Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Sense of Belonging

"Call of the Wild"
-A Day in Spring-

I don't think I have ever spent as much time outdoors as I do now that I live out here in the desert.  The wilderness is like a magnet to me, perpetually calling me out into the wild.  

Every single day, I pray outside. I go out into the desert and walk the wilderness trails. I rest outside, and I read and study outside. Most of the time we eat outside, not only at our home, but we also eat outside at most of the restaurants we visit. Other than sleeping, I spend most of my time outside.

Such a striking contrast to just a few years ago when we lived in Los Angeles where I spent most of my time indoors- inside sitting at a desk or in rooms for meetings, inside my house, inside my car stuck in L.A. traffic, inside the church building. 

Yesterday I was struck by something I was reading in a book by the author and spiritual director.  Richard Rohr.  He was talking about our ancient human ancestors - those people who first inhabited this planet earth before the dawn of "civilization."

Before 800 B.C. the thinking on the whole planet, no matter the continent, was invariably tribal, cosmic, mythic…Simply by watching the sky, birds and trees, the seasons, darkness and light, people knew they belonged. They lived in an inherently enchanted universe where everything belonged, including themselves.

Over the course of history, as "civilizations" grew and developed, people and nations became more and more autonomous.  Instead of understanding themselves as belonging to a tribe, people began to view themselves as separate individuals with egos that needed to be guarded and protected and gratified.  The natural world became more and more distant and removed from everyday life - the natural environment became little more than a resource to be used and more often abused for human advantage. As civilization advanced, people moved indoors spending most of their time inside their houses, buildings, schools, offices -  behind closed doors, inside borders and boundaries. 

In our own age, we have arrived at what is arguably the height of "individualism," especially in Western culture. Some commentators have noted that we are in fact a culture of "rugged individualists."

Some might say that we live in an advanced and sophisticated "civilization;" I actually think we aren't necessarily all that civilized at all.

I  long for the experiences of my ancient human ancestors- those uncivilized, unsophisticated, so called "primitive" people. I long for their sense of belonging to one another, belonging to an enchanted universe, belonging to the energy of that Abiding Holy Presence flowing in it all and through it all.

I long to be that "primitive." 

Last night after dark, a cleansing wind was howling through the desert canyons. I felt like I was being pulled outside to participate in it all. So I went outdoors, laid my head on a lounge chair, looked up and gazed into the "starry, starry night."   

Listening to the sound of the cleansing wind rushing through the palm trees and echoing off the mountains, enveloped by the overwhelming brilliance of a clear night sky in the desert, I experienced an overwhelming sense of being very, very small and yet also very, very big. 

My own individual ego-self is such a tiny, minuscule part of that great, mystical, enchanted cosmos, and yet "I" belong to it all.  Imagine, I belong to the universe, I belong to that cleansing wind. I belong to those shining stars and glowing moon. I belong to everyone on the planet. I belong to the Holy "One."  

I belong to "God." 

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