We are caught in a network of words, which are symbols. We live in a mental-emotional world of images – images about ourselves, about what is going on in the world, about my wife, my friends and about my living situation. This network of symbols and images has become so second-nature that we are no longer consciously aware of it dominating our perception. When someone says “look at the tree without the word, directly”, we have a very hard time and it seems almost impossible. When we are asked to be mindful when eating a meal, it is very difficult to recognize what is on our plate and then on our fork as we take it into our mouth. Yes, we can see it is a piece of pizza, but to consciously connect with all of the elements that went into that pizza is quite another thing: the wheat of the dough; the process that resulted in the salt and the seasonings; the farmer and the land that yielded the tomatoes; the dairy farm – the cows and the grass, rain and earth that produced the cheese.
We have become so much alienated from of the basic elements that make up our existence: earth, air, fire, water, space. We may have a concept of all of this, but to still feel it viscerally, physically, as did our ancestors, is more and more difficult, living as we do in urban environments with asphalt under our feet and tires and sheet-rock, glass and other artificial materials making up our dwellings and shelters.
I have moved to a rural environment to the South-East of Eugene, Oregon. I spent 4 days there while we moved our belongings there and began setting up our new home. I noticed that my interest in what the Internet offers declined sharply while there. My appetite for processed foods and snacks also more or less subsided completely. My dreams as well took on a different quality, more wholesome and less fragmented. No sooner had I returned to the urban environment of Tacoma, WA in order to complete our work-exchange with my sister-in-law (painting and re-modeling her home) then the familiar ‘unnatural appetites’ returned and my mental-emotional waking and dreaming states once again became more fragmented and generally unsettled.
This confirms to me that my psycho-physiological system is much more in balance when in direct connection with intact nature. When I step out of the dorm we are now living in at the Lost Valley Education and Event Center (lostvalley.org) I step onto the forest ground and old growth firs and various other evergreens and trees are overhead. I walk on a bed of pine-needles from one building to the next and hear roosters crowing in the morning. I am grateful to be in a more healthy environment among other residents who are of like mind.
“The symbol has taken the place of reality.”