“Life gave us life/ can we not at least
return the favor?
leave something for the rest?
undam the rivers?
let the jungles claim/ our little temples
into their utterly/ wild holiness?
let the leaves at least/ soothe our body
and rub some sweet/ sense into it?”
I wonder when we will arrive…
We’ve been here a few hundred years already (Native Americans aside) and yet very few of us have really set foot on this continent. Jackboots yes. Bare – caressing, vulnerable, sensitive, strong- bare feet, no. We are certainly “on” the continent: we’ve clear-cut it, mountain-top removed it, asphalted it, concreted it, bulldozed it, mined it, terra-formed it, damned it, sucked it dry, shit industrial shit on it, mono-cropped it, and murdered entire species and cultures; all to fill some primal need for our own creature comforts, at the expense of the comfort of all other creatures and that of most of our fellow human beings.
And yet, all of this uncaring, unfeeling greed had left us – not satiated – but rather, fat and hollow, still wanting more and/or something new to fill the yawning void of ourselves. Our semi-arrival on the continent all turned out to be little more than a plastic overlay of a commercially fabricated version of inhumanity. One that lords over and suffocates a profound and great richness of beauty, spirit and abundance. For whatever reason we never tried to become part of a powerful story that could have given us as much meaning, as sustenance. Instead, our heads were filled with the machineries of bigger and faster and of a murderous religio-pious fascism that blinded us to the sanctity and near-perfection that was already here: eastern hardwood forests stretching all the way to the Mississippi filled with trees 20 feet in diameter and hundreds of feet tall; flocks of carrier pigeons that could darken the sky in some sky-reflection of the buffalo herds that would take all of a day to thunder past; streams and rivers so thick with fish and salmon you could almost walk cross.
Let’s be frank: ours is a parasitic civilization. We live by taking what other animals and plants have built: built essentially out of the energy of the sun imbuing the water and the earth with the drive to build simplicities into complexities; to build molecules into natural cathedrals that sway, and swim, and roam and roar. All of this miraculous teaming wrought from the patient passing from generation to generation of strange mixtures of romance, loyalty, insight, courage and creativity, in a great river spanning millions of years. And yet all of this most fantastic of living symphonies, was merely ours we thought, to despoil and burn as we wanted, as if somehow we also weren’t woven from this self-same magic fabric.
The time has come, to sink our roots into this land, and flower forth in a way that gives back in equal measures to the way in which it gives us everything. We have in our hands now the ability to no longer be maggots at the feast of what we ourselves have killed, to no longer be vultures on roadkill (killed by our own reckless driving) rather we could become handmaidens of what life does on this planet: helping to bring forth abundance and variety, protecting and nourishing our fellow sentient beings – for yes they are that – in the cycles of time and space and season which teach so much to all of us. We could go from being a nation whose highways all seem to go to places that look almost identical, to one whose meandering roads when taken have a unique discovery around every bend. We can go from being a nation whose cities – empty and alienating as they mostly are – survive on the swill of being massive slaughterhouses of nature (and too often, too, of the human dreams of their inhabitants) to one whose cities are themselves living beings, generating their own light and heat and food, with the wilderness freely passing through and beyond them the way now they are carved up by so called freeways, and – most of all – a nation whose cities have become residences of being and of the heart, dwelling places that generate meaning, and beauty, and compassion and love.
But because we have blinded ourselves with artificial lights, and deafened ourselves with the pounding mantra of profit above all, we have not been able to see or hear the world’s redeeming message: that of belonging. And out of that deaf/blindness we have conjured every fear imaginable, and now arm ourselves beyond the limits of any sensible form of insanity to fight what is in essence the hallucinations we project upon the other poor fellow who is equally projecting his hallucinations onto us. And all along, while we squander our ill-gotten gains on wars and the rumors of the probabilities of the possibilities of wars, the real enemies – that of the ecocide we are perpetrating through devouring the earth and then belching forth climate change – these real, non-illusory foes are pushing us to the edge of a very deep chasm, and we do not, my friends, have wings. What is worse, we are cheered along and encouraged in our paranoia and gluttony to rush even faster to the edge by the very priests of the religion of profit who have the most to gain, short-term, gated, guarded, patrolled, lethal gain though it be.
The good thing though, about all of this, is that we do still have the power to wake up. The good thing, if it can be called that, about the “main enemies” – ecocide and climate change – is that we have met the real enemy behind both of them, and it turns out to be us, and because we ourselves are the enemy, we have the power to really quite easily turn defeat into victory. We simply must change how we think, and hence, how we act. The choice is clear: we can remain the serfs of the major corporations and of the mega-super-obscenely-disgustingly-uber-rich, or we can surf and share the abundantly given, fairly equitably distributed, energy of the sun. Our shit could be a great effluvia of nourishment, instead of the poisonous river it is now. The air we breathe out could be cleaner than the air we breathe in, our presence, our very breath could be acts of purification, instead of defilement.
If we Americans were ever to really arrive on the continent we now weigh upon so heavily; if we were ever to live in such a way that our living was not the death of other species and of our own kind, too, why then we would have succeeded in a true American Revolution: a revolution of true liberation: our own, and the planet’s, too, and the waves, the winds, and the sunlight of that Great Transition would wash across the Earth in beauty and hope. And then, we would have arrived, home.