It’s a glorious day here in beautiful Sedona, Arizona, one of the first warm ones, and part of me is wondering what the heck I’m doing inside at my computer writing this post. I should be out hiking barefoot, feeling the earth under my feet!
This is the time when we all wake up with the earth, whether we feel it or not. It’s time to tune in to what Dylan Thomas called, “…the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”
I think it’s appropriate, on this earth day, to look at our relationship with the earth and the natural world. Inidigenous people all over the world have always regarded the earth as a source of nourishment — not just of our bodies, but of our spirits and our souls as well.
So, how aware are we of the rhythms and cycles of the earth, and their effect on us? The different angle of the sun’s light filtering through our windows as the world turns on its axis? The change in temperature, the different sounds as birds and other animals change their behavior with the seasons?
My take on this is that this part of being awake — or part of our mindfulness practice, if you want to put it more formally. And, I also believe that this has great implications for the earth itself. The more aware we are of our natural world, its effect on us, and our effect on it, the harder it is do do things that are environmentally harmful. It just doesn’t feel right…
There are a number of factors in the way we currently live that make it challenging for us to be in tune with the earth. The increasing technological sophistication we have (literally) at fingertips tends to keep us at a physical distance from nature. The increasing busyness of our lives means that it’s harder to take time to simply “be” in nature. And the increasing urbanization of the world’s population means that most of us are more out of touch with the earth than at any other time in our history.
There have been times when I’ve been so consumed with my thoughts, while driving around Sedona, that I will realize that I’m not even seeing the dramatic red rock country I’m driving through. This is akin to meditating, and realizing that one is lost in thought.
The other problem is that our understanding of the challenges facing the earth is not visceral enough — it’s too intellectual. Bless Al Gore for his slide show, and for the film, and, it could have been a lot more emotionally arresting, to say the least.
Photographic Artist Chris Jordan turns the statistics of consumerism into palpable (and powerful) images in his photo series. Jordan’s latest project, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait, seeks to make tangible statistics about our country’s consumption that involve such large numbers that they are difficult to fully fathom on the page. “Our minds are just not wired to be ableto really comprehend and make meaning of, and feel, numbers that are that huge,” Jordan explains. “I think there’s this worldwide cultural craving for a more sensible approach to our consumption.”
For example, in “Running the Numbers,” Jordan recreates George Seurat’s famous painting “Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte” using 106,000 aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds. He’s got beautiful images of things like plastic bags, plastic bottles and batteries, all arranged in visually appealing ways, and masterfully shot.
It’s jaw-dropping stuff (go to http://www.chrisjordan.com/) and makes the staggering amount of waste we generate more “real” to us.
So, whatever your “schedule” today, and whatever the weather’s doing where you are, I encourage you to go outside, find a patch of earth that isn’t paved over, take off your shoes, and connect with your mother. If you think prayer makes a difference, say a prayer for the health of the earth, and for those of us who are misguidedly trashing her. I’ll join you…