Listening to the Land

October 14, 2008 | Leave a Comment |

When was the last time you were truly inspired something you read?
When was the last time you found inspiration for you work when you weren’t working?

You know those times when you stumble on a book suddenly that has such a sympathetic viewpoint to your own that you instantly pick it up and devour it? It happened to me yesterday. In a coffee shop, on a much needed day off, I found one – Listening to the Land.  (Coincidence, Synchronicity, or Sympathetic Vibration? This summer I wrote a short statement called The World is Speaking. Read my Statements here.) Listening to the Land is a very interesting collection of interviews with Derrick Jensen. “In this far-ranging and heartening collection Derrick Jensen gathers conversations with environmentalists, theologians, Native Americans, psychologists, and feminists, engaging some of our best minds in an exploration of more peaceful ways to live on Earth.” What drew me in instantly was Terry Tempest Williams’ discussion of the erotic in reference to environment. Here are some excerpts.

“Erotic is what those deep relationships are and can be that engage the whole body – our heart, our mind, our spirit, our flesh. It is that moment of being exquisitely present.
It does not speak well for us as a people that we even have to make the distinction between what is erotic and what is not, because an erotic connection is a life-engaged, making love to the world that I think comes very naturally.
Eroticism, being in relation, calls the inner life into play. No longer numb, we feel the magnetic pull of our bodies toward something stronger, more vital than simply ourselves. Arousal becomes a dance with longing. We form a secret partnership with possibility …
Each person has their own intimate connection to the erotic, to the sacred, to that moment. Once again, it’s that notion of surrendering to something greater than ourselves.
And of course, the erotic is about love, our deep hunger for communion, where issues of restraint and yearning, engagement and desire enter us.
When I think about the moments in my life when I have felt engaged, it’s always about love …
Erotic moments. Love. And I believe it is a two-way love, acts of reciprocity, where both parties involved are giving and receiving. When love is only one-way, eventually it becomes pornographic, a body that is used, rather than a body that is shared.
Without feeling. Perhaps these tow words are the key, the only way we can begin to turn our understanding toward our abuse of each other and our abuse of the land. Could it be that what we fear most is our capacity to feel, and so we annihilate symbolically and physically that which is beautiful and tender, anything that dares us to consider our creative selves? The erotic world is silenced, reduced to a collection of objects we can curate and control, be it a vase, a woman, or wilderness. Our lives become a pice in the puzzle of pornography as we “go through the motions” of daily intercourse without any engagement of the soul. If I am honest, one reason the erotic is so intriguing to me is because in the culture I was raised in eroticism is the ultimate taboo. It isn’t your body that is valued’ it is your should. Our souls could always be saved in spirit of our bodies. It’s not this world that counts; it’s the hereafter.
Why is that? What are we afraid of? That’s the question. I keep asking myself. What is our culture afraid of? Why are we so afraid of the body?
I believe our most poignant lessons come through the body, the skin, the cells, or DNA. It’s where our ancestral memory is. It’s where the future will be changed. And what we take in we ultimately give away. If we stop the world form penetrating us, what does that mean? The body allows us to be human. It is through the body we feel the world, both its pain and its beauty…
It may be that our task now, as it has always been, is to listen. Simply that. If we really listen, the land will tell us what it wants, and tell us how we can live more responsively …
The environmental movement right now is not listening. We are engaged in a rhetoric as strong and as aggressive as the so-called opposition. I would love to see the whole notion of opposition dissolved, so there’s no longer this shadow dance between “us” and “them”. I would love for us to listen to one another and try to say, “What do we want as members of a community?” …
When we’re in a space of oppression, we ultimately destroy that which we love. We ear that which we desire most …
To engage in the erotics of place means to engage in time …
If we are always busy, if we create an atmosphere of busyness around us, we dont’ have to penetrate anything in depth. We live on surfaces. We don’t have time with people, listen , see them for who they are, relationships develop, accountability arrives and stereotypes shatter …
It’s almost as though our personal pain is so intolerable that if we destroy everything that is beautiful around us, we will no longer have a mirror to look at, to remind us of our impoverishment …
I’ve been bearing witness to beauty, beauty that strikes a chord so deep you can’t stop the tears from flowing …
Bearing witness to both the beauty and the pain of our world is a task I want to be part of. As a writer, this is my work. By bearing witness, the story that is told can provide a healing ground. Through the art of language, the art of story, alchemy can occur.”

My advice? Take a break. And find inspiration.


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