Nothing in Commons?

Quite simply, any culture not in love with Earth will kill Her. This is what we're seeing, writ large, as the Amazon and large swaths of Western and Central Africa continue to burn, and protected lands and animals are thrown under the bus of greed. The Global Commons include the Amazon, the oceans, the soil. But where do the Commons begin and end? At the edge of the Amazon? At the border between Brazil and Ecuador, where the rights of Nature are legally recognized? Do they end at our front door? Do they stop at our skin? 

Then there is the question of Time: the Now exists because it has arisen out of the past as it moves towards a future. Its relentless acceleration has made us violent, ill and insane. Nonetheless, we are time-flow-dependent, making Time a part of the Commons as well. Does anyone have the authority to steal this from us, to erase the past and steal the future? 

And what of language? Is that not part of the Commons also? When Trump creates a trade war, and US farmers are unable to sell their crops to China, the pressure increases to burn the rainforest so Brazilian farmers can grow crops to export to China. His words affect the commons of the rainforest. When Japanese scientist Matsuro Emoto taped the words I hate you to a glass of water, then looked at its crystals under a microscope, its structure deteriorated. The crystals were distorted. When he taped the words, I love you to the glass, the crystals were luminous, symmetrical, complete. Like everything else, water is alive, with incontrovertible intelligence and agency. Hate speech in any form is literally destructive, regardless of one's political or religious perspective.

The problem with carelessness, with refusing to listen or respect the language of the natural world is that sacrifice is also a form of communication, whether it occurs with or without intentionality. Indigenous cultures have always understood this. Animal sacrifices can be challenging for Westerners, even and especially urban carnivores, who do not have to confront the reality of taking a life in order to be nourished. But for traditional indigenous communities, especially communities under duress, an animal sacrifice is a double blessing because, in addition to its ritual significance, it also provides an important source of protein for a shared meal. Many grateful hearts and empty bellies amplify the appreciation to the animal whose blood will clear away obstacles and activate the spirits to respond to the community's needs: the blood that soaks into the soil is a powerful conduit that communicates to the Earth and the spirits that the humans recognize the gravity of taking a life; that the animal has agreed to the spiritual contract to provide a meal for the community and to carry a message of gratitude, or a request for assistance in the form of healing, sustenance, information or peace.

When we say that the death of a soldier is the 'ultimate sacrifice', what do we mean, exactly? One interpretation is that the soldier believes that certain principles are worth dying for. But what is the rest of the message? Beyond the question of whether or not this is the only or even the most effective means of protecting a cherished ideal, the sacrifice of a life asks us to consider the terms of the exchange. What are the relationships the exchange depends on, that, in turn, depend on its integrity? Without this explicit understanding, what is communicated? Similarly, when a tree is cut or an animal killed without a clear agreement and intentional message, it expresses a relationship, a worldview that is, at best, confused. Disconnected. Self-hating. Life-hating... as when the Amazon is burned; when loggers clear-cut old-growth trees; when Israel bulldozes a Palestinian orchard. When animals are farmed and slaughtered in factories; when rats and chimps and dogs are used in scientific experiments, when rivers are dammed.

This heedlessness can also be understood as a cry for help from humans to Nature. Have you noticed? The beleaguered Earth continues to be generous. Animals seem more willing than ever to make contact. The dreams are coming clear and strong. We can participate in creating the explicit alliances that sustain Life. We can choose to recognize that all of Earth - and we ourselves - are an integral part of the Global Commons and we can behave accordingly.

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Cynthia Travis2 Comments