walk softly and feel the connection

Posted on Apr 10, 2011

Green forestThe concrete jungle has hardened our hearts.

We do not feel our impact on the Earth anymore. We eat the meat of animals without seeing them die. We drink liquid chemicals denying their potential to harm us. We produce tons of trash every day without owning our land fills.

We accumulate things we do not need or cannot use because they please our senses. And we throw them away when they bore us. We say we “love” these things, but we love with greedy minds, and our hearts lie waiting for the real thing. We take risks with things that do not belong to us, and then deny responsibility for the consequences.

We have lost our respect for Life.

Seven years ago, I participated in my first Sweat Lodge on a secluded piece of fertile land in Provence. Our guide was a French man named Bison Noir (Black Buffalo), trained for decades by Native American elders in Arizona. I find it ironic that I was thousands of miles from home when I first experienced one of the most powerful rituals of America’s first nations. I did not learn it in my home tribe.

Part of the ritual was to gather small offerings from Nature for the altar at the entrance of the lodge. We were taught to do this with awareness, appreciation and respect for the land, to take only a small amount of any single plant and pass six more before taking another.

As I took my first steps out into the vibrant green jungle around the lodge, I awakened. I realized for the first time that I could not take one step without crushing something beneath my foot. All the tiny plants I saw, and the things I could not see that crawled within them, were vulnerable to my footstep. This grieved me. I felt my impact. Between one step and the next, I was deeply humbled.

It is a privilege just to be here… and a responsibility.

When I lived in Chicago, I produced an episode of The 90’s documentary television series, on Guns and Violence. I will never forget the first time I heard a professor describe what many children in our world live daily, growing up where “it is normal for them to see bodies on the street with red liquid flowing out of them.”

I also worked with some of those children, who described in their essays burying their brothers and sending their cousins off to jail. We made a play of those essays, and they performed it for a packed house in their local community. That was 20 years ago; today, children who don’t live in these places visit them regularly in pixels. How can we expect our children to value life if we do not?

America is squandering its original blessing. We take what is not ours and then we throw it away. We try to make amends for our irresponsibility with guilt and ideological superiority. But we do not listen. Our way of life is not sustainable either for the Earth or for us. And if we, in all our sophisticated naiveté, do not learn to listen, we will make ourselves extinct.

My dear friend Barbara startled me the other day with a thought she had read. If one small fly becomes extinct, hundreds of other species will die with it. If humankind were to become extinct, the rest of Nature would thrive.

Why are you on the planet?

The creative process is not a process we control. It is something we are all a part of. It is bigger than we are. We have an impact on its unfolding. But Life will go on, long after we are gone. We may destroy the forms we know today. We may destroy ourselves. But something will spring up in our places. In the end it is—we are—all disposable.

There is always a point in the creative process when we lose control. How we respond in that moment is either creative or destructive. We make the choice.

Walk softly on the Earth… not only for the sake of all the lives you touch—your impact on the world—but for your own sake as well. The heart must be touched to grow softer. Let it all in, whatever passes through your life today. Feel your connection with it.  You are not alone.

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