Every place on Earth is unique. Every cubic meter on Earth shares no more than 30% of the same biology with any other cubic meter on Earth.
To most of us, it all looks pretty much the same one to the next. In our rush to get where we are going, we don’t take the time to notice the subtle differences. We don’t even know the names of most of our fellow beings. The average US teenager can identify hundreds of corporate logos but less than a dozen local tree species. Words in the dictionary reflecting life are being replaced with words reflecting our technologies. Our development, our manner of speech, our buildings, our music, our entertainment, our very culture is subjected to homogenization which washes over and replaces local dialects, local food and most of the unique aspects of local cultures. We seem to be applying the same blandness to every where but it comes from nowhere. We move about from place to place while exporting our sameness overseas through our corporate cultures and economic colonial worldviews. This is a clear pattern or a clean set of tracks we are leaving behind in our wake. A path toward some dystopian or transcendent future that makes what we do in the present almost meaningless except for our own self-interest. The singularity of places have become our sacrificial virgins, offered to appease the gods of a consumer driven culture.
(What makes his world so hard to see clearly is not its strangeness but its usualness). Familiarity can blind you too. ―Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
When traveling in Italy, you come across people all over talk about how their wine, music, olive oil, artists, pasta, etc. is the best. No matter where you go, always the best. Yet each is different. There is a far more palpable sense of place reflected in the uniqueness of the local culture. These are treasured and passed down to future generations. Quality of life often supersedes quantities of consumption. The local culture is a reflection of that place. Until recently human cultures have always emerged from a particular place.
Many indigenous cultures were so tied to a particular place the culture could not survive the displacement of the people or the people chose to die rather than being displaced. The stories they told as a people were tied to particular features in the landscape or the deeds of their ancestors who are still part of life sensed but unseen. Those stories recorded the larger narrative of who they were as a people. Once removed from those features many of the stories could not survive. Many of these cultures are still struggling to survive or have faded into oblivion.
What does that say about our culture? It seems to be less and less reflective of the uniqueness of each place. We seem to be trying to create a placeless culture based on the written word and images conveyed in our machines. The offshoot seems to be less and less connection to each other and our fellow living beings. We appear to be trying to create a new world which is not based in the real world. A world that does not have the evolutionary capacity to sustain itself. We seem to be trying to create a world that cannot be of this world. This is the apex of an arrogance based on a growing ignorance of the way the living Earth works.
You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge. ―Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The underlying patterns of how the world works still exist. The land and the water have memory. The people have memory of how they live in this world. Every child knows how this should work. Indigenous cultures still exist and prophecies tell of a time when the dominant culture will seek to learn their ways. The stories are still there waiting to be told again. There remains an evolutionary capacity in the land and in the people of the land. The patterns of how we got to where we are and the patterns of the way life works remain there for us to see, if we care to take the time to look and learn in humility.
Seeing these patterns help us to discover the character of a particular place. We can then try to discern what this place wants and needs of us based on careful observation. How can we meet our basic human needs while restoring and regenerating the sui generis life of a place? We believe that humans have the capacity to enhance life rather than destroy it. We can meet our needs while sharing the bounty of our world with all living beings. To do so, we must improve our understanding of how life works and what role we need to play. We need to restore a reciprocal relationship with life so we can once again regenerate unique places and cultures align with how life works in that place.
We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. —Thomas Berry, The Dream of the Earth
This spring, we are offering you the opportunity to see with a different mind. To explore and understand the patterns of a particular place, and then to apply what we have learned to an on-going master plan for a specific place in the Catskill mountains. We invite you to join us in the exploration of what is possible and practical, so that we can relearn the stories embedded there.
These two workshops are offered to go together or can be attended separately. To join the conversation, you can visit the event page on Facebook. For more information and to register click here.
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