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
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
~ Pema Chodron
The early Greeks defined presence as the fundamental characteristic of being alive.
I believe it is not easy for any of us to be fully present, and that we settle for shadows and glimpses, for fleeting moments that sift through our hands and are gone. We may become clouded from impinging distractions as we are carried into countless pressures, anxieties, and demands; or else we try to escape through the many abundant and tempting means at our disposal; or we seek to overpower obstacles through adrenalin-driven pursuits, or with our intellects, determination, and skillful maneuvers, or by other strengths and capabilities, continually striving for something out of reach, or once attained, soon abandoned, while we silently lack what we most want.
As flawed human beings, it can be difficult to see beyond ourselves and understand each other intimately and compassionately. Being hampered by our limitations and the context of our past experience (or inexperience), we can be blind to each other even when we don’t want to be. Our failings can also blind us to ourselves, preventing us from reaching a deeper understanding below the surface of self-awareness.
~ John Justin David, from Parabola, October 26, 2020
Oh, the sweetness of realizing: I am not other than what I’m experiencing. I am this breathing. I am this moment, and it is changing, continually arising in the fountain of life.
~ Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
~ Roger Keyes
The Wood is shining this morning.
Red. Gold and green. The leaves
Lie on the ground, or fall,
Or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
The place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
Its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
All that it is, and how flawless
Its grace is. Running or walking, the way
Is the same. Be still. Be still.
~ Wendell Berry
This ancient Latin phrase loosely translates as “It is solved by walking.” A walk is a journey that requires very little — neither planning nor passport, neither ticket nor equipment. Nearly always at our disposal, a walk provides so much more than just a change of scenery. Walking has helped me decide what is wise and what is foolhardy, has made me fall in love with a place, has batted away my melancholy. Walking has helped me loosen the grip technology has on my life, giving me space and permission to disconnect from my devices that beg for my attention and feed my anxiety. Most of all, walking has nurtured my creativity as I struggle to give tangible form to abstract ideas.
~ Bonnie Smith Whitehouse, in the introduction to Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking
Is giorra cabhair Dé ná an doras.
Divine help is closer than the door.
If you have a few moments, please watch Blessings, a short film, at Emergence Magazine. There are no ads, no spamming of any sort. It’s a beautiful reading of part of David Whyte’s Blessings poems.