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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Dream Garden

In speaking about consciousness, many experts from different fields agree that there is a causal realm or state of being in which all duality falls away and everything is one thing. It is an ineffable which we have labeled various names; Jung might call it the collective unconscious, a Buddhist might say it’s oneness, esoterics call it the ether. We can speak about this ‘other’ place because of the existence of our current place, the reality in which we all live. This grossly complex, physical reality contrasts that oneness, or non-physical reality. These places of being appear to exist side by side and only during certain times in life can a person catch a glimpse of what is out there. One is death, many believe that upon dying our ‘me-ness’ is sent into the causal realm. We actually have case studies of people who have been pronounced dead only to come back and tell stories about seeing loved ones or overhearing the doctor, even though their brain wasn’t processing signals from their ears. My mother had a ‘near-death’ experience when she was younger that she would struggle to explain without using the word God.

Another phenomenon that seems extraordinarily connected to that causal realm is dreams. Like intense feedback loops (for all you neuroscientists) each night we ‘check in’ with the causal or eternal. Through these nightly experiences we exchange information; we solve problems, work through emotions, get glimpses of bigger pictures, talk to people who are unreachable in this reality, we can even see through time or live out different timelines. Dreams are like pockets where this realm and that realm can talk through picture, sound and sensation. Because we are limited to perceiving from this physical reality, yet we are more than this physical reality…that which is greater than us speaks to us through metaphor. I want to try to draw a metaphor that made sense to me once in a dream.

“Nature, in all its grandeur” – that’s a saying you hear a lot. Why? Because humans have always viewed nature as more powerful than us, grander, more intricate and more awesome. It’s beyond our comprehension and beyond our capability to control. Nature is more than the sum of its parts much like the causal realm. It truly IS all those things, especially when you consider space and how little we really know about who we are. So if Nature can be paralleled with the causal realm in this metaphor than surely civilization would be paralleled with the gross and mechanical physical realm. Like the two realities, civilization and nature seem to exist as opposites…side my side but underneath that surface image lies a complex and inseparable relationship.

A cabin in the woods, like an island of humanity lost in a causal sea.
Is the metaphor functional? Well, on certain levels. Civilization has learned everything it knows from Nature just as physicality undoubtedly arose from a non-physical thought. Gardens and farms provide the conversation through which civilization learns. A garden is a dream so to speak. A conversation in which you can work out problems and learn to cultivate the fruits that Nature has to offer. It offers much more than just calories and nutrients…it offers a wisdom and a deepening of what I heard Carolyn Steel (author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives) call “the most important relationship humans have,” and it is certainly the most fundamental: their relationship with Nature. It is interesting, then, that we tend to deemphasize the importance of farms and gardens to our societies in much the same way that we tend to deemphasize the importance of dreams to our individual wellbeing.

We are fearful animals, and the majority of fear stems from a lack of knowing. What we don’t know…we don’t trust and what we don’t trust we don’t value.  The author mentioned above, Carolyn Steel, gave a TED talk in 2009 in which she speaks to how much people don’t trust and therefore, don’t value their food. We don’t smell food anymore to see if it’s good, we don’t trust it and so we ‘play it safe’ and throw it away. We go through immense efforts to protect ourselves against the harsh natural world; bigger houses, thicker walls, better furnaces. To me, this raised a psychological red flag…is our relationship with Nature so damaged that we no longer have trust? Then I laughed, how COULD we have any trust, we’ve barely even met. What I mean is: industry has taken Nature out of agriculture and agriculture out of civilization. Steel draws attention to the fact that once trains became a common mode of transportation, agriculture was no longer geographically bound to the society it was feeding. But, the opposite was true as well, the society that was eating was no longer bound to the land which provided the food. Out of sight, out of mind.

The Green Revolution was another blade which helped to cut the ties of Nature to humanity. After fossil fuel based fertilizers, pesticides and biotechnology made the quality of land and light inconsequential to food production even the farmers became removed from their roots in Nature. Now, there is a handful of small farmers who still work the land clinging to the threads of their ancestors and fighting to swim in an ocean of machine operated, human-less corporations who have dominated agriculture since industry took over. So, in our metaphor, where would these corporations or Green Revolutionists fit in? I imagine them as faceless drones in gas masks who barge into my dream garden demanding to spray every inch with poison to make sure Nature doesn’t try any of her ‘funny business.’

A conversation happening on the White House lawn. It this a sign of re-connection  or just politics?
Reminds me of religious Puritans and zealots, who seem so fearful of their own God that they don’t even trust themselves let alone others who want to worship differently. It seems that holy wars have been fought because of the removal from, and mistrust of, the eternal. Now we are seeing food wars…and at the heart of these battles is a desperate, screaming need to reconnect with what I would agree is our most important relationship. Our relationship with Nature. As the Dalai Llama may say in regards to Holy War, it is the feeling of separation from the eternal that pains us and causes so much suffering. Similarly, it is the feeling of society’s separation from Nature that is creating such a global mess surrounding food, and it is that feeling which pains the heart of food disorder worldwide. 

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