Our Spiritual Crisis
by Liseli Haines
Mohawk Valley Meeting
When I was 15 years old, I was living in Kenya with my parents and younger brother, home schooling; a year of freedom, being mostly by myself, schooling myself, with time to think and time to dream. One day I opened the back door to go outside. The view out my back door was one of a green lawn, the water tank next to the house, the low patch of spikey pineapple plants and the tall green trees beyond with the calls of birds and monkeys. All capped by the clear blue sky. As I stepped through the door, I heard a voice. And the words that were implanted in my head and my soul at that moment were “God is all around.” When God speaks there is no denying that voice and I knew instantly that it was true. God was in all I could see and hear, and beyond, in the very air I was breathing. It was a knowing that nothing could change. There was no going back. To this day this knowing informs my life. It informs my actions, and it informs my love for the green and growing world that is all around me. God is in all of it, not just humans, but the green trees and grass, the animals, and birds in the trees, even the rocks and mountains.
Many of us have lost our way. We have focused on other things that have taken over importance in our lives. Our western culture has lost our interconnectedness with the Earth, with the land we walk on, with the trees and the rocks, the plants and animals. We have forgotten our dependence on Earth and all that she gives us; that we depend on her for everything we have and are. We are the water in the creeks that also flows in our veins. We are the trees on the hill that breathe out the oxygen we breathe in. We knew this once, a long time ago. Our ancestors knew this when they were indigenous somewhere on this Earth. I know you know this too deep inside.
How do we take up this call of our ancestors? Do we start by acknowledging our colonialist/dominant cultural norms and how we have been taught to “subdue and dominate” the Earth? Can we start by changing our language and not “othering” the “more than human” inhabitants of the land?* Do we start by spending time every day sitting outside in quiet and contemplation, listening, feeling, hearing, smelling and seeing what is all around us? Or by jettisoning the idea of scarcity and acknowledging the abundance all around us with gratitude, not just on Sundays, not just at mealtimes, but with every breath we take?
I know you know this, but I am reminding you.
*–from Robin Wall Kimmerer, On the Language of Animacy; Orion Magazine, 2017