This is the first in what will be a series of twice-weekly posts in which I’ll question the possibility, explore the difficulty, and argue for the mobilization potential, of understanding the systems of Nature on a personal level.
If it is true, as many of us believe in our hearts, that Love of Nature (the victim) is a better guide than Fear for Humanity (the agent of harm) to lead us out of the extractivist nightmare we currently find ourselves in; and if it is also true, as indigenous cultures and this website take for granted, that our relationship with (and love for) the Natural world must furthermore be ‘personal’ (whether we wish to live ‘as one with’ Nature or ‘together with’ Nature); then it is a matter of the gravest urgency that we seek to bring this love to a brilliant focus within ourselves and others on the short timeline of the global warming and species extinction emergency.
Or to determine that we can’t, and redirect our efforts accordingly.
The view that Earth is our Mother underpins the choices of all hunter-gatherer cultures even today — that is, when their choices aren’t forced by contact with, and exploitation by, corporate interests from ‘outside’. And I’m sure we can all agree that this is the kind of love — for family, best friends, even sexual and romantic love — that we’re thinking about when we say a love is ‘personal’.
But personal love, unlike love of philosophy, science, and other conceptual ‘ideas’, is also complicated. So how does a burgeoning global population of humans, who live mostly in cities now, transpose this personal level of passion to the whole of Life on Earth? To Nature, as a ‘system’? I think these more restricted experiences of love, especially when sex is involved, have confused many of us adults who now hold the fate of the Earth in our hands. And when we are required to look beyond the ‘persons’ in our immediate family or tribal group, we sometimes lose sight of love altogether. In a culture of ‘rugged individualism’ love might even be reduced to love of power, money or possessions, and perhaps this is why the most passionate — or at least the loudest — aspiration in this final stage of Humanity’s ‘extractivist disease’ might be expressed by the words: “The individual with the most toys wins!” Did this collapsed shell of passion that’s feeding the climate-change and species extinction crises consuming our planet today come about in a McLuhanesque way? Because it can be argued convincingly that the love of material things, and the passion for personal power, have been gaining in ecocidal virulence since fifty-thousand years of verbal traditions steadily unraveled in the confusion of broader, and so-less-personal, media.
But explaining our present circumstances in terms of history, or even mapping the road from here in socioeconomic details, is not the object of this exercise. Our quest will concern itself only with the engagement, and with the transposition, of passion itself.
If we are going to make this transformation, if Love of Nature really has the power to save us, then I suggest we must start in the only way we can: from where we are. We must stand in the most passionate place, even if it’s a narrow place, that we can imagine, and then we must take a journey from here: a journey outward, until we can finally see the vast cultural, biological, and cosmic expanses from whence we came. For only then can we let go of our self-serving assumptions. Only from this vantage point can we know what Nature is, who we truly are, and where we are going.
Such a Rising (or Love Lets Go)
Such a rising of sensation
To the presence of a woman
In the silence.
Such a blossoming of stories
For the body to tell.
Image, scent, movement,
Oh what if?
From a very little distance.
It doesn’t take much, if any distance
But I am connected by distance,
By this reverential framing
Of a person,
In another story, place, relationship.
Silence makes room,
And love lets go.