We’re all — trees, humans, insects, birds, bacteria — pluralities. Life is embodied network. These living networks are not places of omnibenevolent Oneness. Instead, they are where ecological and evolutionary tensions between cooperation and conflict are negotiated and resolved. These struggles often result not in the evolution of stronger, more disconnected selves but in the dissolution of the self into relationship.
Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory. We are not, in the words of the folk hymn, wayfaring strangers traveling through this world.
Nor are we the estranged creatures of Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads, fallen out of Nature into a “stagnant pool” of artifice where we misshape “the beauteous forms of things.” Our bodies and minds, our “Science and Art,” are as natural and wild as they ever were.
We cannot step outside life’s songs. This music made us; it is our nature.
—David George Haskell
Let’s take a walk. You can show me some of your memories and I’ll show you some of mine.
~ Adam Berlin, Number of Missing
Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot
in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?
Well, there is time left —
fields everywhere invite you into them.
And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
from wherever you are, to look for your soul?
~ Mary Oliver, excerpted from Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?, West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems
There is a long time in me between knowing and telling.
~ Grace Paley
The journey from the heart to the throat to the mouth is a long one.
~ Mirabelle D’Cunha
It’s not that I don’t appreciate summer: I do. I love it deeply, from the first rich flush of hawthorn blossoms to the last fading mauves of August heather. I love the green and the growing, the treasures of the hedgerows, and the always astonishing abundance of the land which surrounds me. It’s just that I love autumn and winter more. Something opens up in me then – something soft and deep and glowing – which is far too shy to expose itself to the inexhaustible light of summer.
~ Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life: Unlocking the Magic of the Everyday
The voice of compassion is not absorbed with itself. It is not a voice intent on its own satisfaction or affirmation; rather it is a voice imbued with understanding, forgiveness and healing. This voice dwells somewhere in every human heart. Ultimately it is the voice of the soul. Part of the joy in developing a spiritual life is the discovery of this beautiful gift that you perhaps never even suspected you had. When you take the time to draw on your listening-imagination, you will begin to hear this gentle voice at the heart of your life. It is deeper and surer than all the other voices of disappointment, unease, self-criticism and bleakness. All holiness is about learning to hear the voice of your own soul.
~ John O’Donohue, Beauty: Rediscovering the true source of compassion, serenity, and hope
In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe. Every being enters into communion with other beings. This capacity for relatedness, for presence to other beings, for spontaneity in action, is a capacity possessed by every mode of being throughout the entire universe.
~ Thomas Berry
Attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity.
~ Robin Wall Kimmerer
Given that the shared understanding of truth has been central to language, religion and society, when we ignore small lies, we inflict damage on the larger truth.
This is not holiness we’re talking about, but wholeness and integrity.
~ Gina Barreca
Because every exchange is always a relationship, to get the most while giving the least is unjust, unethical, antisocial, abusive, perhaps ‘evil.’ Yet predatory commerce (“the free market” as it is euphemistically called) operates regularly on the principle of ‘get the most and pay the least.’
~ James Hillman
As the connections have been broken by the fragmentation and isolation of work, they can be restored by restoring the wholeness of work. There is work that is isolating, harsh, destructive, specialized or trivialized into meaninglessness. And there is work that is restorative, convivial, dignified and dignifying, and pleasing. Good work is not just the maintenance of connections – as one is now said to work “for a living” or “to support a family” – but the enactment of connections. It is living, and a way of living; it is not support for a family in the sense of an exterior brace or prop, but is one of the forms and acts of love.
~ Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace