Leadership Blog Part 20: Earth's Natural Limits

In this place we call home, do we always try to find the life within it – our ecology of place?  The poet Mary Oliver once said, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.”  I have found that to listen is to learn, to pay attention is to be present within our most lively of voices, with our eyes looking toward greater measures of trustworthiness – understanding what is sacred to all people within our environment.  This purposeful focus opens a path to ecocentrism, evoking a wind-shift of guiding ideas, and rebalancing our relationship with the earth. 

As humans what we need now is to show our faith in a greater connection to all life.  Henry David Thoreau noted, “In wildness there is a divine energy that flows inward and at some future moment flows outward.”  This is also basic to our human nature as we grow.  In the last few years, we have all seen the devastating effects of earth’s natural limits.  Climate shifts, catastrophic weather events, and the continued loss of biodiversity are just some of the happenings that are subject to mass environmental disruption.  On planet earth, humans nurture and torture. When we pay attention to the health of family, friends and others that are loved, and we engage with a fierce commitment in the health of our planet earth, then the inner journey manifests outward.

However, when we see diminishment in all things, want to do harm to everything around us, we have lost kinship with both other humans and our natural surroundings.  This ecological dilemma may reflect a deeper spiritual crisis.  For these individuals, what is needed is not only an evolution of the heart but a detachment from their own ideas, their own perceptions.  Perception is reality and in this frame of mind they are unable to understand someone else’s thinking.  Most of us I believe know not to be adversarial to others, not to react based on “triggers” that come from our perceptions, and our inborn perspectives.  What can bring us all back to our common ground is our love of family and the earth where we can create a space for openness, for possibility, and where we again are drawn into engagement and awe.

Amy Tan, in her essay “The Life Within,” written for Earth Day at 50, says, “Imagination is where compassion grows.”  In an article by Lisa Wells, written for Orion magazine, titled “Catch Me, I’m Calling” she states, “Embodied exchange, whether with humans or with the greater than human world, is not only essential to our art and health as social beings; it is the very foundation from which we express our beings.”  Earth’s natural limits are dependent on our connections to all that is living.  Knowing the golden thread, having an attraction to wildness and its stewardship, building bridges of interest across human generations that see imaginative care as a bottomless fountain of hope – this is paramount.  To be an enlightened Anthropocene, to embrace this pathway with greater compassion, and to live our future’s narrative with open possibilities as we form and reform our human-earth relationships, this is how we expand our understanding of home.

Ron Deverman

NAEP Fellow

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