Mountain Heather, first snow. Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
On the road in the American Northwest.
TERRA MADRE—LIFEBODY OF THE EARTH
& THE SYNERGY OF THREE
In a dream, or in a kind of half dream-like state, I'm not
quite sure which, I recently had this figure come to me
in a strikingly vivid, forceful way. I got up straight away
in the middle of a stormy night to write it down in my
notebook. It is a very simple vision of Mother Earth,
or Terra Madre, as it presented itself in symbolic form:
Here, we have a translation of the figure:
The message is clear: the physical lifebody of the Earth—
what a scientist of Western culture would call the
biosphere—is actually our own larger, in a very general
way, lifebody. That is how I experience it, with the "breath"
being the air, the "skin" the living surface of the soil, the
"blood" the great circulatory cycle of water, and "hair" and
"fur" the grasslands and forestlands, respectively. And finally,
"spirit" as represented by sound, or the soundscape of the
whole. I was especially struck by the latter spirit / sound
relationship, as it is both in a way obvious to a musician
like myself, and yet strangely and tellingly ignored by the
present highly mechanized society.
For me, the figure approximates what I sense in a direct,
simple, emotional way—yet at the same time open to
rational consideration—as self-evidently so, or true.
In this brief sketch, I would only like to call attention to
two implications of the diagram: First, is what I think of
as a kind of negative or positive interrelationship represented
by the triangle. In a single phrase: as a general principle
of the synergy of three, abuse one, wreck three. That is,
cut down the forest, and you'll wreck both the water cycle
and the atmosphere. Treat the atmosphere like a sewer,
and you'll wreck the watershed and the forest. Dam the
rivers, and you'll kill the forest and dry out the air. Etc., etc.
Note also that the principle has an important positive
formulation: improve one, heal three. Bring back the
forest cover, and improve the health of the watershed
and the quality of the air, etc.
Second, the principle of the synergy of three addresses
the issues of ethical culpability for harm done, as well as
the ethical responsibility to act decisively to stop such
harm in a fundamental way. In countries with an
established tradition of the rule of law, this last
statement is well established for individual citizens.
This is a great achievement that deserves our sustained
vigilance. On the other hand, when it comes to the Earth
and the land, our ethical awareness has taken a back
seat to what is generally thought of as "economic
development." So instead of a lifebody of the land
worthy of unambiguous protections, we think of a set
of disconnected, essentially replaceable materials which
can be used, owned, and sold without limit, just like bolts
and gears and fuel. Thus, when we say, for example, 'land
rights,' or 'water rights,' the first thing that comes to mind
is the rights of individuals to own and use these as
resources, and not the rights of protection of the land
and streams themselves. In the view of the synergy of
three being discussed here, this is a very profound error
of perception and thought—a kind of illness of consciousness
really because it is a mistake that is made repeatedly and
wantonly—which is in urgent need of examination and
That is for me the clear and simple message of the Terra
Madre figure. The Earth is our mother, our greater lifebody.
So when I see, for example, a photo of a farmer in Ohio
pumping his soil full of anhydrous ammonia, my gut reaction
is no different than when I hear of a human being subjected
to the torture of water boarding for whatever reason: Good god,
this must stop, now. I stand by the clarity and simplicity
of this view.
| download mp3 | 5.9 Mb performed here by the PicturePoems
computer voice, better than my own I think in this case, That's
because I like the strangely dispassionate, neutral, yet serious,
philosophical tone. . . . [Windows: r click; Mac: opt + click] |
Eagle Cap Wilderness