Paving over nature.
One of my favourite books is Mystery School. A collection of essays on magic, ritual and philosophy, it is a document of the work being done by the founder Jeff McBride and the faculty at the Mystery School in Las Vegas. I’m delighted to play my small part in their monthly offerings.
In Mystery School the book are many wise words and wisdom. One piece in particular I’ve copied below is from a leading thinker on magic and culture, David Abram.
‘Western industrial society, with its massive scale and hugely centralised economy, can hardly be seen in relation to any particular landscape or ecosystem… our society’s relation to the living biosphere can in no way be considered a reciprocal or balanced one. With thousands of acres of non-regenerating forest disappearing every hour and hundreds of species becoming extinct each month as a result of our excesses, we can hardly be surprised by the amount of epidemic illness in our culture, from increasingly severe immune dysfunctions and cancers, to widespread psychological distress, depressions and ever more frequent suicides, to the growing number of murders committed for no apparent reason by otherwise coherent individuals.
‘From an animistic perspective, the clearest source of all this distress, both physical and psychological, lies in the aforementioned violence needlessly perpetrated by our civilisation upon the ecology of the planet; only be alleviating the latter will we be able to heal the former. This may sound at first like a simple statement of faith, yet it makes eminent and obvious sense as soon as we recognise our thorough dependence upon the countless other organisms with whom we have evolved. Caught up in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotised by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect ourselves back upon ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities’ (© 2003 David Abram / The Miracle Factory, Eugene Burger, McBride Magic)
This really connected with me on a recent re-reading. We’ve paving over nature. From covering up the grass with our new driveways and decking, to new housing estates of carefully pruned plants and shrubs. The increase in digital technology gives us escapism to other realities, none of which are as textured or vibrant as our ultimate relationship with nature. And the more we pursue this, as David says, the more we see an increase in psychological and physical ills. Why are we seeking that escape?
I’ve been thinking what I can do to get back some of that connection with the bigger picture. I live by the sea, and near parks, lakes, hills and woodland. But in the closer community, in our own homes, how can we bring about a better and healthier balance?
Worthy of five minutes contemplation I feel. What are you waiting for; Dig up a paving slab and grow a plant!