Recapturing the wonder of Earth
Last month, this column referred to Protestant theologian Walter Brueggemann’s expression, “the colonized imagination.” This month, in the wake of Earth Day last Sunday, I would like to reflect with you about how this idea might apply to our relationship with the Earth.
The name of the film escapes me right now, but a few years ago there was a movie that had this scene in it: A mother and her daughter, about 10, are in their house. The mother is doing chores, straightening up; the daughter is absorbed on her computer. The mother says to the daughter, “What would you think of going outside for a while?” The daughter, without looking up, shrugs her shoulders and says, “What’s outside?” End of discussion.
This cameo illustrates how our imagination has become colonized. The term “colonized” means that an impostor power has come to take bogus control of a territory not its own. Over time, the colonized may adapt to the occupier to such an extent that the two merge into one new culture.
When we apply “colonized imagination” to the film cameo, what we see is that the little girl’s world, her territory, has been taken over by an occupying power known as “indoors.” She has become so accustomed to being indoors that she sees no point in going outside. Everything that engages her interest is indoors.
Most of us, including myself, spend most of our time indoors. We live, work, study, travel (on a plane, etc.), eat out, find much of our entertainment (TV, computers, theaters), visit friends, talk on the phone, make investments, shop, exercise — all indoors. We go outdoors to mow the lawn, take out the trash, do necessary chores like weeding the garden, etc. When we are outdoors, it’s often just to walk from our cars in the parking lot to the food store or mall. Even then, the ground under our feet is paved. (Yes, I realize that we hike and garden, too.)
This March, Linda and I had the privilege of spending 28 days in the Mojave Desert in California. Some of those days, we could walk barefoot in the sand. Some nights, we had Fire Ceremonies under the stars. At first, it all sort of went against my grain. Now, though, I am thirsting for such experiences. Even though much of my life still keeps me pinned indoors, I long to be outside. This is new.
What happened is this. It’s hard to put into words. We became colonized as a result of civilization creep. We are becoming uncolonized by an emerging return to love of the Earth as our mother, Mother Earth. The important word here is “love.” This is more than just liking to be outside. It’s a hungry affection for the one the shamans call “Pachamama,” Mother Earth. It’s about how we feel toward Mother Earth, how much time we spend with her, how much we acknowledge her role as provider of all things in our lives, how often we pause to thank her, how often we step back to see her magnificence, how much we realize how important she is to us. It’s a kind of spiritual awakening to see what has been all around us all along and to experience it anew.
It touches the soul with the energy of humanity before technology, industrialism and the printing press took over our imaginations. Much good there, yes, but it is time to recapture also the sheer wonder and the spiritual bond that came before. Let’s do this before it’s too late.