Learning from The Land: The Great Turning
I’ve continued to ponder this idea of resilience. The next teacher to emerge is Pronghorn, who has an immense track record of resilience over many millions of winters. This species who looks for all the world like it belongs on the African savannah is, in fact, most closely related to Giraffes and goes back at least 13 million years- prior to the great split of the continents. And runs more that 60 mph on account of needing to outrun long-extinct North American cheetahs.
But, really, I can’t help think about our species. Our resiliency. And what it might take for us to keep our precious life support system vital enough that we might all survive and perhaps might all thrive at some distant point in the future. I have spent time meditating on the Land for clues. And I consider that is the time, as Joanna Macy puts it, of the Great Turning. In our tradition we might relate to it as the great repentance. Repentance in Hebrew: Teshuva- to return. Oh yes! To return, to our senses, to our place, to our responsibility. Repentance in Greek: Metanoia: a transformative change of heart. I can sense it. Can you?
And now I learn that one our species’ most important guides on this whole question, Barry Lopez, died on Christmas day. If you don’t know of him, google his name. Last fall, in one of his last published essays he spoke directly to all of us who care for Creation. Hear now some pieces of his final wisdom for us and our planet.
“…most of the trouble that afflicts human beings in their lives can be traced to the failure to love.
Evidence of the failure to love is everywhere around us. To contemplate what it is to love today brings us up against reefs of darkness and walls of despair. If we are to manage the havoc—ocean acidification, corporate malfeasance and government corruption, endless war—we have to reimagine what it means to live lives that matter, or we will only continue to push on with the unwarranted hope that things will work out. We need to step into a deeper conversation about enchantment and agape and to actively explore a greater capacity to love other humans.
It is more important now to be in love than to be in power…
It is more important to live for the possibilities that lie ahead than to die in despair over what has been lost. Only an ignoramus can imagine now that pollinating insects, migratory birds, and pelagic fish can depart our company and that we will survive because we know how to make tools. Only the misled can insist that heaven awaits the righteous while they watch the fires on Earth consume the only heaven we have ever known.” Hmmm…Love.
I imagine the voice of Prairie picking up on Barry Lopez’s theme: “Yes! Thank the Great Creator Spirit! Many modern humans are getting closer to remembering the wisdom of the first humans here. They knew me as their blood family; their mother sister brother father—as their sustainer, not some resource to be managed. And from her very roots she might continue: “Look, the days lengthen. More light. Signs of hope. Yes signs of a blessed turning in each of you. Yes, of remembering—re-membering all the dismembered and ignored divinity in you. I invite you, no, I must insist that you join me, not just use me. Come sit with me. Be silent. For long moments forget everything you think you know. Wait for my sign, listen for my wisdom, our shared ecological wisdom, the Truth of our sacred ancient kinship. Don’t delay. The Great Turning urgently awaits your participation.” Amen