Monday, August 23, 2010

If the Earth Began One Year Ago

The earth is estimated to have existed for 4.5 billion years. Just how old is that anyway? And when did humans appear?

By way of analogy, let us say that the world itself began at 12:01 am on January 1st, and today is December 31st, one year later, just before midnight and the celebration of the New Year. The world has existed for one full year. In this time frame, the first life forms appeared on March 3, just 64 days, or two months, after the earth began. These single-celled organisms were the only life-forms for almost nine months, until the Cambrian Explosion, which occurred on November 17th, about six weeks ago. Mammals appeared on December 15th, about two weeks ago. Dinosaurs died out less than a week ago, around Christmas. Just a day ago, our ancestral line split from the other apes and monkeys, as our ancestors descended from the arboreal environment and began living amidst the predators and prey of the prairies and forests. We became fully upright less than 10 hours ago and took to fashioning stone tools about four hours ago. We learned to control fire an hour ago. We achieved our fully modern physical form about 20 minutes ago. We painted the stone-age caves of France about 4 minutes ago. We stopped hunting and gathering and settled into villages just one minute ago. We invented writing and built the pyramids 30 seconds ago. We discovered machines 2 seconds ago, electricity a second ago, and modern science half a second ago. The last slaves were freed just over a second ago. The civil rights movement occurred less than half a second ago. Our knowledge of all the history described here, all these ideas and all this information have been available to us for just a fraction of a second.

To better understand this analogy and its implications for humans in our modern world, consider that we began living as nomadic, tribal hunters and gatherers 4 hours ago. We only stopped living that way sixty seconds ago! So for three hours and 59 minutes, we spent our days hunting and gathering in small tribal groups, and then only took up this sedentary life style, building towns and cities during the last one minute of our history.

It is not enough for the history books to talk about all the human accomplishments during that last minute -the building of pyramids, the invention of writing, all written history has occurred in that last minute. Our ancestors lived a very different way for almost 4 hours before that. We have come from a different kind of world and we would do well to pay some attention to that because it informs much of who we are, what we do, how we act, what we believe.

Moving the model ahead, climate-change projections suggest that the polar ice caps could melt completely and environmental devastation could befall us in about half a second, if we don’t take immediate action now. Much to consider as we embrace a new future!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Some Reflections on the Loss of Ancestors

The wisdom of a billion years of life whirls through our very DNA. We explode with the creative impulse of evolution. We are imaginative beyond all measure, each of us, this miracle of molecules. We are vibrating souls of a pure energy, poised at the starting blocks of a great New World. So much to be revealed, and so much already manifest in anchors of goodness, delivered by untold heroes who ask for nothing in return. Patient ancestors watch and smile at each grand deed in the forward thrust of humanity towards its full awakening. We have arrived. Sacred wells of change spring forth in acts of kindness and generosity.

Something very lonely has been the lot of a great many of us. We are without a connectedness to an essential body of caring ancestors. We are alone. While our living friends and relations are a vibrant and essential part of us, we cannot be constantly surrounded by such people. We walk by ourselves through much of our day, through most of our life. Do we have a guardian angel, a knowable God? Some of us do, maybe. Do we have a connection to ancestors who are deeply invested in our well-being because we have inherited their DNA, and, more importantly, their dreams for a purposeful life? This lonely detachment from ancestors is a very sad state of affairs. Our separation from a living vital earth is another component of our profound dysphoria. Neither embedded in place, nor surrounded by watchful spirits, we can feel so alone today.

Imagine this brain that evolved in the Pleistocene environment of hunting and gathering. It has been unceremoniously stripped of the trappings of wild nature that both inspired it to flourish, and gently brought the dual hemispheres into sympathetic dance. It lives now largely in a world that sings the praises of linear mind, left mind, and offers the right mind accolades for art electives and the occasional music concert.

The ancestors are still waiting upon the living generations of people to shake loose from the death grip of post-industrial culture that has torn gaping wounds across earth’s blessed face. They have infinite patience because they are both timeless and knowing. We can touch that timelessness when we align with what is true and right about our dance on Great Mother Earth this time. So much beauty and wisdom exists like silken parades in wind over our heads that we can reach out and grasp if we simply trust this deeper knowing that is indigenous to mind. We are awake and yet how quiet the knowing mind has become -insolent rebellion from the gifts and yet ancestors are not bitter. They are ever patient.

My human form is secretly isolated from a bountiful world just beyond the double-paned windows of civilization, insulating as they do from any conscious knowledge that I have lost both place and ancestors. I peer out from the vantage point of eager scholar, budding woodsman, romantic lover of the Goddess, seasoned (if only recently conscious) mentor of youth. ‘Place’ is sacred hill, lush woodlands, terrain known under foot, fields grazed by the Other who will be the object of adoration and target of a spear to feed me. Contradictions from within this ‘place,’ the violence and the beauty, will be addressed and reconciled as the ancestors are spoken of in myth, and danced to in ritual. A connection to mythic heroes from our past becomes the guidepost for a more serious journey that begins at adolescence. We become hunters now, stalking that deep seed of destiny linking us to the ancestors who gifted us this cargo of fate.

Anchored as we are in this culture blinded by centuries of warfare and cruelty, the vast expanse of human creative expression and imaginative birthright gets buried in vitriolic evening newscasts that systematically ignore our heroism and instead parade our childish betrayals of the ancestors. We are much more than we are told, and we feel this deeply in the bones. We know something is amiss, and we manage to fashion a durable kind of self around a tenacious if tenuous belief that things really are OK despite deep callings that say otherwise. We are awakening, and this emergence into truth is not without ample birth pain. But is has its glory and we can sit still for just a moment and we know we evolve to betterment, as is the nature of time really.