Utopia 15: The Pilgrimage

The man of science, the naturalist, too often loses sight of the essential oneness of all living beings in seeking to classify them in kingdoms, orders, families, genera, species, etc., taking note of the kind and arrangement of limbs, teeth, toes, scales, hair, feathers, etc., measured and set forth in meters, centimenters, and millimeters, while the eye of the Poet, the Seer, never closes on the kindship of all God’s creatures, and his heart ever beats in sympathy with great and small alike as “earth-born companions and fellow mortals” equally dependent on Heaven’s eternal love.–John Muir





The Pilgrimage

It was mid-afternoon when their shuttle deposited Jack and his class at the second monument.  The tone of this monument was more reverent and the group took on a respectful hush.  Many of the children had been briefed on what to expect by their parents, who no doubt had made this pilgrimage with their classmates.

In front of them was a small stone building with the words “We are One Earth” printed in mosaic stone above the door.  They made their way through the door to a hallway.  Pictures covered the walls.   Pictures of a polluted lake.  An emaciated child with bare feet squatting and picking through trash in a refuse dump.  Desperate and dirty looking people on the Long Walk.   Sand dunes covering all but the top tassels of a corn field.  A woman nursing a baby in the midst of burned out rubble.

The group rounded a corner and the character of the pictures changed.  A parking lot being torn up by people with pick axes while others assembled raised beds for crops.  People at a grange meeting.   Young saplings being hand watered on the edge of a desert.  A white man in a suit shaking hands with a brown woman in a sari.  She had a dot on her forehead and many of the children paused at this picture to look at it curiously.

The hall gave way to a large room.  An archway as they entered the room announced it as “The Preparations Chamber”.  Each of the party was carrying a small amount of change that they now used to buy pouches of seed and deer food.  No clerk or other human was in the monument.  The exchange was purely on the honor system.  But who would come all this way, to this monument, with the intent to steal from it?  Jack bought a pouch of bird seed and pushed it into his back pack.

Then the group moved to the back of the chamber.  There, containers ranging in size from a cup to three gallons hung on a side wall.  Each member of the group collected a container.  Jack took one of the larger two gallon size receptacles off its hook for himself.  Then he exited the back of the building into the late afternoon light.

The class was greeted by an extraordinary scene.  A natural pond had been surrounded in plantings to make an impressively lush water garden.  To the right, a waterfall fed the pond.  Some jays splashed their bright blue plumage in a small pool formed by the spray of the waterfall.  Startled by the sudden entry of Jack’s class, they broke the quiet repose with annoyed “Ya-ipe. Ya-ipe” as they fled the scene.

In the middle of the pond a small island held a statue of a Native American’s upper torso carved in aged plaster.  He was looking intently off to the right and appeared to be pointing to the waterfall.  A horse’s head supported his outstretched arm.  His hair and the horses main flew back behind them giving them a sense of eternal motion.

Jack pointed to a flat area on the left side of the pond and said softly, “You can fill your vessels there.”  The class and the chaperone’s slowly filed to the area and began to line up to fill the containers with water.  Three people could kneel shoulder to shoulder in the low flat area created for this purpose and fill their jugs.  As each vessel was filled the carrier sealed it and stepped away wordlessly allowing the next person their turn to fill their vessel with water.  The containers were stowed in back packs as the class spoke conversations in hushed tones.  When all had completed this task Jack began to lead them up the trail.

The day was growing warmer and the trail had a 25% incline in places.  Jack was huffing and puffing in minutes.  As per custom, though, he did not drink any of the water he carried.  He would not drink again until he finished this pilgrimage.  The children did much better initially but even the most athletic among them was panting by the time they reached the entrance to the monument itself.

As they mounted the top of the mountain the side of the trail fell away in a cliff.  A low fence of chain link had been constructed to keep the not so sure footed from falling.  Soon after they encountered the fence the trail seemed to open up.  They had reached a great stone bridge about 20 feet wide and 150 feet long.  Both sides were now protected with the fencing to prevent the clumsy from falling to their deaths.  The fences were overgrown with vine in many places but between the vines the view was breath taking.  The vines grew from raised beds along the sides of the bridge.  The beds were constructed from what appeared to be refuse held together by chicken wire and posts.  Dozens of raised beds containing plants and even some trees dotted the bridge and made the isthmus lush with plants that after the long dry climb felt cool and inviting.

The small group followed the trail onto the peninsula.  At the tip of the projection was a clear space surrounded by trees.  They made their way toward it.  As soon as they entered the garden they were accosted by deer who followed them as they made their way to the clearing.  None of the deer showed any fear but at the same time the deer were not inordinately aggressive in their nudging, but they did nudge the children from time to time.  The children had obviously been coached about this and gently pushed them away.  The deer seemed to accept this and instead of continuing to beg, simply followed the class to the clearing where they waited patiently.  Some even laid down in the shade of a near by tree.

As they passed onto the isthmus some of the lead children became aware that they had entered the point near the jaw of an enormous face.  The features were unmistakably those of a Native American; high cheek bones with long features and a prominent nose.  A handsome face even at this dimension.  The same face that had greeted them at the pond.  The face gazed out toward the horizon.  The expression was one of determination but also conveyed a deep sadness.   The first few children who noticed the face stopped in awe of it.  They pointed and whispered to their companions before continuing.

The class entered the clearing and began to find seats on the ground.  When all of the children were assembled, Jack walked to the right hand side of the clearing where a pedestal had been erected.  He examined the pedestal and found that the imprint of a hand was its only decoration.  He placed his hand in the imprint and it lit up outlining his own hand.  The faint whir of machinery could be heard under his feet and the holographic image of a woman appeared sitting near a clump of plants in the center of the clearing.  She did not walk on stage but instead just appeared, sitting with one leg wrapped under her and the other knee bent in front of her to provide a resting place for her hands.  She was in her mid 20’s and attractive.   She was a thin woman with very dark short hair wearing a very outdated tunic which was entirely white with matching white shoes.

“Welcome to the Memorial to Separation.” she began in a cheery voice uncharacteristic of the somber mood they had been traveling under.  Her words appeared in written form above her head and then faded away.  Jack took his seat on the ground to the right of his class.

“I am Audrey Hamilton, creator of the Memorial to Separation.

“I created this memorial because I felt the hardest thing to understand about the Great Catastrophe was the mindset of the entire population of the Earth at the time.  A mindset that allowed the destruction of their world and nearly resulted in humanity’s extinction.

“This mindset, the idea of Separation, started a very long time ago.  Perhaps even at the dawn of cultivation.  Man began to see himself as something separate from the world itself.  Separate from nature.  This was not an often spoken of concept but it permeated their every thought and action.  It was expressed in subtle ways.

“For example, they used to ‘throw things out’ or throw something ‘away’.  Of course they did not have the ability to remove all those things from the planet.  So by throwing something ‘out’ they meant that they were removing it from the human sphere.  This thing, usually refuse and sometimes toxic substances, simply piled up out of their immediate sight.”  Audrey dissolved into a heap of garbage being formed into great mounds by bulldozers.  Many of the children leaned back instinctively away from the sight even though they knew it was only a hologram.

“It was still very much in the world,” Audrey’s disembodied voice continued, “but it was frequently out of balance with the world.  It would not break down and regenerate in a timely fashion.  But to our ancestors it was quite literally gone in their minds.

“There was another saying, ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw.’  It implied that nature was composed of various species carving out niches which they defended violently from other species lest they be out-competed and cease to exist.  But it also implied that man was somehow above this fray.  Civilized.  Yet that civilization lead to huge genocides, starvation for some while others wasted food, and finally the near destruction of the Earth’s ability to support our species.”  Examples of each of man’s transgressions appeared on the stage as Audrey’s voice spoke of them.

“Those who tried to point out man’s integral place in nature were scoffed at and ridiculed.  Even to the point of violence on occasion.”  A couple who had made a temporary home in a huge redwood tree looked over the edge of their platform as a man at the bottom of the tree used a chain saw to cut it down.  Several of Jack’s students gasped at this sight.  Jack could not tell whether it was with concern over the well being of the couple or at the crime of cutting down such a magnificent old growth tree.

 

 

“They were told that the economic structures man had built would not support the protections of the environment.  They were seen as utopianists and somehow less mature and reasonable than those involved with increasing the conversion of the natural world to money.”  A group of young people and one older, balding gentleman in a garden hat, were being cuffed and led away from a plant with stacks spewing smoke into the air.  Signs saying “No More Coal Fired Plants” and “Stop Mountain Top Removal” were being ripped from their hands.  “Of course later it was the economists whose theories were proven wrong and the environmentalists who saved us from extinction.”  The balding man was out of jail and dressed in formal attire of the period. He stood in front of an auditorium of people while people who were clearly involved in the media snapped old time flash pictures. President Garcia lifted aberibboned metal and the man leaned forward to allow her to place it around his neck.

“Now, of course, this view of the world seems ridiculous. Even when one species does prey on another or competes with another for resources, they almost never cause each others extinction.  Not unless they are introduced from one ecosystem to another by migration and thus upset the balance already established.  A relatively rare event.  

 

 

“Having hindsight we can see that this is a projection of the competitive and hierarchical nature of man’s society at the time.  It is a projection of the fascination that we once held for enclosure and ownership.  In fact, they called themselves the ‘ownership society’.

“The truth is that nature does not own.  It shares.  The truth is that nature is dependent on interrelationships, democracy and cooperation.  We know that herds ‘vote’ with their body language on what the herd should do next.” The scene faded into the Serengeti.  A herd of water buffalo grazed on a vast plain with other animals.  They appeared to amble randomly and the point of view began to float above them and look down on the herd.  From this perspective it became clear.  One by one the members of the herd were turning to face the watering hole near by.  When over half of them were facing the water the herd began to stomp and became restless.  Then, as though on some signal, they began to move to the water in one big mass.  “Sometimes this occurs with such speed that the entire group appears to be moving as one.”  The Serengeti was replaced by a sky full of dark starlings all moving in a confusing pattern so that the mass of birds seemed to be one amorphous organism.

“Consider this group of plants that I am sitting near.”  The birds faded back into Audrey as she gestured to a bush that grew near her.  “On the stems of the plant you will see tiny ants.”  A circle of magnification opened up and indeed the stem of the bush was covered in ants busily going about their own affairs.  “But do not touch the leaves of the plant.  The ants are fierce at defending their tree.  The ants defend the tree and in return the tree provides a sap that it exudes at the base of each leaf to feed the ants.  The sap is high in glutamine which the ants need to live.  The ants can only digest this type of sap from this type of tree and no other.  But the sap is sweet and other animals, including the deer here at the monument, would likely eat the plant if it weren’t defended by the ants.

“Under the soil,”  her hand moved to the ground near the plant.  “the roots are entwined with the hyphae of 12 different fungi.”  The magnified view now changed to a background of soil with small white strands running through the particle of dirt.  The strands were intertwined with grey nodules.  Larger roots could also be seen weaving between the hyphae.  “The fungi pull nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plant.   They can only do this with the aide of a bacteria which they house in these nodules.  The plant uses this to make theglutamine.  Without the glutamine the ants would have no food.  The roots of the plant use the waste product of the fungi.  If the plant was not constantly clearing the fungal waste from the soil the soil would soon become so high in nitrogen that it would kill the fungi.

“The definition of a species occupying a niche according to earlier generations was a group of individuals that could reproduce with themselves.  When the ant colony becomes too large, members of the colony take the seeds out several feet from the mother colony to a suitable location and plant them in soil rich with the fungi.  So, are the ant, the plant, and the fungi separate species occupying separate niches?  They can not survive without each other but do not reproduce with each other per say.  Perhaps the whole group is one discrete species.  But when you look closer you find even more interrelationships.  You find a complex web of interrelationships between every living thing if you look even casually at them.

“Consider our own bodies.  On the cellular level we have a myriad of microscopic life on our skin and in our digestive tract.  Without them we would succumb to infectious disease.  The organisms in our gut are vital  to digesting and absorbing certain crucial elements.  Is our species just ourselves or does it include these bacteria?

“Millennium ago small bacteria invaded more complex cells.   The bacterium gave the cell energy in the form of ATP.  The complex cell was mobile and could move to sugar rich areas and consume sugars which the bacteria ate.  Now all complex life depends on the energy provided by these ancient bacteria known as mitochondria.  Are all life forms with mitochondria different variations of the same species?  Is all of Earth only one individual and we single cells in that organism, as the Gaea theory surmised?

 


“The answer is that the concept of species is false.  No species can actually survive on its own.  It is a concept that is useful when thinking about interrelationships and breeding, but one has to keep in mind that it is only a concept and not a reality.  We are not separate species and we are not separate from nature.  We are part of the Earth.  We are nature.  We are each other.  Just like the mitochondria in our cells and the bacteria in our guts, there can be no separation.

“This site, where once man was asserting his dominance over nature by carving an entire mountain, a beautiful mountain, into his own likeness has become the symbol of that wrong path.  The path of domination and separation.  Our species was on the brink of death.  We survived not by dominating over nature but by taking our rightful place within nature.  Not as kings over nature but asstuarts of the communities of nature that surrounded us.  That is what this site represents; an end to the idea of separation.

“Volunteers used the trash that was thrown ‘out’ to create containers for plants.  Out here on this rock ledge no plants could grow without those containers and the soil and organisms they contain.

“No plants could grow without you either.  You provide the water for the plants and feed for the wildlife who choose to live here.  No one is assigned to come here.  You come here of your own will.  If no one comes here the plants and all that you see will die.  You are an integral part of this community.”  Audrey faded away but the bush she had been sitting next to remained.  It was not a hologram.

Jack rose and unfastened the lid on his vessel.  His mouth was dry and he could nearly feel the cool, clear water on his throat, but he did not drink.  Instead he approached the bush that had been used as the lesson of the monument.  Careful not to disturb the ants, he poured half a gallon of water on the soil near the bush.

The students and their chaperons followed his lead.  They rose and began to distribute their water.  The deer immediately began to follow the classmates nudging them and nipping at their clothing.  Between the plant containers were depressions in the rock.  Some of the water in the containers was poured into the depressions.  Deer instantly circled these areas and began to drink.

Birds appeared from no where, including the tribe of jays who announce their arrival with a loud “Ow, Ow”.  Jack began to throw his bird seed to them.  He particularly liked jays.  Their bold, blue plumage and their equally bold almost demanding nature appealed to him.  He was soon surrounded in birds of every variety.  A parade of color and plumage with every nature of voice and song circled him and filled his heart with joy.  Chipmunks began coming out from small holes at the bottom of some of the containers.  They scampered among the birds at Jack’s feet.  A jay raised its wings to ward off one of the chipmunks from a particularly plump sunflower seed before snatching it and flying off.  The chipmunk, unimpressed by the display, began to fill his pouches with millet as fast as he could gather the seeds in his tiny hands.  Jack chuckled at the scene and looked at his class.  Unlike the somber mood that had brought them here, they were now giggling and laughing as they watered the plants and fed the creatures who resided here.  How had his ancestors missed this?  How had they not understood for so long that it was not the taking but the giving that brought this feeling?  How had they survived their own pain and longing for so many generations?

 


The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

 1.  Thunderhead Mountain  

 

My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes too.-Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear in a letter to sculptor Korezak Ziolkowski

 

Imagine going to the holy land in Israel, whether you’re a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the mountain of Zion. It’s an insult to our entire being.-Lakota activist Russell Means

 

The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. It is against the spirit of Crazy Horse.  -Lakota Medicine Man Lame Deer

 


After the insult of Mount Rushmore the Lakota decided to create their own monument to Chief Crazy Horse.  The Monument was to be cut from another sacred mountain called Thunderhead.  It was to be much larger than Mount Rushmore and to be entirely privately funded as the Native Americans wished to avoid government involvement and thus government control of the monument.  They hired a sculptor who had worked on Mount Rushmore withGutzon Borglum, Korezak Ziolkowski.

 

 

From its inception the monument was controversial.  Crazy Horse never allowed pictures or other images of himself to be taken when he was alive because he believed a part of his soul was captured that way.  It is also believed by some that Crazy Horse would never have allowed a sacred mountain to be defaced with his own or anyone else’s image.

 

 2.  The      Age of Separation  

 

Much of the concepts in this fiction I have Lynn Garry of Unwelcome Guests, and Charles Eisenstein who wrote The Ascent of Humanity to thank.  I can hardly add to their body of work.  You will actually have to click a link this time for a discussion of the material. The advantage is that the original author does a far greater job of presenting this material than I ever could.

If you wish to really take your mind for a walk on the wild side I recommend Lyn’s weekly podcast which is given as a gift to the world every week.  If you wish to learn more about separation and the coming reunification I recommend Eisenstien’s website which contains his book also given to you as a gift.  The book starts slow but it is filled with incredible facts and ideas too many to elaborate on here.  However, if you persist the ideas that he presents are mind blowing.  Well worth the read.

Lynn Garry read the entire book over a series of weeks on her show.  The beginning of the book starts here.

 

 3.  The      Wise  

 

Lynn Garry recently taped two speeches given by an octogenarian by the name of John Doscher.  They are the last public engagements this man will give.  The talks were remarkable for their insight and clear statement about the realities of our situation today.  They also raise questions about our ability to survive our own stupidity and the nature of how deep the changes would have to be in order for the human race to survive.  They are well worth your time:

 

John Doscher “Capitalism as Culture”

John Doscher “Out of Time”



 

3 comments

  1. So the next few weeks will be pretty busy for me as I have to pack and find a home at my new job.  I start Jan 1, 2010.

    Nothing personal Arizona, its just that the State of Jefferson is my home.

    • Joy B. on September 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    for this story and its background. Best of luck!

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