Yesterday a friend read to me from The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos, which triggered some thoughts about connectedness.
Every culture has an origin story, and ours currently is the big bang theory. This works because it does the best job of making predictions we can double check with observations. It also provides the best questions and challenges for further examination. At some point, we’ll learn enough that the Big Bang Theory will be as obsolete as the phlogiston theory.
A big problem with this story, however, is that it disconnects the average person from the universe. The authors of the book say that this disconnection is because the big bang theory reveals our role in the universe to be so insignificant.
In addition to attempting to rationalize the world and establish social norms, older origin myths connected believers in the myth to the world around them. In the case of Coastal Salish cultures, the connection was very personal. The plants and animals were their cousins, and sometimes the very rocks and trees had once been people (the Western red-cedar, for instance, was created in honor of someone who was helpful to everyone).
I think we are also disconnected from place. The archetypal story is someone who goes from their house into their garage, drives alone to work, parks underground and takes the elevator up to their office. If the cafeteria is in the building, they might not experience “the outside” at all. This leads to a loss of sense of place; that is, you don’t inhabit your surroundings because you’re never in contact with them. You’re a resident in a house, but that house could be anywhere — and if you’re upwardly mobile enough, that house will change every ten years or so.
And while at work, this person is disconnected from their labor. If they’re in an office, the work is nothing but pixels, or paper to be filed. If they’re in a factory, the work comes to them on an assembly line and moves along. They might not ever see the entire product. Workers today are not as connected to their work as craftsmen were to their work, or farmers to their fields (for that matter, even monocrop agribusiness farmers are not connected to their fields).
This disconnectedness — from our universe, from our labor, from our place — leads to the spiritual failing that the authors try to address. The spiritual failing is not just turning away from “the church”, because so many of the USian churches are themselves spiritually bereft. I see the spiritual failing as being a disconnection from the numinal world, the transcendent wholly other that both fascinates and compels.
Reestablishing that spiritual connection is an essential step in healing the earth.
Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.