This is the second 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. Please use the links at the top of the page to read the earlier ‘steps’.
Tues. June 12/07 ‘Cookie Time’ with Daniel
Feeling grumpy today.
The dog is the only one
Who’ll listen to me.
He knows I feed him
It’s not just the loyalty,
But the lawlessness of it
That we love
In a dog.
In the last post I suggested, as a remedy for the disease of extractivism which increasingly threatens Life on Earth, that we might consider the transformational power of a more “personal” love of Nature, and I asked whether or not it is possible to apply personal love to Natural ‘systems’. Beginning with our love for family and friends, or even with the “passion” we associate with sexual and romantic love, I offered to take the reader on a journey “outwards”. So let’s take the next step.
I know that some readers might feel closer to cats than dogs; I’m a dog person myself, but you can substitute any human or non-human you are now or once were ‘attached’ to during the following exercise. First, confining ourselves for the moment to human love, we might look more closely at the sexual overtones of passion, because here it is especially obvious that we are witnessing a bodily function. But I now invite you to explore the possibility that the body is the architecture, and our awareness of the body is the engine, for love in all its categories and for love of all discrete beings — for each is an ‘other’ to be included in your ‘self’, and this is what makes the love ‘personal’. This is very important for understanding the point of view I am putting forward in this discussion, because involvement of the body is what’s supposed to distinguish personal love from a purely Platonic ‘love of ideas’. Personal love, unlike Idealism, does not distance us from the ‘objects’ of passion. (With a little further introspection we might come to see that ‘ideals’ are, in a phenomenological understanding, the only ‘true objects’. Being the abstraction of direct experience, our ideas can only impart ‘objectivity’ to these experiences, and therefore the body is the ‘foundation’ of all passion. But that’s another discussion.)
In my case, the ‘other’ is a fuzzy Chihuahua with the metaphorical heart to jump off the couch and run barking to the door even when his actual old heart had him wheezing for breath before he got there. But, observe this in yourself also when you call up a memory of your own pet or loved one: it’s in my back that stooped to picked him up, and it’s in my arms that folded to hold his warm wiggling body, and it’s in my fingers that tingled while stroking his brown curly hair, that I still feel my love for him. He’s been gone for five years now, and I still see the fraternity and excitement (“Let’s confront this intruder boss! I’ll lead the charge!”) in his glistening brown eyes even today. But I ‘see’ this with the feeling of openness that swells behind and around my own eyes. My love for Daniel demands the engagement of my whole body.
The following is one of the first poems I ever attempted. It was in the spring of 1974, when the “love of Nature”, of the day and of the moment, was not it-self the poem. Not a string of words at all. (Though you see, I had a love affair with rhyme too.) Words can be captured on paper or in the repetitions of song and poetry, but the movements of love arise and pass away; we say they are “impermanent”. In this love’s arising, it was a condition of my whole body. And the ‘closeness’ of the engagement was nerve synapse to leaf stoma, photoreceptor to photon, molecule to molecule .
LITTLE RIVERS (For Anita)
Snow is melting in little rivers.
Dancing crystal sparkles and skitters
Over water nymphs and mud sleepers
Releasing anew primaeval quivers.
Buds are unfolding with little shivers
Between sun-shot arrows from icy quivers
Darting and bursting in Time’s first colours
Amid junco-strung jewelry of thrills and twitters.
So cast off your treasures from one-time-givers!
Gold isn’t all that glitters!
And gold, once gone, is gone forever
While snow is melting in little rivers.
Anita is my sister-in-law. She passed me coming down the trail that morning, as I was walking up it. The experience I speak of here cannot be separated from the experience of sharing. They are one and the same if deep awareness is a bodily ‘opening’.