Last night and early this morning I found myself drifting into two different worlds. The first, a native tribe that inhabits a far corner of the South American jungle; and the second, a nomadic people that inhabit the vast steppes of Mongolia. I catch my breath when I attempt to even glimpse the reality that both these human worlds exist right here on Earth, side-by-side and parallel to, the flashing, clanging, post-industrial insanity that we so-called “civilized” people find ourselves trapped in. Like pack rats, we pile up stuff, more and more stuff. Desperate, we work to protect and maintain our stuff — for ourselves and, maybe, our families — and to keep everybody else out.
But why? What’s it all for?
Both the alternative worlds I found myself drifting into are “aboriginal,” or “original” — first, in the sense that they are humans not (yet) colonized by outsiders; and secondly, in the sense that they are utterly interdependent with the specific earth/water/fire/air characteristics of the land upon and within which they live and move and have their being. For the jungle-dwellers —sacred plants. For the peoples of the Asian steppes — horses.
For both these peoples, Earth is sacred, as are all species that root themselves in Her or swim in her waters, or crawl or walk or run upon Her. For these original peoples, the various strands of the mysterious, ever-regenerating, spreading multiplicity — that we so-called “civilized” ones label as Other (“the environment,” or “nature”) and try to dominate — are instead recognized as their very life blood, within which they are immersed and surrendered to, with endless gratitude and respect. For original peoples, all of Nature’s proliferating forms are equal, and loved, as “All Our Relations.”
Both these aboriginal peoples of the South American jungle and of the Asian steppes find themselves interacting with “civilized” humans and their artifacts and institutions in one way or another. And, as these two stories show, the contact between them is not all terrible or patronizing! And, if we who lead such separative lives are very very fortunate, then the frisson between aboriginal and civilized will generate a provocative rethinking and reimagining of who we are, who we could be, if we but dissolve the thick, alienating Cartesian cultural veil that separates us from our inner soul-lives, from each other, and from all that is alive, including the cosmos — all of it, the entire whole of this vast, endless mystery.
For it is, and we are, one being, utterly and irrevocably sacred.