There is beauty.
What does it mean that so much of what I’ve done or eaten or used or been involved with is entangled with this machine called civilization, that has spiraled out from the first plowed field and imprisoned animal out and out to the point that people have cut down most of the world’s forests, poisoned almost everything in the ocean, killed off almost all of the animals, and imprisoned each other in boxes of metal and plastic and concrete, away from all of the other living ones? What does it mean?
There is still beauty. And we haven’t got all that much time.
I know what I find beautiful, what I find worth living and working and fighting for. What I adore and marvel at. My feet are on the ground, my hands in the soil, cold water on my skin, wind on my face, redwood needles in my hair, flowers in my nose, birdsong in my ears, berries on my tongue, sunshine dancing in my eyes, beloved people in my heart.
And what I find beautiful is being destroyed and desecrated and killed. Has been for a long time, and it’s speeding up. It is heartbreaking.
No, solar panels and batteries and all that aren’t going to undo this. There are a lot of other cultures who have lived in a healthy way on the earth for tens of thousands of years, what we might call sustainable, and what I would probably call beautiful, and they weren’t as isolated from the real world as modern civilized folk. They had to feel the world. If we could go back there, I would. If any future culture is to one day live in some kind of sustainable and thoroughly beautiful way with the living earth, it will probably look a lot more like that. No plastic. No computers. People will die of things that people around us aren’t dying of now. And people probably won't be nearly as sick and depressed as so many are now. And people will know each other more and know the land they live with more and know the plants and animals they eat, more than we do. And maybe some hundreds of thousands of years will pass and some of the surviving forests will mature again. My spirit takes some delight in this possibility and then I go back to admiring the tanoaks I’m sitting under and their beautiful lichens and mosses, stiff and biding their time for the rain to come, and the sunshine reflected off the creek dancing on their leaves. I’m writing so that if you wonder “well what’s Phil think about all this craziness these days” you might end up looking out at a tree or taking a deep breath or smiling. Soon I’ll go back to picking strawberries. Really, I’ve mostly been speechless before beauty and mystery for the past year. There’s much I’ve wanted to say but words are difficult to come by, and the soil and air and water always call. If you want to know some of the struggles in the world that I care about and how to help, my dear friend makes this excellent podcast called For The Wild that goes in depth on it, and my heart and opinion is mostly aligned with hers. She’s so good at talking about these things that I don’t have to. :)
So with all this about how we are destroying everything I love, I don’t mean to lay more guilt on you. We all have some share of guilt in what’s been done and some part in what is being done, and we were definitely coerced into much of it, probably from very young. Yes we have some guilt. And more pressing, we have some freedom. Some of us more than others, but we all have some freedom. Name what you love, name who you love, keep this in your mind. Name the beautiful. Name it and keep it in your mind, and in front of your eyes when you can. Name it and live and work and fight for it, and adore and marvel at it. Everything dies. Feel it. Feel it. Slow down. Feel it. We haven’t got all that much time.
I am too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
To make each hour holy
I am too small in the world, yet not small enough
To be simply in your presence like a thing, just as it is
I want to know my own will, and to move with it
And I want in the hushed moments, when the nameless draws near
To be among the wise ones or else alone
I want to mirror your immensity
I want never to be too weak or too old
To bear the heavy lurching image of you
I want to unfold
Let no place in me hold itself closed
For where I am closed, I am false
I want to stay clear in your sight
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken
I want to free what waits within me
So that what no one has dared to wish for
May for once spring clear without my contriving
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me
But this is what I need to say
May what I do flow from me like a river
No forcing and no holding back
The way it is with children
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents
These deepening tides moving out and returning
I will sing you as no one ever has
Streaming through widening channels
Into the open sea.