A tough day yesterday. I visited the prison after a month and a half of not being able to attend (due to work). Everyone was so glad to see me. One newer man to the group did his dedication to the Wiccan path. He stumbled over the words, couldn’t recall the meaning of things, was thoroughly nervous. So I helped him by asking, Why this path? What is this path about? What do you hope to gain? Basically he responded with simple clarity that is was a “natural” path. It made me realize that so many people just want to get back to living in a natural manner, integrated, connected with a sense of place and purpose. They may not have the intellect or education to express it clearly but the desire is there. And it hit me this way of being is exactly the opposite of what we have built today and the consequences are huge on the individual and global level. This is why the prisons are filled.
Here is the nature of the paradigm and its consequences.
When we live a natural life, one integrated into the ecosystem, where each and everyone of us, all souls human and non-human, have their place, their function and purpose are clear. All needs are met. There is no hierarchy. There is in a sense perfect equality. The brilliant and the mentally challenged all walk in perfect equality as both are essential parts of the whole. This is lost today. We instead have built a system of winners and losers. Those who are not up to the challenge of competition have no place, not just a smaller place. Their value is lost, discarded and never realized. Humanity is less for this. The Earth is less for this. All of Nature is less for this. We are all equally important in the context of the whole. Yet, due to our reductionist mindset and culture, our souls are filled with a sense of self-worth unto ourselves. And for those who aren’t the winners, those who aren’t as smart or good looking, there is only a sense of self-hatred and self-denigration. Where one has no place or purpose in the tribe or in the greater ecosystem, one has the impossible task of trying to find spiritual connection and integration in a vacuum.
I received a call from a friend yesterday. His family experienced the loss of a four-year old niece from a car accident. In the midst of all this, they are dealing with job loss, debilitating disease and great financial stress. Our culture has built itself to an every-one-for-themselves paradigm. So my friend is faced with dealing with all this stress pretty much alone. Where are the neighbors? Where are the structures in the State to help take the stress off people when so much is piled on at once? How come we allow so much to be piled on people that they break? Where are the systems to relieve burdens when people are given too much to carry? As a simple priest in such a dynamic, I feel completely out gunned. I feel the like the sheriff in the movie, “No Country for Old Men”.
My entire being is just so sick of the paradigm of our culture. Why is someone more valuable than another? Why is someone’s time more valuable than another’s? My eight hours of work is just as valuable to me as as CEO making 500 times my wage. My life means just as much to me as his does to him. People will respond to say, well they have more responsibility, they have more credentials, they worked harder. That is true. But it doesn’t address why someone is treated as more valuable. Why should I get paid double what someone else does just because they aren’t as mentally astute? Also it speaks clearly to me that the paradigm that allows such responses is totally removed from the natural world. If we as a society lived in an animistic manner, integrated into ecosystems, awake to our function in it, awake to the flow of the whole, no one would be considered more “valuable”. The lion doesn’t get paid more than the mouse. All needs are met or the ecosystem breaks down.
Sure Nature is merciless. Sure Nature has death. But the value of the prey and the predator is equal. Today we call the cycles of life the “food chain”. We view it as a hierarchy when in fact that is an illusion, a snapshot in time, yet Nature is a continuum. Which is higher, the tiger or the ebola virus. Put in such way, the hierarchy fails. There is no separation in Nature. All human structures need to follow suit. It is the great challenge of our generation to re-weave our societies back into the ecosystems of the natural world. We cannot not continue to see ourselves as outside of Nature. That illusion will be exposed to everyone eventually.
Much of my frustration isn’t that the very basics of food and shelter aren’t being met. Humans are a keystone species and we aren’t living up to that responsibility. We are failing in the realms of meeting the spiritual and psychological needs of our human brothers and sisters. We only seem to honor the aggressive intellectuals that win in the worlds of financial and academia. The man who made his dedication gave me answers that lacked precision in word usage, correct grammar, and verbal grace. But the answers he gave spoke to me of a deep understanding of what sort of life he wanted to have and why that was so important to live a “natural” life. If I posed the same question to the CEO of the company I work for, or to the head of the departments at our respected universities or to our financial geniuses on Wall Street, I doubt very much I would have received answers that had such deep understandings. This prisoner is no less valuable to Nature than the billionaire or genius.
We must find that sense of perfect equality in our culture. I believe Paganism and Permaculture offer us a way forward. But we must guard against elitism. We must refrain from hierarchy. We can’t allow the winner and loser mindset to be a part of what we build. All needs must be met or whatever we build will break. I have my doubts. Organic seems to be only for those who can afford it. Permaculture only for those bright enough to digest the language we use to discuss it.
So I sit here angry. Angry at the situation we humans have created, angry at the social injustice, angry at the deference we pay those who are the winners, the smart people, the highly competitive, the beautiful people. It is sick, very sick and we simply must begin to build an inclusive society where each of us has a place in the ecosystem, and no one is simply left out. In Nature there is no such thing as waste. Why do we humans leave a trail of it everywhere we go? And in that waste, endless sad tales of wasted people and human potential. I am very sad today.