Five Human Nourishments

You know how when you’re hiking and you come over a rise and see below you a lake – as flat as gravity can make it, blue-lit by the sky; edges fringed with summer-leaved trees? And the very waterness of it, its placidity, the surprise: and something in you relaxes in recognition and is thrilled, together? The water in your body saying hello to the water of the lake – a kind of nourishment, beyond words?

We still get to have lakes, and rivers and seas. We still have trees – nourishing us as they echo our spines and wave like our arms and shade us and whisper at us as we hike. Hold us like grandparents to their bosoms whether we are aware of it or not.

Those of us who are lucky and wise can still dance – not just watch dancing on videos, though that’s fun – but while we watch are not our bodies tugging at us like children, saying “let me do that too!”? We can still have gardens, and watch plants grow. These things have not been totally displaced by the exciting adventure that is technology.

Technology is a blessing, a dazzlement, an unfolding amazement. I love friend-emails as much as I’m irritated by spam. Like humans, technology itself comes out of the earth and yet seems to go almost beyond it. But the earth and her systems still nourish and inform, still are the bedrock – for our bodies and for our inventions.

And our perception of the aliveness wired into our bodies flickers and changes constantly.

My point here is gentle yet taut: there are things we humans are wired to see each day, to participate it, that come from earth and our ancient histories; and without them we are not going to feel quite sane. Some have been denied us by religion, some by electrical engineering, some by foolishness. But even that is not my point – I just want to sing of the things, five things I’ve come up with as necessary to human equilibrium, things that are threatened or denied by modern life – wih all its wondrous beguilement of innovation. Let’s keep innovation – we will of course; it is creativity – and let us not forget our bodies, our roots, our issuance from nature.

Our perception of our own aliveness – that is what is at stake. We are alive – but do we know it? Knowing is visceral, not intellectual.

  1. Stars. Where would we be without stars? They are part of our lives, our bodies – we come from them, are made of them. They are our perspective – for who would dare to look at all that night sky without the cold, implacable reassurance of matter somewhere in the vastness? It is stars that help us see vastness – which is also in us; we are made of that too. It is my contention that people need to gaze at stars as a usual thing, just like we live accompanied by trees and animals. Because they don’t appear to DO anything, we seem to think they are optional – but oh, they do a lot; and no, they are not optional. They are supposed to accompany us on our night watches as the clouds and skies accompany us by day. We are not whole without seeing them.

  2. Wild Animals. It is a great pity we’ve killed so many of them off that the rest hide in terror and we never see them. I think people are supposed to gaze on wildness – its freshness, its nearness to something uncompromising and untameable. I think people are supposed to have glimpses of bears and otter, whales and wolves and caribou, field-mice and bobcats and snakes, tropical toads and pelicans, flamingoes and manatee, and on and on into the richness of the beastie lexicon. (When I see stuffed toys in airport shops I feel sad, for it’s my notion that the more the wild things disappear the more we make toys of them from polyester in China.) I think we need to be graced by sightings of wildness every day. We know we can protect our children from wolves – that’s not an issue anymore – so why can’t we let wolves have their place on this planet? Without them we are inestimably poorer – and we scarcely are aware of this. It is such a joy to see a creature living its life….

  3. Fire. A wise niece of mine said the obvious: men love to come home at night and sit gazing into the fire – except now it’s the TV. I think people have evolved gazing at fires – tame ones in this case, we hope – and they give us something soothing, peacening – warmth is here, food; rest is here. We have harnessed, however uneasily, a great power and we can watch it and keep vigilance that it serves us and we serve it by feeding it – consciously, carefully. We are alert before the fire of life and we tend it and it gives us such fuel, such solace, such possibility. I think campfires and fireplaces are part of our physical heritage and need to be brought back into communal life – perhaps most ecologically as tribal gathering celebrations where deadwood can be burnt and people can get together – another thing much needed for the human heart and soul.

  4. Breasts. I think humans need to look at breasts – as part of daily life. Whenever a woman feels like baring hers nobody should get het up about it; breasts are earth’s fruits as much as pears and apples; nobody demands these be covered in the marketplace to hide their beauty. Of course many aboriginal peoples don’t find breasts disturbing – which shows the taboo is conditioning. My father, a scientist, worked in a lab where once a visiting colleague from another culture – I don’t remember which, for I was small – came to spend a year. My father chuckled to my mother that this man came from a place where breasts were daily on view but ankles had to be covered. The poor guy was in a torture of arousal from seeing all those ankles below the 50’s skirts!

    I think that NOT seeing breasts is hard on people’s spirits. I think people would be much more peaceful and content if they could warm their gaze on roundnesses. I think they would be made wise by seeing the changes nature gives to breasts in the course of a lifetime. I think it is very important for people to be in close contact with a fact of metaphysical human life: women’s breasts are protruberant because women’s hearts are fountains – love-vessels; sources of the Great Unconditionalness. Flowing love-waterfalls, in the best sense of the word love.

  5. Live Music. It is my strong feeling that humans are happy when they can gather together sometimes – let’s say often – and make music together. It is all well and good to play with amps and computer tracks and all the rest of it – but if people let strangers make ALL their music, and it is served to them by machines only – something is gone awfully astray. People are hopelessly disempowered by the giving-away of their innate musical sense. For people are rhythm-fiends – people love rhythm and rhyme, people love pattern and insouciance and lifting song, people love a way to put wildness into measure, people want to explore how to do this with bodies and hands and the things they find around them. Nearly everybody has SOME music in them – and most, I think, have a great deal. For me, it’s all in my dancing body – I scarcely hear music with my ears, and certainly cannot play it – but oh, how I appreciate the heart-as-one that happens in a good musical event! For me, not to dance is an agony…. I imagine that for others, not to wield an instrument is like that; and for others still, not to listen quietly – is a terrible lack. With frequent neighborly gatherings all is provided for…. So, this is the last item on my list today: to be properly nourished as humans, we need innocent gatherings to make music together – else we are not quite whole. Our cells have not connected up to themselves – we can’t quite breathe with all of ourselves.

Just as empty space surrounds the stars, the empty space in us that makes all the rest of it make sense – I can call meditation; not a Doing but a Being. It is my notion that if we sit sometimes and don’t do anything – if we observe ourselves minutely in that silence – if we observe observingness – we are party to an awe and respect for life, finally and right away. I think that with enough respected spaciousness in our lives we will naturally fall in tune with the things our cells love – and give them space and honor, reinstate them. Some of those things are: stars, wild animals, fire, female heart/breasts, live music.