Saturday, August 23, 2014

Consuming Life - Creating Humanity

In conversation with a friend recently the question came up: why do we consume? Where does this desire to consume come from? I said I’d never thought about it before but I’d be happy to start spouting whatever came into my head. Which I then proceeded to do. But then I thought about it some more later.

Running backwards in my mind through successions of causes and effects (or running backwards it was effects to causes to effects to causes) I realized that consumption is inherent in the essential nature of living things. It is one of the basic characteristics by which living organisms are defined as living. The urge to persist, to seek out the elements that sustain life (nourishment – however that is defined for the particular living entity), is basically to consume.

Living things are classified as those things which consume, excrete, procreate, move. They distinguish between different elements of their environment and choose between those things that are beneficial to life and those which are harmful. The “choosing” may be merely a physical reaction or an instinct-driven selection rather than a cognitive decision. But living organisms broadly feel urges toward life; and move, choose, selectively engage their bodies / forms as well as environments toward the processes which constitute and support living.

We are impelled by desires to consume because we are living things. We seek out the constituents which comprise our living self; are drawn to those things which sustain our life. And as living things we feel the need to reproduce, to invest our life into new forms which will carry our life into the future in innumerable permutations.

But as humans we consume in so many ways and on so many different levels than our non-human counterparts. We have extended our desires to consume into our social, emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual arenas. We consume relationships in families and friendships; we desire, seek out and consume knowledge, feel compelled to consume beauty or truth or meaning. Some consume thoughts and ideas or mental puzzles and challenges. Our desire to consume beauty is what leads to our preoccupation with clothes, shoes, cosmetics, home decor, gardening, We also stockpile beauty in our collections of music, movies, and books.

However, the balancing counterpart to consuming is procreation, or creation. We consume the elements that constitute life in order to procreate that life. In our human extension of these natural urges, our creation of beauty, knowledge, meaning, truth is the natural end product of our consuming. It completes the circle; carries forward the cycle.

We both consume relationships and creatively procreate relationships; we consume beauty and create beauty; we consume knowledge, ideas, truth, and meaning and we create them. Consuming is productive precisely in its development into creation; consumption is fulfilled through creation.

Our souls, our humanity thrives, flourishes, evolves not through our consumption but through our creation. Consumption provides the life energy which propels creation. But without the transformation of our life energy into creative outlets, our insatiable thirst to consume only serves to diminish our humanity instead of expanding it.

Without transformation into creativity consumption deteriorates, atrophies, shrivels the vitality of our souls, withers the bright core of our being. Not only our individual spirits but our collective psyche as innumerable societies and cultures and even our humanity is rendered barren when consumption goes to waste without generating creation. ¬¬

Consumption can be a wonderful joyous celebration of our life; but it can only be fully realized through transformation of the energy of our life into creation.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Girl Who Listened Differently (part 4)

So the little girl sat with the cactus and they watched the sun go down and the night come up. She had never seen so many stars; she had never seen the sky so big all around. They watched as the round shining moon came up on one side of the sky while the sun was going down all red and glowing on the other side.

The rocks and cactus and everything around turned deep colors but she could still see so many things in the desert from the light of the moon and the stars. The forest was always deep and dark in the night.
Night was very different in the desert. Night creatures crept out, some in silence, some making their small night-sounds. And the little girl loved the desert.

The cactus and the little girl sat and watched the night with its deep colors, its small creatures, its soft moonlight, until the little girl fell asleep happily next to her new friend.

In the morning cactus called out softly, “Wake up, wake up, the dawn is coming now.” The little girl woke up and they watched the sky grow red and the glowing sun slip up again into the sky.

“I know now why you love your desert” the little girl said to her cactus friend. It really is wonderfully lovely.”

“So now you will stay here with me,” said the cactus.

“No,” she replied, “ l really must go home to my forest. I love it there too.”

“No, little girl,” the cactus pleaded. “The forest is full of uncertainties. There is no truth there. Here the sun is bright and the moon is clear. What you see is true and certain. You can never be sure of what you see in the forest. The light flickers and moves, fades and grows.”

This was a new thought to her. The more she considered it the more she saw that it was true. But it did not make her happy that she could see clearly in the desert. Instead she was very sad because she loved her forest and did not want to think that she could not trust it.

The cactus could not understand why she was sad. But she was. She wanted to go home to her forest but she was now worried that there was no truth there. So she sat down and thought. She thought about the forest and then she knew where the truth was in it.

“Oh, Cactus!” she laughed, “you are wrong. There is truth in the forest. When I touch the trees that is true. And when I feel the damp moss that is true. And when I hold the furry creatures that is true. It is my own eyes I cannot trust. I love the forest because it is beautiful. But if I ever need to know the truth in it I have only to get very close and touch and I can know the truth.” And she ran back to the forest.

“No. No.” cried the cactus, “You will be deceived.”

“Don’t worry,” she called back, “I’ll be back because I also love your desert.” But she ran on to the forest because she knew she was right.

This is almost the end of the story, but not quite yet. Because the very next day she met a toad. He was from the swamp. The cedar was very distressed. The cactus was distraught. But the little girl only laughed. And you know where she went next.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Girl Who Listened Differently (part 3)

And so she decided to go into the desert again. She knew that she could always find her forest by following her own steps backward. This time she prepared herself before leaving the forest. She drank deeply before leaving because there would be no water in the desert. And she made a nice hat from a lovely flower vine to keep the sun out of her eyes. She was quite sure everything would go very well now. She was very pleased with her exciting new adventure

This is what she found in the desert. There were red rocks and white and black and orange and yellow and.... but only a geologist would want to know all that. The little girl just thought they were pretty. There were also many living things in the desert. This would have surprised the fox and the cedar. But it didn’t surprise the little girl. She had sort of thought they would be there. There were turtles and snakes and iguanas. There were rabbits and kangaroo rats and armadillos. There were so many wonderfully fun creatures she lost count. And there were birds, tiny birds, large birds, bright birds and plain birds. She was very happy to see the birds in the desert too.

Strange plants were everywhere as well. Some of them had bright flowers and some didn’t. But they were all very nice, and very alive, not at all dead like she had been told. She was very pleased with herself for finding out that the desert was beautiful and full of living things just like her forest.

There was one very tall prickly spiny one she could not tell about however.

“Hello, who are you?” she asked.

“I am a cactus. And who are you?”

“I am a little girl.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I live in the forest and I must be getting back because I am thirsty and there is no water here.”

“You are wrong about the water, little girl,” said the cactus. “I drink it in from under the rocks and sand and store it here in my heart.”

That is nice but, you see, I can’t do that. So I must go find some water to drink or I will soon die.”

“Then I will let you drink from my heart,” said the cactus. “Just break me off and you will find something to drink.”

So she drank from the cactus’ heart and stayed awhile with the cactus. She could sit in his shade and watch small insects and other creatures skittering or crawling through the rocks and sand.

But then she decided she really must be getting back to her forest.

“I have to go home while it is light” she told the cactus. “I have to see my footprints to return”

“Oh but the sunsets are so wonderful here in the desert,” the cactus said. “And the night sky is spectacular. You must stay through the night. You can return in the morning when the light returns.”

It sounded like a good idea and the little girl really did want to see the sunset and the night sky. So she agreed to stay.

To be continued

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Girl Who Listened Differently (part 2)

“I am going to see the desert.’’ she told the tallest cedar. “Can you see it from there? Where is it?”

“Yes it is over there,” he tossed his branches to the west. “But you do not want to go there, my Dear. It is all dead and brown. There is only sand and rocks and the hot sun beating down. You would be very unhappy and would doubtless die there. Stay here. Do not go to the desert."

But she was a happy child and laughed, “Oh, dear Cedar, it can’t be as bad as that. Perhaps it will be a little hot, but I would not die.” So she ran off to ask the oldest fox.

“Is the desert really only sand and rocks and the hot sun beating, down?” she asked.

“Yes, ” he said becoming very concerned. “You can lose yourself before you even know it. There is no water, no rain, no brooks. You would die of thirst. I have been there, little girl, I know.”

She worried a bit about what the fox said but soon cast it aside and set out for the desert in the west. Laughing, she marched willy-nilly out into it and looked around. There surely were rocks and sand and a very hot sun. But the sand felt warm between her toes. It was a lovely day.

Very soon, however, her head began to hurt from the brightness of the sun all around. The sand began to burn her feet and there truly was no water at all. She turned back to go home to her forest but it was nowhere in sight.

“Oh, I am lost,” she cried. She was very afraid now that perhaps the fox and the cedar had been right. But she was determined not to die in this miserable desert. So she sat down and thought. She did not want to move for fear she would lose herself more. So she just sat and thought.

And she thought of the most simple answer. Where she had to go was where she had come from. She had come step by step and if she followed her own steps backwards she would certainly arrive at where she wanted to be. She was so happy she jumped up and carefully followed her footprints till she was back in her own forest.

Now you may think the little girl never went out in the desert again. But you are very wrong. In fact that same day she sat at the edge of the forest and looked out at the desert all day. She sat and watched it all the next day and the next as well. Her eyes began to grow accustomed to the glaring sun. The brown was not just brown, she saw, but red and orange and yellow and many, many colors. It was actually a very beautiful desert.

The cedar was sleeping and the fox was somewhere else and the little girl had a very good idea about what she wanted to do.

To be continued

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Girl Who Listened Differently (part 1)

This story is about exploring new possibilities and discovering unexpected beauty. It is for anyone who finds themselves moving out from the familiar places of their life and it is also for those who have begun dreaming of home from their far travels.

It was originally written to explain myself. And it still does. My travels have now taken me to far distant places of the mind and heart. However I am presenting the story here in the hopes that it can also say something to you as well.

May you find in it images for your own travels to and from home… wherever that is for you.


Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a forest. It was a very lovely forest with oak trees and pine trees, maple trees, spruce trees, apple trees and pear trees. There were many other kinds of trees as well. But a botanist would be the only one interested in naming them all.

The little girl only knew they were very beautiful, tall and green. There were also all sorts of bushes and flowers. Moss covered the ground under the trees. It rained every afternoon at four o’clock. Sometimes a thunderstorm would start during the night and last all through the next day. The forest was always moist and green.

Squirrels lived there and chipmunks. There were deer and otters and foxes. There were frogs and raccoons and a bear. He lived in a cave on the hill and bumbled through the forest once a month to find honey. He only wanted honey once a month. The rest of the time he ate berries on the hill.

Birds of all colors flew through the forest. They were like flashes of red or white darting among the trees. Owls hooted and crickets and bullfrogs sang all night. Bumble bees buzzed in the little clearings all day. Crows called down from over the tops of the trees where they flew. And every so often all the sparrows would gather in one tree and raise such a noise you could hear them all over the forest.

That was the forest where the little girl lived. But you really would have to go there to understand.

One day the little girl met a turtle. He was sitting on a rock in the sun dozing and warming himself.

“Good morning,” said the little girl. She was well mannered. The sleepy turtle opened his eyes and said “Oh, yes.” Which didn’t make a great deal of sense. Then again it didn’t make no sense and sometimes turtles are that way when they first wake up. So she simply ignored it and asked, “Where are you from?”

“From the desert” he said slowly.

“And where is the desert?” she asked. There was a pause as the turtle had to open his eyes again. You must understand that this was a very wide-awake little girl and a very sleepy turtle.

“At the edge of the forest,” he gave a great sigh.

“And may I go there?”

“Yes. .. Yes. .. Certainly.” He said each word with a pause after it as if he couldn’t remember what it was he had been saying. You can’t get much out of a turtle when you just wake him,

“What is it like?” But he had gone quite to sleep and she didn’t hear another word out of him. That was all right though, because she had already decided to go and see it herself.

To be continued