Most of us do not have a conscious relationship with our Planet Earth. That is, an intentional and operative attitude that our earth is a living organism, which interacts with us, as we with it. What most of us do have are some relatively inconsequential facts about our earth. We know its circumference, its speed of rotation, position in our planetary chain, etc., etc. We shortsightedly believe that if we know the measurement of a thing we also know its essence. The essence of a thing must however be discovered. That means that some type of relative experience is gained that demonstrates a thing’s value and essence. When something appears so simple or is very familiar to us, like our earth, we say, “I know about Earth! Why shouldn’t I? I live with it everyday,” but if you have not discovered its value and essence, its true meaning escapes you.
To us our earth is a given quantity, which appears to be forever under our feet. All of our material essentials are provided for by Earth: food, shelter, clothing, plus sundry other items and resources. We pick and consume all earth’s fruits with little regard, respect or gratitude. We are lulled by the great harmony and blending of Earth’s essence with our needs, like a small child feeding, then basking in the security of its loving mother’s arms. All parts of the Earth incessantly work towards our benefit. The wind sow the seeds; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapors to the fields, the field grows the plants; the plants feed the animals, all to our ultimate enrichment. There is a saying that one who truly appreciates his or her life is as rare as finding dirt on one’s fingernail, in equal measure, it is rare to find one who truly appreciates our earth.
Our earth is not a multiple, mechanical mass of inorganic and organic elements, compounds and composites. It is a complete living organism, and subject to the same qualities and processes which sustain us and the entire cosmos. Birth, growth, death, decay- the same processes that effect us effect Earth. The most ostensive difference between us and Earth is the duration of our respective life cycles. Our life cycle is usually limited to under 100 years, whereas, the life cycle of Earth encompasses billions and billions of years. Consequently, Earth appears to us as immutable. The changes that do occur with Earth are not readily sensually noticed by us. In order find the evolved history of Earth we must excavate. Each strata and substrata reveals the past life of Earth. The transition of only one phase of Earth’s living process is relatively speaking, laboriously slow, requiring billions of years. For instance, we reach puberty within 14 years. The Earth reached puberty billions of years ago.
Regardless of the enormous range of Earth’s life cycle, it is alive. The Earth is continuously renewing its self. It regenerates and maintains its basic living elements just as our bodies continuously regenerate and maintain our cells. The fiery core of Earth fuses molten basic elements, then spews them out to cool, condense, and mingle with other elements, such as water and air, to create and maintain enormous continents of land upon which all manner of organisms can develop and sustain their lives. Certainly the above description of Earth’s living process is highly simplified, but it should provide some idea and feeling for the living essence of our Earth.
Our Earth, like a good mother, provides the basic needs for all its inhabitants. This kind of mutual co-existence is natural in Nature. For instance, within our bodies are vast armies of micro-organisms, stimulating, digesting, discharging, absorbing, and signaling. We host these various organisms under an accord of mutual benefit. We are similarly related to Earth, only the roles are reversed. We are the parasites, and Earth is our host. There is another difference of essential importance, we can act from a position of deliberation and choice, whereas the micro-organisms act instinctively. We are, therefore, capable of acting with intent, for mutual benefit or for exclusive self-benefit. We can choose to abuse our host Earth out of selfish motives, becoming a cancer, devastating Earth and ultimately ourselves or to act with mutual benefit, bringing balance and harmony to both Earth and ourselves. Gandhi is quoted as saying, “There is enough for every one’s need, but not for every one’s greed.”
The American Indians have a wonderful, spiritual attitude towards Earth. They believe that all things are possessed with a spirit. A vital life spirit, common, and infused within all things. To the Indian, then all things are spiritually related. This relationship provides the bases for their expression of respect towards all things. This all encompassing, spiritual attitude towards all living things is not exclusive to American Indians. For example, in Japan, there is a small bridge called, Hansheko-Keyo, which means, “Half-Dipper Bridge.” This bridge got its name from a certain practice of Dogen-Zenji, a thirteenth century Zen Master. Whenever Dogen-Zenji dipped water from the river running under the bridge, he used only a half dipper full to dink and returned what ever remained back into the river. This practice of his wasn’t based on any idea of efficiency or economy. He was expressing respect for the river water. Certainly, this kind of practice is beyond most of our thinking, but in truth it expresses our true nature. This kind of universal attitude of respect is a natural consequence arising out of our intuitive feelings of beauty and unity.
We are not the central point of life on our Planet Earth. The same force that moves us moves our Earth. Our attitude towards Earth should originate from the shared experience of this life force. Earth in all its modes should be respected and cared for with the same affection and care we give to ourselves.
I leave you to ponder the remarks from E. B. White, an American essayist, “I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for its own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance of survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of skeptically and dictatorially.”