Friday, November 9, 2012

The View from the Earth

Lie on the ground and look up. Everything changes. The trees are not separate beings but an interlacing pattern of leaves and branches. The sky embraces the earth. Small plants tower above you. Birds swim in the atmosphere. Clouds and sunlight permeate everything.

The Greeks invoked Gaia by touching the earth. There is no more straightforward way to make contact with her.
“Whoever you are,
howsoever you come
                  across her sacred ground
         you of the sea,
         you that fly,
it is she
         who nourishes you.”
The Homeric Hymns, tr. Charles Boer

Compost: lowly and holy.
In his Dictionary of Word Origins, Joseph T. Shipley includes this entry: “humble. A recent* book on gardening is called ‘A Sense of Humus’ (L. humus, ground, soil; cognate with Gr. chthon, as in Eng. autochthonous, on its own soil, native). To exhume is to take out of the ground. The L. adj. humilis, on the ground, lowly, became Fr. humble, whence Eng. humble, mainly in the figurative sense.”
* Shipley’s book was first published in 1945. Bertha Damon published "A Sense of Humus," her account of gardening in 1930s New Hampshire, in 1943.

Spinach starts small, deep in humus.
Humility has always seemed like a strange, undesirable virtue to me.  Who would want to be humiliated? How would it contribute to anyone’s spiritual development? But humility has nothing to do with shame or pride. It is about perceiving yourself as part of the earth, a single organism within Gaia. It is about acknowledging your place on the planet, your home, your earth.

From the ground, all life is exalted. All beings are holy. Those at the bottom support those at the top. Those above rain blessings on those below. To be humble is to be generous and noble to all creatures. The view from the earth transforms the world.

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