Minding the Earth

To look at the water is to look into the mind. Really. Look.

Sure, sure, sure, sure, sure, it’s Dihydrogen Oxide in a liquid state, with some weeds growing in it, lightly undulating with waves refracting the clouds and the smokey summer sky, of course…

… but you are seeing this image through humanly-created technology presenting it to your eye, which processes it and passes it to your brain, which processes it some more…

… and all of that is what you see: water, weeds, waves, light, and your eye, and your mind, millions of years deep. Oh, and a damselfly.

Contemporary Western culture has built a narrative out of this mix, one in which the self, an electrical field resonating from the connections of the cells of the brain, uses eyes as tools to see an objective reality; anything other than this objective reality is called an emotion or a projection, or even (and this one is quite popular) an image-processing error.

To craft this story, one has to accept that one is not of the world. The whole scheme was created to give an objective measure to subjective information, so that real effects could be separated from imagined ones. It has proven to be a powerful tool and has enriched us all. It was never, however, the purpose of the tool to replace human bodies, and it should never have been the purpose of the tool to ignore the eye, which only delivers to the brain what the human eye sees.

What it sees is the world, the body, and the mind, all at once.

The possibility of being able to read oneself by reading the water remains strong. Just as scientific method is an objective measure, so is the eye.

Some creatures, such as the loon below, have a different relationship to this self, and although they live in the objective Earth, dive into the human eye and emerge from it again. They carry messages. These messages have no words, but our bodies know them, and recognize them. “I love loons,” we might say, or “what beautiful birds,” or “what an experience!” Whatever we say, it is separate from the primary communication, which the eye, the mind and the body read. It is not an experience of language.

Let’s not think that these are just watery effects, rising from the watery eye’s affinity for water, or the way that light reflects off it, but not completely, a pretty attractive mix for a visually-dominant species. It happens with the aspen tree below, too. It too is within the mind and the eye and the conversation between them as it is in the material world.

This autumn wasp as well.

And this blob of basalt.

They are all body, mind and thought lying about in the world, as well as water, weeds, trees, loon, flower, wasp and stone. At the beginning of the modern tradition, scientific thought set the body, mind and thought aside and concentrated on what it could prove, hoping the rest would follow under the guidance of artistic, philosophical and spiritual people willing to debate that kind of thing. Unfortunately, they were asked to do so within strict boundaries of art, philosophy and religion and kind of got locked into boxes. Fortunately, our ancestors created two words for what we call the Earth. One is “world”, a space of revolving energy, where humans can live, a combined physical-and-social space that also means “universe”, and the other is “earth”, the stuff of land, what you plow to sow grain. They are two forms of a third word we also know well, “energy”, the “er” of which gives them the outpouring of water from a well, the run of a river, the whirr of a world, and earth itself, all at once. So, look again at the basalt above. It is this whirl of energy, and this well. That it is in the shape of a human head, however crudely, is what my eye was observing. Take a look at our water again …

That’s that energy. It is, quite literally, the world. It is time to start re-membering and re-minding that world.


All images from Big Bar Lake, in the heart of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem illahie.

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