Conversations with Ourselves

In the practice of Native science, the more humans know about themselves – that is, their connections with everything around them – the greater the celebration of life, the greater the comfort of knowing, and the greater the joy of being.
— Gregory Cajete, Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence

They say that timing is everything. But there are other things that are also everything: context, for example, and motivation. The needs of not-human-beings. And now, time itself is also everything, as we wrestle with the ways we structure our lives to discern and prioritize what is essential. As my father used to say, “It’s time to grab the bull by the tail and face the situation.”

A couple of weeks ago, I went with my son to the movement studio where he works out, and accepted the invitation to join the class even though it was edgily unfamiliar and every single person in the room was was younger than I am. In so doing, I bumped up against a question that has been dormant for a while: How alive am I willing to be? And what does that even mean, anyway, in light of climate collapse and impending extinction? What does it mean with respect to my longing for the natural world to be restored? (Make Nature Great Again?)

Let’s say, as an experiment, that we ask ourselves this very question: How alive am I - are we – willing to be? as often as necessary in order to arrive at a genuine answer. And let’s say, that, in asking this question, we realize that the only viable answer is “As fully as possible”, even as we realize that we can’t be fully alive unless everyone and everything else is, too. (And who the hell among us has the courage to look in the mirror, or to look into the eyes of another - human or other-than-human, and say, “Nah, I don’t think I’ll bother. Too much work”?)

And, really, if we’re honest, “As fully as possible” may not be the most truthful or even the most authentic response, because being deeply alive is a daunting commitment that asks us to refrain from doing whatever impedes full aliveness, full thriving, full joy, for all, even though modern western culture requires, by definition, that we sacrifice the many for the thriving of the few.

For me, full aliveness means bearing witness to what is broken, and to what breaks us and those we love. It means letting go of just about everything, while clinging tenaciously to dignity, integrity and love. It means moving, eating, sitting, sleeping, thinking, speaking, and working in ways that are as conscious and as fully embodied as possible. It means asking what the hell am I doing, feeling, assuming? What do I and we intend? What are we committed to and what are we willing to do to stay on course? It means not being satisfied or, worse yet, fooled by data; not looking at the clock or the bank account or the gizmo to see if I/we have achieved some arbitrary benchmark.  

Above all, it means listening to the Earth, as we ask ourselves, What have I – have we – done with our lives and what are we doing now?

Cynthia TravisComment