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A Monday meander: What does it mean to be human?

Watching the skipjack races from the water.

…And, gratitude is the same thing as not taking for granted. Really it’s all part of the via positiva that the mystics talk about. Awe, wonder, gratitude. And, I think we as a species today, we have to ingest this in a deeper way. I think during previous moments in history or eras of history, we were more grateful. I think our secularizing of life has taken things for granted. However, science and the new creation story from science — I mean, 13.8 billion years has brought us here, each of us and all the species that we know — ups the ante on gratitude to know that this is a pretty surprising event that we call the Earth, and the human species, and the rest.

So, yeah, I think when that really seeps in, the new creation story from science, I think a lot of awe, wonder, and gratitude will rise. But we don’t have much time for that seeping to happen. So I think that’s part of the rattling of the cages we have to do today is to take in the new creation story and then draw conclusions from that about how fragile and special this Earth is and our species is.

~ Matthew Fox

A little bit closer.

Yesterday I read an interview with Matthew Fox (the theologian, not the actor) in which he mentions that he’s been writing in his daily meditations about what it means to be a human being.  Although the question is certainly not a new one and many people have asked it, it struck me in a way that feels profound.  The question itself made me wonder if all the searching that we do in the name of spirituality, or finding ourselves/our purpose, or finding God is really the asking of this question:  What does it mean to be human?

Sometimes it almost looks like a painting out on the water.

The interviewer went on to ask Matthew Fox “what is a human being?” and his response was:

Well, I began my ruminations on it and I did a meditation with a wonderful quote from a Mesoamerican tradition, several thousand years old. It says, “to be human one must make space in one’s heart for the universe.” Now, that is so unmodern [laugh]. The modern age says, I think therefore I am. Or Francis Bacon says we will rape mother earth for her secrets and all this. It’s not about us! It’s saying, open your heart up and realize your place in the universe; that you’ve been blessed by the universe every day. That’s what the sun is. And all our food comes from that sun. We’re not really eating vegetables and oatmeal. We’re eating the sun. That’s what photosynthesis is. We can shift from human-centeredness to universe-centeredness and realize it’s not just about what’s out there. The universe is our daily food. It is the sunlight. It is the warmth of the sun. And it is the rain and the soil and these marvelous animals we’re making go extinct even while we say we love them. Humans have to learn to let go, to cut back, to live simpler lifestyles instead of setting up some illusory kingdom of God on Earth, where everyone can be middle-class or above and where everyone can buy as many yachts as they want. It’s just crazy.

You can read the transcript from the whole interview here, if you’re interested.

Going with the wind.

I love how Matthew Fox answers with “we’re eating the sun.”  It’s something I’ve been saying this summer as I enjoy the fruits and vegetables of the summer harvest.  I am eating the sun, the earth, the rain, the clouds, the work that went into producing the plant and the vegetable or fruit.  When I think of it that way, it feels more like being in a space of one-with-all.  It’s the taking in of All, a communion of sorts.  And isn’t that what communion was meant to be?

I’ve been attracted to the mystics lately (which is what led me to Matthew Fox; he’s written about some of them).  As I have moved along on my yoga journey, the question that keeps spiraling back around is:  What is it that I am rejecting?  What I mean by that is where did I come from and why am I rejecting it?  Jung said, “We Westerners cannot be pirates thieving wisdom from foreign shores . . . as if our own culture was an error outlived.”

A September sunrise.

When I was younger, I thought that the best way to change an institution is from the inside out.  Then I worked for the federal government for more than a decade, then worked for the Evil Empire (you might know them as a big box store) for 6+ years, and realized that the institutions — and corporations — and the people in them who have the most to benefit from them are so firmly entrenched that it might be damn near impossible to change anything from the inside out.  You just become a part of it.  Burnt out, depressed, plodding along with the status quo because you can’t fight city hall.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve leaned towards tear it all down and start over.  All civilizations eventually collapse.  So, too, will this one.  Climate change might hasten the demise.  If we don’t change the system, the system might bring us all to our demise.  Life, being life, will start over without humans, at least as we know humans to be.

A cloud-being.

I have no answers either way, but am drawn towards Rumi’s idea of the field “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.” A middle ground, perhaps.  Hope and possibility.

As I mentioned a little earlier, I’m being drawn towards the mystics and the poet-seers.  Well, I’ve always been drawn in that direction.  It’s just that the pull is stronger lately.  Mirabai, Rumi, Hafiz, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, William Blake, Thomas Merton, Thomas Berry, and the poets such as Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Jane Hirschfield, Rilke, Joy Harjo, and more.  Instead of spending so much time learning chants and Sanskrit, I want to turn in that direction and read their words and thoughts and ideas.  A return to some sort of Earth spirituality is closer to what I feel than anything else in this world.  The mystics, at least some of them, knew this, too.  That we already live in heaven.  It’s just that we have made a mess of it.

When it looks like the sun is being lifted by the clouds, pulled towards daytime.

I’m not quitting my yoga studies.  There is still so much to learn there.  But I do think that it is time for me to truly explore some of what I rejected long ago.  I am reminded of that when I draw a card daily from The Wild Unknown Archetype cards (by Kim Krans).  On the inside of the box is the statement “Accept all, reject none.”  One of the cards I drew recently (sorry, can’t remember which one) suggests that what was rejected might be exactly what is needed now.

I hope to write about some of my journey this autumn and winter as I take a deep dive into the mystics and poets.  I make no promises.  Sometimes there just aren’t words for this stuff.  Sometimes it shows up in the art I’m learning, but the symbolism is mine and might have no meaning to someone else.  For instance, I painted a self-portrait recently that was part of a lesson that included the idea that what we were painting was our inner self or higher self.  I noted with some laughter that my higher self (my inner goddess?) apparently needs glasses just as much as I do (because I included them without thinking about it):

My higher self-portrait.  (Mixed media — collage, acrylic paint, oil pastels, and who knows what else.)

In other news…  I’ve been thinking about the Walktober dates and will announce those sometime next week.  I have some traveling in my future so it might run late this year (or I’ll just give us all plenty of time to fit in our walks — which is what usually happens anyhow).  I might get the chance to share a walk from someplace new to me.  It depends on how things go.

In the meantime, thank you so much for stopping by today and joining me on another meander.  I hope all is well with you and yours.  I’m not sure there will be much of a sunset to see this evening but let’s meet out at the beach on Assateague and see what there is to see.  There is a wonderful view of the sky from the bay side of the island.  Sunset is scheduled for 7:13 PM.  Gosh, that seems so early, doesn’t it?  It’s still warm here and depending on the water conditions (rip tides are possible), we could go for a swim.

Please be safe, be well, and just Be.

Sunlight and basil.

A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy:  2,086)  Rain.  We’ve finally gotten a good share of it, and I’m very grateful for every drop.  Everything looks relieved to have finally had a good watering.  2,087)  Fall harvest season is upon us.  2,088)  Loads of basil for salads and sauces and pesto.  2,089)  Love.  2090)  Art classes and making messes with paint, pens, pastels, and other media.

A miniature sun in the garden.
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Robin is... too many things to list, but here is a start: an artist and writer; a photographer and saunterer; a daughter and sister and granddaughter; a friend, a partner, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother; a gardener, a great and imaginative cook, and the creator of wonderful sandwiches.

9 thoughts on “A Monday meander: What does it mean to be human?

  1. Ooh, I’ve been thinking about Walktober, too! I think some of us had high hopes for doing a similar walk over the summer, but nobody had time to get one organized. Such a shame. We’re all busy-bees these days, yet perhaps you’ve touched on something we need to acknowledge: we must make time to slow down and enjoy Life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sunset at 7:13 pm? Oh that seems much too early, but you can’t argue with reality. Well, not successfully at least. I’m taken with your question: What is it that I am rejecting? I have no answer, but I’ll be musing on that. It’s a way of turning my thinking upside down, and that’s a good thing as the days get shorter– and I must embrace something different.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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