This dewdrop world
It may be a dewdrop
And yet, and yet— Issa
It is said we are made of stardust. Perhaps that’s where accomplished meditators return. The rest of us may more easily return to what we’re made of by contemplating the first lifeform that emerged: the Archetype, which literally means “the first form.” It turned out that the first form was a seed. From that seed—the universal unicellular common ancestor—sprouted the Tree of Life some 3.8 billion years ago.
O, and it started to branch. Branching limbs upon limbs, thinning out to the tips of numberless twigs and leaves and flowers. One word we now have for this panorama is biodiversity. But we might more palpably take in the view from the perspective of where we are standing: at the tip of a flowering twig, gazing over the mystery, and letting ourselves be bathed inside the gaze of the whole thing looking back at us.
Now discern that a notion arose and prevailed—a fantasy of cosmic proportions—that all the branching limbs and twigs, all the leaves and the flowers, exist for humans to use or torch or eat or domesticate or kill or exploit. In a word, to colonize. So that gradually and swiftly, and finally over the entire crown of the Tree’s unfolding, the leaves and flowers have fallen and dwindled, and drought has overtaken large portions of the Tree’s surface, and an insidious loss of vitality is creeping across the whole. The layer of the Tree of Life on which we humans blossomed is fraying and browned, and exhibits the spreading blight of monotone, monoculture, anthroponature—everywhere. Some like to call it the Anthropocene.
This is our overarching predicament; scientists call it the declining ecological baseline. Afflicted and distracted by endless stories about His Own Image, however, anthropos does not perceive the deterioration. Just like the proverbial immersed frog does not perceive the water’s rising temperature (which is cranking up swiftly), because the temperature is rising by one unremarkable increment at a time.
Does not perceive the vanishing migrations, frogs and all amphibians, the silent empty seas, the bones of the gardens of corals, the rivers of fish no more, the gouged continental shelves and seamounts, the lost grasslands, groves, and wetlands—the former bounty of Life so endless that each day held first contacts and unexpected experiences. Does not see a world saturated by forms of awareness looking at us—apparently once with admiration and genuine curiosity and an inclination to interact. Indigenous author Linda Hogan writes of native stories recounting that wild animals once loved to hear our songs. Then, we knew to sing of them and for them, and to recognize the gifts held by each limb, branch, twig, leaf and flower of the Tree of Life. A fleeting gift no matter what: A cosmic transient screenshot of countless self-aware and self-energizing pixels, a steadfast mystery worthy of remembrance in our daily lives inside the Tree of Life.
Once the animals loved to hear us sing. Now they fear us, and flee and hide. And the “mono-sphere” of the supreme lifeform, the Exceptional, the one destined to expand his enterprise by colonizing space, the mono-sphere of a petty tyrant with delusions of grandeur, is spreading.
There is no crown canopy on Mars. No Martians who might like to hear us sing. No soil. There’s a barren, crumbly, rocky, cold, dusty-red regolith to land some very unsustainable boots on. The dreams of Elon Musk do not so much as shimmer over this gorgeous rock, with all its intrinsic dignity and red-rock resoluteness. This orb stares down the dominant culture’s Star Trek dreams—dreams “gone on holiday” to paraphrase a philosopher. Dreams that deliriously confound a human-supremacist reverie with reality.
Some years ago, Bill McKibben wrote that ours is “a special moment in history.” He immediately had to admit that every moment in history has seemed special for the people living through it. Still, he went on to insist that, No, this really is a special moment in history. He’s absolutely correct, there’s never been such a moment—a moment that we do not seize at our peril. It is not the moment we might awaken and “save the planet.” It is the moment we might awaken and see it: from the perspective of a twig’s flowering tip beholding the living canopy within which we are held, along with all the precious others also beholding it and held by it. What is there not to love and not to celebrate?
Do not lose heart humanity. This is a time of revelation. We get to see ourselves as the ephemeral tip of a flowering twig, sooner or later breakable over the course of time. And yet, for reasons that remain obscure (at least to me), who we are while we exist seems to matter. We can never shake the nagging certainty that who we are while we exist matters despite eternity’s whiteout. So let’s rise in ten thousand ways in lived remembrance that we are Earthlings among Earthlings transiting in the Tree of Life. Let’s collect as human communities around good and clean food hubs, near pure waters, and love all beings, wild and domestic, the same. Remembering to be the seed from which a new humanity might spring.
We cannot let the agrochemical industry, Big Pharma, the extraction machine, and the military-industrial complex—all cozied up in the lap of the State—win the day. If they win, everyone (including the winners) will suffer devastating loss. The day has to be ours. Because it matters. We have songs to sing and songs to hear.
Read ‘Don’t lose heart’, by Eileen Crist, on the #EarthTongues blogTweet
Hogan L (2020). The Radiant Lives of Animals. Beacon Press.
McKibben B (1998). “A Special Moment in History.” The Atlantic, May.