I've just been listening to the news and am sitting now with a tight throat and a knot in my solar plexus.
Our world's airwaves are clogged with stories of war, incest, murder, Facebook deviants, paedophilia - and, of course, the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This man-made disaster has all the toxicity and virulence of a very black plague; its full reach and impact, quite beyond our imagination.
This morning it was confirmed that the oil has entered the current we have all so hoped it would not, and is drifting North towards Florida Keys - oh god, no. What have we done? What of the manatees? And the turtles? And the corals and fish and anemones and plankton and brine shrimp and foraminifera... What of the birds? And the fragile communities of plants and animals living on the intertidal zone and all along those shores? I feel deeply, ongoingly shaken by our appalling capacity for willful devastation. Such glorious creatures we can be; so tender, fierce for love, compassionate, attentive, courageous and nurturing. But oh, how blithely we underestimate our shadow, our inbuilt propensity for blindness, self-delusion, mindless, large-scale destruction. What irreparable havoc we are capable of unleashing.
W. B. Yeats's poem is stampeding around inside my chest ---
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned. . .
In What is Life? - a book I tend to carry around with me - Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan write -
". . . We and many other animals sleep and wake in cycles that repeat every twenty-four hours. Some ocean protists, dinomastigotes, luminesce when dusk comes, ceasing two hours later. So hooked are they into the cosmic rhythm of the Earth that even back in the laboratory, away from the sea, they know the sun has set. Many similar examples abound because living matter is not an island but part of the cosmic matter around it, dancing to the beat of the universe.
Life is a material phenomenon so finely tuned and nuanced to its cosmic domicile that the relatively minor shift of angle and temperature change as the tilted Earth moves in its course around the sun is enough to alter life's mood, to bring on or silence the song of bird, bullfrog, cricket and cicada. But the steady background beat of Earth turning and orbiting in its cosmic environment provides more than a metronome for daily and seasonal lives. Larger rhythms, more difficult to discern, can also be heard. . . " (pg 240)
". . . Knowledge about the varieties of life on Earth - life which, from pond scum to tigress, is connected to us through time and space - serves to inspire. That excess is natural but dangerous we learn from the photosynthetic process of plants. That movement and sensation are thrilling we experience as animals. That water means life and its lack spells tragedy we garner from fungi. That genes are pooled we learn from bacteria. Modern versions of our ancient ancestors, the protoctists, display versions of the urge to couple, and of our capacity to make choices. Humans are not special and independent but part of a continuum of life encircling and embracing the globe.
Homo sapiens tends to dissipate heat and accelerate organization. Like all other life forms, our kind cannot continue to expand limitlessly. Nor can we continue to destroy the other beings on which we ultimately depend. We must begin to really listen to the rest of life. As just one melody in the living opera we are repetitious and persistent. We may think ourselves creative and original but in those talents we are not alone. Admit it or not, we are only a single theme of the orchestrated life-form. . . " (pg 246)
As a way of reminding myself to look more closely and listen more attentively, I'm thinking of posting a weekly series of 'mystery images' that shine a light on the surface landscapes of ordinary, every day things. I invite you to join me in this quasi-meditation on our natural world...
Here's the first one -
What do you see?