Learning to be still before the wisdom of those speaking an unfamiliar tongue
I stumbled on Belden Lane’s latest book, The Great Conversation:nature and the care of the soul, yesterday. He argues that we are “surrounded by a world that talks, but we don’t listen.” We have not only lost touch with the sounds and drama of nature we have forgotten we are part of it, that our soul feeds on it.
The forests and high rocky places on the Camino bring us back in touch with nature. Oaks network with each other underground and whisper to us of the imperative to listen to their wisdom: we are part of the web of life, when we break the threads of connection we will suffer, too.
Belden suggests we start listening to a tree near us. With that small connection we plug into every other piece of the natural system. When we spend time in relationship to part of nature we want to learn more about it. We find that the other-than-human world suffers, that it mirrors our sufferings and anguish.
Of course, the wild and frightening exist alongside the tame and beautiful, in both nature and the human world. The taipan and the oppressor consign their prey to distress and death. Dialoguing with nature heightens our awareness of both the Earth’s anguish and the pain of the poor and marginalised.
We are all part of the cycle of life. Belden Lane moves into elderhood learning from the journey that all lives take from birth to death, from soaring with the birds to going deep with the mountain and the cave. When he paid attention to a single tree opposite his home, he found mystery and connection in the solitary and ordinary.
Perhaps if we closed our computers and put down our smartphones and ventured out into the bush, we might finally perceive ourselves as part of the interrelated whole he speaks of. We might have some hope of saving the Earth and thus ourselves.