December 30, 2013 – January 5, 2014 Kaw Valley Almanac Dec29 AdvertisementShare this:EmailFacebookTwitterRedditPinterestTumblrPocketSkypeLinkedInPrintLike this:Like Loading... Related
Let’s stipulate that the Universe is everywhere. Yet there is sometimes more to learn looking some directions rather than others -.the open water below Bowersock rather than a painted sheet rock wall, for instance. That splash of bright white – head and tail – has me wondering why. And the way the eagles fly. The gulls congregate around the outwash from the turbines. Not that hard to figure. But why the bright white? The Universe has me wondering.
Since we both just attended a talk about the great thinker Thomas Berry and his observation that the universe is comprised of a “communion of subjects” rather than a collection of objects, it is no surprise that you are pondering your relationship to the Universe and its varied parts. For me, there is wisdom in the observation that the wall is as vital a part of the universe as the shape of the eagle wing which keeps that magnificent bird aloft as he or she looks for a fish. Thomas Berry, in a continuation of his meditation on intimacy and distance, provides some useful clues that help me examine the unique and different contexts of the wall and the eagle wing, within the interdependent whole of the universe:
“All rights in nonliving form are role-specific; rights in living form are species specific and limited. Rivers have river rights. Birds have bird rights. Insects have insect rights. Humans have human rights. Differences of rights is qualitative not quantitative. The rights of an insect would be of no use to a tree or fish….These rights as presented here are based on the intrinsic relations that the various components of the Earth have to each other. The planet Earth is a single community bound together with interdependent relationships. No living being nourishes itself….”
This helps me understand the “otherness” of other beings such as the eagle, the cottonwood, the carp and the Kaw–each one has an inalienable right to its existence, to play out is role as a bird, tree, fish and river within its own set of needs, habitat and habits. At the same time, these differences are played out within the intimacy of the unity of the universe, since each being is bound to all others in the most interdependent ways. I can find great solace and wonder looking at the white splash of the sheet rock as a part of the cosmos, and yet at the same time see that the color, the paper, the texture, the strength, the way sound bounces off of that wall are all shaped by human consciousness. This distinguishes the built environment from the limb perch in the cottonwood tree for that eagle, which is based on a relationship older than humanity’s existence on this planet. This “otherness” that is a fundamental existential right for the more than human part of creation provides me with a larger context, a type of grounding in my own life that I find endless nourishment from in ways that the built landscapes of humanity is not able to provide me in the same way. There is a different set of wisdom to be found in each, and our humanity is lessened unless we have both to inform our lives.
Your narrative takes me inside this wonderful place called Kansas…
and the photo of the coyote puts me into some wonderful walks during
the winter i enjoyed at Briedenthal and roaming the Vinland Valley
woods…Many thanks…touch the earth….lick the wind…..give thanks
Very useful response to my comment. I wonder if our culture is in a vicious circle, neither appreciating interior environments and then failing to see the outside ‘universe’ as well. Perhaps the outside, being more ‘other’ for many of us, could jolt some from their stupor.
The notion that rights pertain to the particular species, perhaps even to various human-made things (Berry’s talk of ‘role-specific’ for the ‘non-living’ rights is more elegant) is one I will try to hang on to.
One tangential thought, I wonder why the eagles at Bowersock this time of year draw my attention so much more intensely, or why some parts of the river pull at me more than others. Even some walls, not others. What satisfies me and why? Not a question to be answered so much as pondered. And often the contrast from one thing (part of the universe) to another is a way of sharpening our appreciation of both. The old ‘compare and contrast’ question.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. More to think about.