I love how he opens his essay:
“When we open ourselves and take in the sorrows of the world, letting them penetrate our insulated hut of the heart, we are both overwhelmed by the grief of the world and in some strange alchemical way, reunited with the aching, shimmering body of the planet. We become acutely aware that there is no “out there;” we share one continuous presence, one shared skin. Our suffering is mutually entangled, the one with the other, as is our healing.”
In the second part of his essay he lists four ways we can reconnect with this “continuous presence.”
- An Apprenticeship with Slowness
- Uncentering the Human
- Drinking the Tears of the World
- Entering the Storehouse of Myth
Each is beautifully articulated, and I urge you to read his whole essay. But the third resonated most with me that day, and I’ve extracted it here.
Drinking the Tears of the World. How can we fail to love this achingly beautiful world when we are so completely jumbled together with it all? It is our myopia, our species-centric blindness that cuts us off from the actual world. To love this world, however, is to also know sorrow. Our grief is intimately connected to how far we allow our love to reach into the world. Think of those indigenous tribes willing to fight to the death to protect their homelands from being destroyed by mining or oil companies. They know their lives are inseparable from the animals, plants, rivers, spirits and ancestors of their lands. Our love was also meant to spill out into the world, into the forests, the rivers and cloudbanks. It was not meant to congeal in a single person or even a single species. As Thomas Berry said, “We have become a singular species talking only to itself.” When this happens—when the arc between our bodies and the great body of the earth breaks—we fall into an attachment disorder of epic proportions and everything suffers. Grief work is the third way we restore the bond with the world we inhabit.
The good news is we are supremely crafted to feel kinship with this breathing world. We are giant receptor sites for taking in the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the caress of a lover, the scent of rain. Paul Shepard said we are more like a pond surface than a closed system: We are permeable, exchanging the vibrancy of wind, pollen, color and fragrance. Life moves into us and through us like a breeze, affecting us and shaping us into a part of the terrain. We are inseparable from all that surrounds us. To mend the attachment disorder, we simply have to step out of our isolated room of self and into the wider embrace that awaits each of us. When we do, something magical happens. As we build our capacity for transparency and allow the world to enter us, our feelings of love blossom and an erotic leap occurs, bringing everything close to our heart.
One of the reasons this essay resonated with me is because this idea of a “larger Self” is a theme that has been developing in my writing and my personal narrative, something I’ve been playing with for ages.
I see it everywhere now as I review my life and examine my writing. You can find it here on this blog as recently as “Us, Ancient” and “Infusing I and Other” and “La Gitana, Our Larger Self” and in so much of my meditative poetry. Even in my revamped writing website traces of this thought can be found.
I think I return to it again and again because it reminds me to move beyond a personal, limited sense of self and experience myself in a larger, more expansive way. A way that rings more true to me.
It is certainly not a new idea, this sense of connecting with nature, with others, of an overriding, embracing Oneness. But I’m experiencing it in a new, more personal, more immediate way. It’s become a lens through which I see my personal and public history writ large.
I’ll be writing about this more in future posts.