Archive for April, 2018

Staying Clear

One of my teachers, John Perkins, mentioned that an indigenous tribe he spent time with had no word for sustainability. This may seem inconsequential, yet it is significant because for them there was no opposite of sustainable. All of their choices were made in honor of the future; anything different was incomprehensible to them.

Language is an interesting part of human life. I love stringing words together to explain concepts that stir in my mind. Yet, I’ve never been a particularly easy student of language itself. There is evidence that speaking multiple languages creates an expanded thinking process. Available words, or the lack of them, such as sustainable, affects the way we think. I am always interested in expansion, so for this reason I’d like to learn more languages other than English. Yet, it doesn’t happen. Then during a workshop, I mentioned that one reason I love animals (beyond having been born with the animal-loving gene) is because we communicate without speaking. While, I may say words to my dog or horse, it’s more presentation and energy that they understand. In that moment, it seemed perhaps I have learned a second language…a nonverbal one. Practicing this language expands my thinking beyond cognitive thought, in order to take in the communication of my senses.

A few years ago I went to Zimbabwe to volunteer in a lion program. The trip itself was kind of like being back in college, except instead of going to class I went to activities such as lion walking, cub sitting, elephant drives, and various chores like painting fences. All the lion activities were my favorite and allowed the opportunity to practice nonverbal language. My favorite moment was the first time a female lion rubbed up against me in greeting. When I was assigned snare search (looking for poacher’s snares on the perimeter of the reserve) on horseback, I was excited to be with one of my favorite animal species—horses. That was until I got to the barn, where the horses were underweight by U.S. standards. The saddles were old, in need of repair and did not fit well on the horse’s backs. To top it off, most of the people I was with had never ridden a horse before. Regardless, we tacked up and set off. As people got somewhat used to being on a moving animal, the guides had us move up to a trot. Again, most people had never ridden before, so they bounced around on the small and brave horses’ backs. I was the most experienced rider, yet because the saddle didn’t sit evenly on my horse, I was no better than the others at finding my balance. When the guide brought us up to a gallop, I was horrified. Not only out of empathy for the horses, it felt horrible for me too. We all survived.

The following day, I was sitting next to the river that ran through the reserve. This is where I went for quiet contemplation. The horses were free at that time and could go wherever they wanted on the 3,000 acres, like the Zebras that shared the same land. They chose to come to the river where they stood belly deep in the nourishing water and ate the greenery growing in the river. As I sat in my semi-meditative state, I watched the horses having a level of freedom rarely seen in the U.S. They had a herd of friends, space to roam, a river to lounge in and food and shelter to return to. While they still looked thin to me, I realized that plenty of horses in America have more food available to them than many humans do in Africa. These horses definitely had a different life than my horse, Tom. Yet, who was I to judge which lifestyle was better? As Americans we are provided much privilege and how we are able to care for our animals is one of them. Whether it’s for the best is up in the air. Sometimes we harm our animals with too much care, such as excessive food and micromanaging their behaviors. Yet, we assume that because we are well intentioned, any other kind of care is negligent. I think of myself as open-minded, empathic and tolerant. Sitting by the river at Antelope Park, I saw a prejudice or bias in myself not previously noticed. While it’s hard to admit to you and myself, there are probably others yet to be seen. Open-mindedness isn’t static but takes effort, awareness and remembrance. I’m going to continue giving it my best go.

Our primary language, as well as our culture’s ideas, shape how we see and the judgments/opinions we make. Are we willing to step out of that conditioning to see the world anew? It sometimes takes traveling to another country, but can also be done by continually clearing the lens we see through. Not an easy task. People say they want to “make the world a better place.” This is a noble sentiment, yet who’s world are they referring to? And who is to be the judge of better? Plato said;

“As youth fades and time brings changes we may change many of our present opinions. So let us refrain from setting ourselves up as judge of the highest matter.”

We will continue to have opinions and preferences, yet let us be aware of the futility in believing people in different situations should subscribe to the same ideas—that’s what causes wars amongst nations, families as well as inside ourselves. The most powerful change we can make is to be kind to all others, while being aware of living our own lives in alignment with our deepest priorities.



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