Catalyzing personal empowerment, societal transformation, and environmental sustainability
"What greater grief than the loss of one's native land."
A New Story: Culturally Creative Diversity and Finding Home
Copyright 2002, Dave Ewoldt
A common theme among cultural change agents and other activists is that we need to develop a new story to guide our lives. One way to do this is to build gender and race equality into the way we perceive the world, and the way we describe the world. We need to change some underlying assumptions in our language and in its definitions.
Western science, which has so heavily influenced our spiritual lives (both through what is says and then what it leaves for religion to say), as well as influencing our educational system and curriculum, our morals, values and ethics, even our very ability to sense and feel, is interpreted by many mainstream Euro-American thinkers and authors as striving for an ideal universal being. This ideal being is male, white, and is the basis for and the standard to be measured against in determining scientific objectivity as well as in defining what our cultural values, morals, and desires should be.
This objectivity is thought to arise simply because it defines itself as separate from the world, while ignoring the fact that this is simply impossible.
Social justice and ecology, like everything else in the Universe, are interrelated, intertwined, interconnected, and simply cannot be separated. The combination of social justice and ecology is known as environmental justice, which is a holistic nomenclature which covers all the relationships that humans co-exist with.
People tend to see other cultures and value systems as inferior to their own. As with the other-than-human in Nature, people tend to see other races and/or cultures as inferior. We exploit the "other" in Nature, in cultures, and even in our own inner-nature. We throw out the "other"--our waste, discarded materials, and even other people; people who in our economic systems are disproportionately caste into prisons and relegated to urban ghettos. The garbage, waste, and other races are put out of sight, out of mind. If the world can be seen as dead, if our refuse is carted off to landfills by someone else, if the Native Americans are cordoned within their reservations, if the African-Americans are cordoned within the urban ghettos, if the wilderness can be said to be empty, our domination won't then be seen as a transgression.
We marginalize and we don't assign any intrinsic value to anything that doesn't benefit us directly. We trample over anything or anybody who gets in our way or distracts us. These are all prejudicial ways of thinking that at least carry a symbolic dualism between masculine and feminine and further between us and them. This is not the way that Nature works.
We currently live with a monocultural mind-set. We try to make everything exactly the same, with a flat linearity that is thought to lead to perfection. In our conquest of Nature, we bulldoze the hills flat, plant a single crop, strip cut the forest, build strip malls, we pave paradise for the monotony of monoculture.
Monoculture is the opposite of diversity, and as another facet of our separation from Nature, we also then end up seeing diversity itself as "other". And this is where ecopsychology, in helping us remember our greater ecological self and our complete inner nature which is a balance of body, mind and spirit, can offer both hope and practical help. Reconnecting all of ones senses, coming into the union of the interrelated structure of reality, feeling our groundedness in the life energy that flows through our Earth Mother and ourselves, leaves one with little option but to accept the life sustaining power and the inherent strength of diversity. Ecopsychology gives us the tools to become comfortable with the diversity within ourselves, to honor the diversity within others, and to fully appreciate the diversity in Nature.
Monoculture, and the idea of a perfect purity, is both unnatural and destructive. If people are incapable of seeing the natural beauty around them, they will also be incapable of seeing the beauty in other people. We need to learn to appreciate the beauty in other people. We need to learn their stories so that we may empathize with them instead of trying to escape from them.
I see ecopsychology, and the Cultural Creative movement's shared values, as embracing people of all colors as well as deliberately trying to correct the distortions of racism and the self-imposed dualities of gender. We can build a multicultural self that is in harmony with the ecological self. Respect for cultural diversity, social justice, and our living planet brings us back again to the concept of environmental justice, which needs to have a multicultural leadership.
This is where we must be very straightforward with the leaders of the minority communities. Not only do we need their input, but they must become active in working with us as well. As Carl Anthony, former Earth Island Institute board president and founder of the Urban Habitat Program says, "Among the people of color, among the black people, particularly, we have to learn a whole new attitude toward ourselves and the people around us. When I talk about multicultural leadership, I mean that black people need to move away from a mode in which we simply identify with our victim selves. I'm not saying we should deny the victim part; but I'm saying that we lose part of our humanity if we don't also accept our capacity to provide leadership for the whole community. We have to learn how to _own_ that part of our experience, spiritually and psychologically. We have to be willing to take responsibility for the outcome, not only for our own communities but for everybody. There is no other way."
Our sense of belonging and community are natural senses that we share with all other organisms in our ecosphere. When we have a worldview that is not in line with the dominate culture's worldview, we tend to think that we are alone, and maybe even a bit crazy for thinking the way we do. Identifying a set of shared values, and becoming aware of the increasing number of people who share those values, is a good thing. This, to me, is the most important aspect of openly identifying with the Cultural Creative movement. It is only exclusive if we make it that way.
But we currently seem to have lost our way, our path has become obscured, and we no longer know: Where is home? The simplistic answer is that home is where you came from. So let's go a bit deeper here.
We each, individually, came from the Earth. Our birth mothers channeled Nature's life force from our Mother Earth. This distinction is important, because we need to remember how to get home. When we're hurt, when we grieve, when we need support and love, we need to remember how to get home, because that is where we heal.
The very ground of one's being comes from your Earth Mother, and a close relationship with Nature gives roots to your psyche and your spirit. The Earth is both your biological and your existential home, as well as the source of all your sustenance.
Psychotherapist Philip Chard says that "an absence of emotional bonding between humans and their Earth Mother is a psychological and spiritual crisis as well as an ecological one." Nature can provide you with all that is necessary for "good mental health: a sense of belonging and community, self-worth, purpose, faith, hope, gratitude, and a connection with the sacred."
The question of "where is home?" implies that we are searching, that we feel like we're lost. But we can return home any time we want to. We are made of the stuff of life. All of our parts, our brains, bones, and our minds themselves are supplied from the raw materials of the Earth.
Feeling alone and on our own, or the existential angst that creates the quiet desperation of not knowing where to go, or of not belonging where we are, Chard says is really best described as homesickness. But home is not an address, it is a sense of belonging, a place where our hearts have safe harbor and our spirits are at peace.
When our human family either ignores us or casts us out, our Earth Mother will still take us in, and we can find her even in her small places. When we're feeling emotionally homeless, we can go out into Nature and reconnect our myriad senses to our Earth Mother's songs and scents and sights. And we can do this in a backyard garden, a small park, or even with a potted plant or aquarium.
We can remember, deep in our spirits, our hearts first home in the domicile of the Earth. This remembering of the home that is always there for us shouldn't be too surprising. It is a genetic memory that is the most elemental of all memories. It is a memory that recalls our bond with the Earth through the sense itself, the attraction relationships, of being flesh and blood.
When we have the sense of being alienated, of not having a place in life, of being disconnected, we can go back to our Earth Mother. With her, we can find all that a lost soul needs. With our Earth Mother and the natural community we can find acceptance, love, wonder, hope, and belonging.
By following our natural attractions, we can make the journey home and then petition to enter. By asking permission to enter into our true home within the global life community, we put ourselves into the present moment of the here and now. Then all you need to do is pay attention to Nature's language with all 53 of your natural sense groups.
Healing and wholeness are two of our natural birthrights. Remember always that you are a child of the Earth, and that your soul has its home in the soul of the Earth. This remembering will allow true environmental justice to prevail.
"The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence."