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An update from ALT 08/28/2011

Posted by ALT in Alternative Lifestyles.
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For the past month and a half, ALT_sig (that would be my significant other), a furry companion of ours, and I have been traveling by car across the country.  We’ve seen mountains, prairies, badlands, glaciers, lakes, mighty rivers, and a few metropolises.  We’ve cooked many a smoky-tasting meal over the campfire and slowly accustomed ourselves to life without a mattress, house, or job*.

It's not so bad, really. The views are terrific!

Though we don’t intend to give up the aforementioned amenities for good, it’s been an interesting experience – one that hasn’t always been easy to savor, but savor it we have, the sweet and the bitter, too.  And we will continue to do so for at least another month.

The sweet: NATURE, naturally

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My favorite has been to pick a quiet spot out there and just sit for a long, long time.  Watching.  Listening.  Being still.  It’s amazing – the more you look, the more you see.  The more you realize how wise this creation is.  The answers are embedded in all around you: in the creaking trees, sunlight traveling through branches, casting ever-changing shadows, in a tiny wildflower barely visible amongst the bramble, in puddles, rivers, oceans alike.

Best of all, the same wisdom you see externally exists internally, too; after all, we are nature.  I think we forget that – much of Western society/science/philosophy is predicated on the idea that we are somehow separate from and perhaps even overlords of creation, when the fact is… we’re part of it.  We are a part of this holy, dynamic, and life-affirming EARTH, and part of it in a very intimate way.  Not as a member of some kind of club, but as a member of the body.  The body of living things.

We are the Earth becoming conscious of itself, and collectively, humans are the Earth’s most highly developed sense organ.  In this sense then, humankind is nature, looking into nature.

(Gregory Cajete in Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence… my vacation reading, and highly appropriate to the thinking I’ve been doing recently)

Pretty cool.  Feeling trapped in a society that worships death (or at the very least, lifelessness), I find the idea compelling, uplifting.

The bitter: NATURE, when controlled, regulated, contorted by humans

The cosmology that has shaped the evolution of the West with its focus on dominion over nature, the hierarchy of life, and a transcendent male God, has also shaped modern people’s perception of the “real world.”  Modern Western societies are rooted in institutions based on the old unexamined tenets of this cosmology… the mindsets of many modern people are still firmly vested in the old mechanistic worldview.

The ambiguity, conflict, and tension that we are now experiencing at all levels of modern life are reflections of our inability to come to terms with an essentially dysfunctional cosmology, a cosmology that can no longer sustain us at any level… God was seen to live outside the universe, transcendent and greater than the universe, while also having dominion over the universe and all inhabitants.  Humans were seen to have a connection to this divine god, but in order to fully consummate this union or connection, people had to transcend the material world, and become transcendent and exercise dominion over it in God’s name.  This orientation leads to a perception of the world in purely material terms; hence, the objectification, secularization, and scientification of the world.  The non-human world was considered the property of the transcendent God and his chosen people.  Although it was considered holy, it was also considered material, without spirit, and therefore eligible to be used or exploited according to the chosen people’s needs.  This conception of the world as spiritless (dead/lifeless) material allowed Western peoples to have a sense of detachment that was religiously justifiable.

(Gregory Cajete; Native Science)

For-your-own-good interventionism [something I’ve complained about quite a bit] is alive and well outside the mental health field, I’m sorry to say, and its consequences are just the same: dynamic beings, superficially deprived of choice, make their spirit known in unpredicted ways, incurring retribution in the form of further controls and setting in motion a never-ending cycle of restriction and rebellion in their frustrated attempts to live.  Well, never-ending only until the day that we decide to relinquish our controls and allow life to take its own course.

Which I’m all in favor of, especially after seeing…

A ranger at the Teddy Roosevelt National Park describing his hero’s (Teddy Roosevelt, of course) love of nature.  Teddy loved nature so much, in fact, that he decided to kill a buffalo, at that point a species so endangered that a four day search through much of North Dakota and Montana yielded only one specimen, which he promptly shot and then mounted on the wall in his home on Long Island.

Bully!

And how did the buffalo become endangered in the first place?  Spite, and a strong institutional desire to destroy a way of life different from (and therefore in conflict with) the State.Ah, yes, but now that very same State is sponsoring a repopulation effort, intervening with the breeding, feeding, and migration of small herds of buffalo contained within national parks like Teddy Roosevelt.  And hundreds of buffalo invade the national park’s RV campground on the banks of a moonlit Missouri River – threatening the revenues of the park (!) and the peace of mind of the tourists (!) – peacefully made their presence known.  We still live, and in our own way. 

The Sol Duc Hot Springs of the Olympic Peninsula, once holy to the Quileuete Indians, have a very interesting story of “discovery.”

The Quileute name for the hot springs is si’bi’, stinky place. In the 1880’s, Theodore Moritz nursed a native with a broken leg back to health. In gratitude, the Indian told Moritz of the “firechuck” or magic waters. Moritz staked a claim, built cedar-log tubs and soon people were coming great distances to drink and bathe in the healing water. Michael Earles, owner of the Puget Sound Mills and Timber Company claimed he was cured of a fatal illness after visiting Sol Duc. When Moritz died in 1909, Earles bought the land from his heirs and built a $75,000 road to the springs from Lake Crescent. Three years later, on 15 May 1912, an elegant hotel opened.

The grounds were immaculate – landscaping, golf links, tennis courts, croquet grounds, bowling alleys, theater, and card rooms. A three story building between the bathhouse and hotel held the sanatorium. With beds for one hundred patients, a laboratory, and x-ray it was considered one of the finest in the west.

(from the Olympic National Park website)

Lovely, and pretty typical.  Can’t tell you how many informational plaques and signs on national forest and park lands I’ve seen along the way that say something along the lines of “the Native Americans once traveled in this area, fishing, practicing permaculture, etc.  And now you can enjoy it, too!”

Is it just me, or was there a gap in that story?  A deep and very dark chasm, really, into which the history of the State’s suppression of a way of life fell, never to be retrieved for discussion, study, or maybe even forgiveness, healing.

Dear readers, I still have a month of nothing but timeand I intend to use it to think about what wellness, balance, and ethical living might look like for a child of this modern society who wishes, above all else, to live right.  Any insights you have on this vital question would be very much appreciated.

Yours truly,

_________________

* That’s right – I don’t work for the “Research Scientist” anymore.  It was a rather uninspired departure; no grand speeches or public demonstrations, just a polite goodbye.  And a long exit interview with Human Resources, which may lead to an audit that will most likely amount to – at worst – a small slap on the wrist.  And the fraud will continue.  But not with my blessing!

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