Quote of the Day: On April 5 1970, some fifty years ago, a passage of Buddhist poet Gary Snyder’s Four Changes manifesto was read into the Congressional Record in anticipation of the first Earth Day that would be celebrated two and a half weeks later. It was the first expression of “contemplative ecology” to ever go viral, being picked up by over a dozen publications that year, and made into a poster that graced walls from coast to coast. In it, Snyder said that to heal the planet, we must “change our own heads. There is something in Western culture that wants to totally wipe out creepy crawlies, and feels a repugnance for toadstools and snakes. This is fear of one’s own deepest natural inner-self wilderness areas, and the answer is, relax. Relax around bugs, snakes, and your own hairy dreams.”
Commentary: Did it take someone who had spent years in contemplative practice in the East to tell those of us still in the West to “relax and face our own hairy dreams?” There had been similar contemplative beacons in the West like St. Francis, who felt in service to worms and snakes as much as he did to lepers, but others like St. Patrick who reputedly tried to eliminate every snake from Ireland! What Snyder was recognizing is that our shadow-self which projects evil onto creatures and peoples beyond us, because we have never done the inner work to deal (and heal?) with the creepy, slimy, scary dark corners and wounds within our own psyche. Those who don’t do that inner work often want to “fix” the environment, “straighten it up,” “clean it up” and “sanitize it” according to the Army Corps of Engineers School of Housekeeping. The same mind-set compels some to try to missionize the indigenous –to convert the blackness, redness and brownness in our diverse world into something lily white. That’s why both biodiversity and cultural diversity have both declined wherever the Colonial Missionizing Mind tries to dominate any person or creature so rich, complex, or “wild” that he or she seems a challenge to that Mind’s capacity to control.
Suggested Action 37: If you care to see the diversity of peoples and species and landscapes and seas survive on this planet, first decolonize your own mind. As you walk today, shed your fears and give up your assumption that you should control every variable and every living thing around you.
Gary Paul Nabhan aka Brother Coyote is a professed member of the Ecumenical Order of Franciscans, a graduate of the Living School, a conservation biologist, orchard-keeper and story-teller.