“You must not extend awareness further than your culture wants it to go.”
– Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm
Why does our modern culture inhibit awareness? Buhner continues, “… that would endanger the foundations upon which Western culture, our technology — and all reductionist science — is based.” 1
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Why is expanding awareness such a threat? “If we should recapture the response of the heart to what is presented to the senses, go below the surface of sensory inputs to what is held inside them, touch again the “metaphysical background” that expresses, then we would begin to experience, once more, the world as it really is: alive, aware, interactive, communicative, filled with soul, and very, very intelligent — and we, only one tiny part of that vast scenario.” 2 And that wouldn’t be good for business!
If we care to look, if we even can look at a starry sky (city lights prohibit that now for billions of urban refugees), we will tend to feel either very small or very large, depending on our point of view. Point of view, abbreviated as pov in movie land, indicates the place you are looking from. If, as you gaze heavenwards, your pov is that of a small, isolated individual beholding the vastness of the universe, it’s easy to feel lonely and confronted by a reality impossible to comprehend.
But if your pov is your own expanded awareness (expanded by the act of star gazing, absent beliefs and fears), you will tend to feel uplifted, enthralled, LARGE! Here indeed is something vast, limitless, incomprehensibly complex and mysterious. But it is not “out there,” it is here, within and without, surrounding, permeating, inclusive, and oh so welcoming.
“Once you’ve been to the city it’s hard to go back to the farm.”
For those of us who have been uplifted this way into the bosom of life, for those of us who have shuffled off our Lone Ranger pov and embraced, even for one stirring moment, this sublime belonging, things can never be the same again. That intoxication has changed us and, as the saying goes, “Once you’ve been to the city it’s hard to go back to the farm.” What an ironic indictment of our embarrassing blindness to the wonders of the farm! Those city lights… such variety, such excitement! Meanwhile, the millions of species that thrive in every square foot of meadow go unnoticed, unexamined, unappreciated.
But, it’s not too late to remember, to grow out into that magical world that surrounds and holds us. “The song of the waters is audible to every ear, but there is other music in these hills, by no means audible to all. To hear even a few notes of it you must first live here for a long time, and you must know the speech of hills and rivers. Then on a still night, when the campfire is low and the Pleiades have climbed over rimrocks, sit quietly and listen for a wolf to howl, and think hard of everything you have seen and tried to understand. Then you may hear it — a vast pulsing harmony — its score inscribed on a thousand hills, its notes the lives and deaths of plants and animals, its rhythms spanning the seconds and the centuries.” 3
“You can’t do a good act that is global… a good act, to be good, must be acceptable to what Alexander Pope called ‘the genius of the place.’ This calls for local knowledge, local skills, and local love that virtually none of us has, and that none of us can get by thinking globally. We can get it only by a local fidelity that we would have to maintain through several lifetimes… I don’t wish to be loved by people who don’t know me; if I were a planet I would feel exactly the same way.” 4
We must extend our awareness much, much further than our culture wants it to go. In fact, that‘s the only thing that can begin to save our culture!
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1. Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm , page 19
2. Ibid, page 19
3. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
4. John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down – The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, page 80