We become the things we care for, that we invest our time in, that we love because love is an act of expansion, an opening, a reaching toward. When we love, whether plant, person, place, etc, we extend ourselves to that object, becoming more than our bodies. Our concepts of our self & our awareness grow, and we merge or connect with that object of love. In some ways we have now become that object, or in sensing our connection with it, we have a tendency to have more empathy (or we feel what they feel more easily) with the beloved.
But what of a culture whose bottom line necessity has been made up to be survival through greed, overwork, one-up-manship & racing one another to an ethereal finish line time and time again? The finish line of monetary gain at all costs- even over the health of ourselves & our ecosystems? Cultural champions can be holistically strong, but they can also be way out of balance: never resting, the disease of over-work constantly taking hold; raised stress levels leading to a myriad of health conditions; a perpetual valuing of doing over being. And the earth, our larger body, in the scheme of a capitalistic, racing economy where one has to grab & take before the other is able to in order to get the share, is largely leaving our literal playing field of the ground we walk on dreadfully raped & pillaged, polluted and overlooked. In a word, the playing field is disrespected. The playing field is seen as a backdrop and as the culture’s main Father God says, The earth is here to serve you, it is seen as an eternal, limitless bank account where everyone has the bank number- it’s just a matter of who gets there first.
But the earth is not a limitless, eternally giving bank account for everyone to take from. The earth is a system, a living organism, a dynamic combination of finite and infinite resources playing together much in the same way our body is a largely mysterious system of interchanges amazingly keeping a healthy equilibrium. The earth is abundant, yes! But she is also kind of like your mother, who will give you everything, but not if you disrespect her, take her diamond and gold jewelry, cut off her hair, blow smoke in her face, inject her with dangerous toxins, spill harmful substances into her mouth and other orifices, and when you say you’ll take her for a massage, lace her with life-sapping chemicals leaving her body in a state of depletion & warfare. She is abundant & giving, our Great Mother, yet we must learn to work with her instead of treating her like some backdrop wishing tree that has no relationship to us beyond what we can get from her.
So we begin again to care, to see, to behave in relationship with, to love, adore, & worship, even, this being on whom we live and breathe and have our being. Take my body broken for you, eat it in remembrance of me, the Christ says, and I wonder- Isn’t this verse more apt in relationship with our Primordial constant mother, the earth? Instead of setting our spirituality on an ethereal God of total spirit who will nourish our spirit but not our body, what if we integrate and ground our spiritual leanings? The verse can then take on a literal meaning wherein our Great Mother says to us: take my body broken for you, eat it in remembrance of me. And, if every time we eat, plant a garden, & break bread, we see it as such a spiritual, sacred sacrifice she has made for us, giving us of her literal body so that we can continue to live. In this way she is our sustenance. Which of you can live without being a part of her in this way? Yet in remembrance, connection & union with our mother – how could we treat her with such sacrilege? With such ultimate disrespect?
I don’t believe we could. But we have fostered and nurtured religions and economic and political systems where the ones who make it to the finish line, chunk of mother’s flesh in hand first, make it to the bank & so continue to contaminate and control. Wherein the god-figure is a male and tells us the earth has nothing to do with us beyond being something we subjugate and have dominion over.
Yet yesterday I planted the remaining holy basil plants into the garden and looked at the last one, a runt very small in size compared to the rest of the seedlings so far and I gave it a special place. I planted this little one in a container that I would take up to my room and I sang to the plant in worship as is the centuries old tradition in India. As I did I felt my heart & my being extend to include this plant in my circle of care. I felt myself expand in adoration to this little runt who through my love and the vitality in its DNA will grow to be big & strong, cared for and nurtured and will therefore bless me in turn with its medicine, its presence, its sweet juicy leaves. For you see, the earth & her beings are inherently giving. The Great Mother, like most of our own mothers, wants to give us every good thing. But first we must treat her with respect and see her for the gift she is. Let us sing along in adoration with this “Ave” as written by Diane Di Prima,
you are the hills, the shape and color of mesa
you are the tent, the lodge of skins, the Hogan
the buffalo robes, the quilt, the knitted afghan
you are the cauldron and the evening star
you rise over the sea, you ride the dark
I move within you, light the evening fire
I dip my hand in you and eat your flesh
you are my mirror image and my sister
you disappear like smoke on mist hills
you lead me thru dream forest on horseback
large gypsy mother, I lean my head on your back
I am you
and I must become you
I have seen you
and I must become you
I am always you
I must become you
For when we become something, when we extend ourselves out to see ourselves as connected or not-that-different than something, we are not apt to treat it any differently than we would want to be treated. And over time this leads to great care & a deep, abiding cherishing.