set out for a day of tracking to start a new year.

There wasn’t much moving in these cold temperatures, and I was feeling the usual inner anticipation of finding the tracks of something “big”, like the black bears I’ve seen most winters lately, or even the fabled possibility of Puma (Mountain Lion) that appears to be gaining headlines in and around the Northeast these days! Yet the first tracks seen this day were those of the ubiquitous common White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), who I am guilty of paying scant attention to most days. Bringing me up abruptly to the recognition of the conscious need for paying more considerable attention to that small and somewhat elusive thing called the ‘present moment’, as well as the seemingly simple, familiar, and passed-over minute tracks that are seen just about everywhere.

The next track sighting this day was of those other ubiquitous, yet not so easily identified and understood, tracks dotting the forest floor – those of the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), and the main aim of my tracking studies this winter of cultivating greater mastery of bird track & sign. The beauty of their scripted writings upon the snow brought up associative thoughts of the classic Sufi tale “The Conference of The Birds”[3]. This likens birds to our human flightiness of thought, and the “voices” of birdsong intimating the stream of incessant inner dialog marring our capacity toward attentiveness at any given moment.

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But on this day I didn’t fall into that mindless trap of disruptive thinking, and the resulting quiet of the moment allowed for the beauty of the impressions before me at the moment to take hold. And then the link between Beauty, Ignorance, and Want appearing alongside recognition of what I was really searching for when out tracking this day. I was searching and tracking for meaning.

Meaning, on this day, issued forth when the surrounding beauty of nature was conjoined with the joy experienced when piecing the track & sign witnessed into a contextual, meaningful story. A moment of human presence where Ignorance had no foothold; present to myself and where I was at that particular moment, open and receptive to the beauty of the moment and attentive to the nuanced fluctuations of mind; beauty and joy fused into pure and straightforward meaning. So there I was, just me standing within a beautiful and wild natural setting of my backyard, marking a moment related to all of creation on this first day of a New Year. My wish is that the New Year be marked for all with the same experience of beauty and joy; thus a harbinger of a more significant year for all mankind. A New Year where peace and goodwill toward all are brought into each, and every moment we attend to or rue the peril of time in ignorance of such meaning.

Breathing the beauty of this moment deeply into my soul, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the other connection to beauty made in the podcast with the color blue. The winter’s landscape robed this day in a mantle of brilliant white snow, offset by an incredibly blue sky, magically opened the door to my perception of beauty, and reminded me of one other strong impression of true beauty experienced over the passing year. It was when my wife and I while walking the entirety of the Southwest Coastal Path in England this Autumn, were inundated and overwhelmed by the sensory impressions gained through constancy and intimacy with the sea’s blueness being juxtaposed with the sky’s blueness. Being a daily witness for so long to such a relationship of elemental beauty was magical in its extreme, and beyond capturing in the word. It was undoubtedly a gift given by being so connected to nature’s bounty, which is in no small measure why long distance walking is so attractive to us, but this experience of being open to beauty can be had on any day where we hold fast to getting out into nature even in small doses. Connection happens in a moment, and any moment experienced where we connect with body, soul, and spirit can magically open the door to beauty, joy, and real meaning. It may even be that the real revolution which the times are in need of is a blue revolution, as opposed to a green one? And with that closing thought, it appears that my ultimate wish for myself, my family, friends, and community is that we usher in a true blue revolutionary spirit to guide us through the upcoming New Year.

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[1] A Winter Walk; Thoreau Essays, edited by Jeffrey Cramer, Yale University Press 2013

[2] http://www.geralddickens.com/events.htm

[3] The Conference of the Birds by Mantiq Ut-Tair; Shambhala, Boulder 1971