Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nature Calls...

This time of year really starts to chap my hide... we get a few days of sun and all of a sudden I want to roll the windows down, blast some Gram Parsons, and hit the highway for a fun day trip or a nice hike. Spring Fever, you're such a tease.

My wife tells me there's a new topic being researched in child development circles called NDD... "Nature Deficit Disorder." It really is a scary thing to think that we've become so shut off from our connection to the earth that many children may have no idea how to interact with nature or environmental issues. A connection to "Outside" is as key as anything when it comes to developing a healthy spirit within us! Again, I'm no spiritual expert by any means, but I've always felt closest to God when I'm out experiencing the natural beauty of our own green earth rather than in the confines of a church.

How vast and glorious, this Great creation that surrounds us! One look from a high vista across the breadth of a cold morning's sunrise is enough to drive one to tears, in wordless wonder of the power and majesty of the wheels that make our world go 'round. I can think of no better place to find God if you're looking.

I think back a few ago to the time when I was Producer for a Outdoors program for Fox Sports SW. I had written and produced a show about deep-sea fishing for Kingfish off the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the glory and beauty of these massive fish, and the fact that our host and his guests on the trip were so overcome with the amazing results of the day's catch, I wrote the show with a spiritual theme in mind. Basically I wanted to reinforce the idea that a deeper understand of God and our spirituality can be found in the simple beauty of nature. Static-free, without agenda or dogma, this certainly was a place where we could find God or whatever we choose to call that Great force of spirit.

Well, I was very proud of the show I had done and so were my co-workers. No sooner did it air, however, when I received a very nasty email from some old southern preacher claiming that what we had done was heresy and that he would do everything within his power to get people to boycott the show, and talk to Fox Sports about getting us off the air.

I know everyone is entitled to their own opinions... and I respect them. And granted, I did title the show, "King of Kings" so I do see how that could ruffle some feathers. But I did feel the need to write this individual back to engage in a friendly argument about what constitutes a religious experience. I explained that many people find their way to God in very different and unconventional ways, and that no path is any less valid than the other when we're talking about one's personal connection to a spiritual force that I strongly believe is too great to assign traditional name, gender roles, or prescribed methods of worship to.

He wrote back, outlining that fact that I was not "qualified" to make such claims and that I was merely propagating the concept of Animism with my show, and that I was going to be sentenced to eternal damnation because of it.

I wrote back one last time to reassure him that I most certainly may wind up in hell for a number of reasons, but not because he said so, and not because I tried to illuminate my fellow man to see their spiritual connection with nature. I didn't want to disappoint him further by explaining that there is no hell, just a separation from the Great Spirit, and that we all will find our way to the light at the end of time because of God's endless love for His creation. But whatevs.

In appreciation for standing up for what I believed and for the show we produced, my boss at the time took me on a deep-sea fishing trip with other fans of the show, some of whom knew about the scuffle with Preacher man. Not all of them may have agreed with my specific beliefs, but they did all agree that it's not our place to condemn each other and that they, too, have found God in Nature many, many times.

Here's where I have to call bullshit on myself before I start sounding too preachy. I generally loathe self-help gurus and the like, and I find I always want to slap their smug, self-important grins off their fat fucking faces. I would expect someone to do the same for me. But my pointless meandering today leaves me with this: If we are to truly know God, and to develop a sense of responsibility for our environment, where better to start than by getting out in it? Nothing I write here can replace the wordess knowledge that one receives when the earth is talking directly to one's soul. It is a sacred place of healing and learning... by observing the energy flow of the natural world around us, we learn better how to get in tune with it and lead healthier, more centered lives.

At its most base level, we can look at the "non-religion" of Taoism as a simple complement to our own belief systems. And trust me when I say it need not be a religious dogma by any means... no chance of it getting entangled with your own belief system, which can be a danger if we decide to pick and choose which ideas suit us best from a "sampler menu" of Christianity, Buddhishm, Muslim ideologies, etc. This is a basic fallacy with much New Age religious crap, and it's certainly not what I'm talking about here. To study the Tao is simply to gain a deeper understanding of the way the world around us works, and how we can find greater richness in accepting and mirroring the natural rhythms of the earth.

A beautiful introduction to this can be found in the poems of Han Shan, a crazy old mountain dweller who would scribble his beautiful works on the sides of cliff walls and rocks to be discovered hundreds of years later in the world of ancient China. The "Cold Mountain" poems were always a great inspiration in my youth, and remain so still!

Poem 26:

Since I came to Cold Mountain
how many thousand years have passed?
Accepting my fate I fled to the woods,
to dwell and gaze in freedom.
No one visits the cliffs
forever hidden by clouds.
Soft grass serves as a mattress,
my quilt is the dark blue sky.
A boulder makes a fine pillow;
Heaven and Earth can crumble and change.

Poem 246:

I recently hiked to a temple in the clouds
and met some Taoist priests.
Their star caps and moon caps askew
they explained they lived in the wild.
I asked them the art of transcendence;
they said it was beyond compare,
and called it the peerless power.
The elixir meanwhile was the secret of the gods
and that they were waiting for a crane at death,
or some said they'd ride off on a fish.
Afterwards I thought this through
and concluded they were all fools.
Look at an arrow shot into the sky-
how quickly it falls back to earth.
Even if they could become immortals,
they would be like cemetery ghosts.
Meanwhile the moon of our mind shines bright.
How can phenomena compare?
As for the key to immortality,
within ourselves is the chief of spirits.
Don't follow Lords of the Yellow Turban
persisting in idiocy, holding onto doubts.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if the Bible-beating preacher was up on, y'know, the first and second chapters of Genesis - the two creation stories. The first, in particular, really swells up in me a delight in all that God created, and nowhere in that chapter does it describe all of the churches and chapels - just the lights, and the plants, and the animals, and the water, and the people. Go figure.