The animacy of the world is something we already know, but the language of animacy teeters on extinction — not just for Native peoples, but for everyone. Our toddlers speak of plants and animals as if they were people, extending to them self and intention and compassion — until we teach them not to. We quickly retrain them and make them forget. When we tell them that the tree is not a who, but an it, we make that maple an object; we put a barrier between us, absolving ourselves of moral responsibility and opening the door to exploitation. Saying it makes a living land into “natural resources.” If a maple is an it, we can take up the chain saw. If a maple is a her, we think twice.
… Learning the grammar of animacy could well be a restraint on our mindless exploitation of land. But there is more to it. I have heard our elders give advice like “You should go among the standing people” or “Go spend some time with those Beaver people.” They remind us of the capacity of others as our teachers, as holders of knowledge, as guides. Imagine walking through a richly inhabited world of Birch people, Bear people, Rock people, beings we think of and therefore speak of as persons worthy of our respect, of inclusion in a peopled world. We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things we might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don’t have to figure out everything by ourselves; there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
We dream of having a clean house — but who dreams of actually doing the cleaning? We don’t have to dream about doing the work, because doing the work is always within our grasp; the dream, in this sense, is to attain the goal without the work.
~ Marcus Buckingham
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Lower the bar. Actually spending ten minutes clearing off one shelf is better than fantasizing about spending the weekend cleaning out the basement.
~ Gretchen Rubin
Look at everyone around you and see what we have done about ourselves and what is considered our daily victory. We have not loved above all things. We have not accepted what is not understood because we do not want to be fools. We have accumulated things and assurances for not having each other. We have no joy that has not been cataloged. We have built cathedrals and we have stayed on the outside, because the cathedrals that we ourselves build fear that they are traps. We have not given ourselves, because that would be the beginning of a long life and we fear it. We have avoided falling on our knees in front of the first of us who out of love says: you are afraid. We have organized associations and smiling clubs where it is served with or without soda. We have tried to save ourselves, but without using the word salvation so as not to be ashamed of being innocent. We have not used the word love to avoid having to recognize its context of hatred, love, jealousy and so many other opposites. We have kept our death a secret to make our life possible. Many of us make art because we do not know what the other thing is like. We have disguised our indifference with false love, knowing that our indifference is anguish in disguise. We have disguised the great fear with the little fear and that’s why we never talk about what really matters. Talking about what really matters is considered an indiscretion. We have not adored for having the sensible stinginess of remembering the false gods in time. We have not been pure and naive not to laugh at ourselves and so that at the end of the day we can say “at least I was not stupid” and so we were not perplexed before turning off the light. We have smiled in public about what we would not smile when we were left alone. We have called weakness to our candor. We have feared each other, above all. And all this we consider our victory every day.
~ Clarice Lispector, An Apprenticeship, Or, The Book of Delights
“We are because we are seen; we are because we are loved. The world is because it is beheld and loved into being. On a silent retreat, while watching a line of ants traveling up a hillside, words came to me that I would repeat again and again in my mind: I am in the world to love the world.”
~ Anita Barrows, in her preface to Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
We have separated matter and spirit and through the power of this collective attitude have starved the world.
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Awakening the World
Once when I was younger I went out and sat under the sky and looked up and asked it to take me back. What I should have done was gone to the swamp and bog and ask them to bring me back because, if anything is, mud and marsh are the origins of life. Now I think of the storm that made chaos, that the storm opened a door. It tried to make over a world the way it wanted it to be. At school I learned that storms create life, that lightning, with its nitrogen, is a beginning; bacteria and enzymes grow new life from decay out of darkness and water. It’s into this that I want to fall, into swamp and mud and sludge and it seems like falling is the natural way of things; gravity needs no fuel, no wings. It needs only stillness and waiting and time.
~ Linda Hogan
Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.
~ Octavia E. Butler, The Parable of the Talents
Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.
~ Octavia E. Butler, The Parable of the Talents
It annoys me when people say, ‘Even if you’re old, you can be young at heart!’ Hiding inside this well-meaning phrase is a deep cultural assumption that old is bad and young is good. What’s wrong with being old at heart, I’d like to know? Wouldn’t you like to be loved by people whose hearts have practiced loving for a long time?”
The sense of respiration is an example of our natural sense relationship with the atmospheric matrix. Remember, respiration means to re-spire, to re-spirit ourselves by breathing. It, too, is a consensus of many senses. We may always bring the natural relationships of our senses and the matrix into consciousness by becoming aware of our tensions and relaxations while breathing. The respiration process is guided by our natural attraction to connect with fresh air and by our attraction to nurture nature by feeding it carbon dioxide and water, the foods for Earth that we grow within us during respiration. When we hold our breath, our story to do so makes our senses feel the suffocation discomfort of being separated from Earth’s atmosphere. It draws our attention to follow our attraction to air, so we inspire and gain comfort. Then the attraction to feed Earth comes into play so we exhale food for it to eat and we again gain comfort. This process feels good, it is inspiring. Together, we and Earth conspire (breathe together) so that neither of us will expire. The vital nature of this process is brought to consciousness when we recognize that the word for air, spire, also means spirit and that psyche is another name for air/spirit/soul.
~ Michael J. Cohen, Reconnecting with Nature: Finding Wellness Through Rebuilding Your Bond with the Earth