Thursday, April 21, 2011
The first principal of animism is that we humans are animals. We are also spirits. Other mammals are also both animals and spirits. We tend to think of animism as a belief in spirits, and that's a big part of the anthropological definition of animism, but animists don't believe in disembodied spirits. We believe in embodied spirits. It's all material. It's all spiritual. That's why the stone can be intelligent. It has soul.
Separating matter and spirit, that's the mistake most people make. We think that we're either truly-animal (so say the scientists) or truly-spirit (say so the religionists). We only have these two choices available to us if we hope to find a niche in the contemporary dominator world, but it's a false choice.
It wouldn't be such an awful choice if it didn't damage us so much. In fact, the religious disgust with the flesh and desire to be rid of it is a source of great suffering among humans. We hold the flesh cheap. We bomb it, feed it plastic and pollution, reject its pleasures and hide it in shame. The scientific view that we're animals only, and that our intelligence is an epiphenomenon of chemical activity in the brain, and that there is no immortal soul is sad, but not so harmful. It can make us careless with one another, though. We may confuse people and things.
Go around for a day with awareness: we are all animals under our clothes. Look, you work with animals, eat with animals, there are animals running the cash registers and driving the automobiles. Oh, what glorious flesh!
Monday, April 18, 2011
Here is my spiritual work for the week: slow down, take my time.
After a lifetime of focused attention, producing, consuming, driving, hurrying, shopping, working for the dominators, doing doing doing, I can still hear my mother's voice scolding, "Don't dawdle!"
You're wasting time.
Stop sitting around like a bump on a log.
And now, today's world is moving ever faster. Faster computers, faster meals. Drive as fast as you can.
And in my work, like many of us, I'm pressed to accomplish more in less time, to make up for the people who were laid off and never replaced. More content to teach more quickly. More machines to fix. No time to take a break, no time to sit down for lunch.
I am so sick and tired of running so fast. When I cram in my exercise before getting to work at 7:00, I can't really enjoy it. When I rush through the grocery store, I don't have enough time to catch the scent from the bakery or choose each orange carefully. It's the pleasures of life that are sacrificed in our great hurry, and that's what I want to reclaim.
I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I vow, today, to slow down and take back my time from the dominators. Consider it an act of resistance. The Slow Movement aims to be subversive and I aim to join them.
Slow down, you move too fast. You gotta make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobblestones. looking for fun and feelin' groo-vy!
Saturday, April 2, 2011
They may claim to represent a loving god, but by their fruits they are easily known, and their fruits are cruelty and greed and fear and scarcity. They may claim allegiance to a particular nation, but this is merely a matter of convenience. When a nation is no longer useful to them as an army and a breadbasket for the army, they will discard one nation in favor of another, or of a combination of nations, or of none of them. The World Bank, for example, is a transnational dominator institution. Communist, capitalist, socialist, theocracy, democracy, monarchy, fascist state, drug cartel . . . they don’t care the political model through which they work or the type of economy they work with — any one will do if it can be used to control and direct people to dominator ends. What crumbs they’ve thrown us from science or medicine they would gladly take away if they could get away with it. Will we let them get away with it?
*for a basic definition of the dominators, click HERE.
Friday, April 1, 2011
The values and institutions of animist realities reflect these beliefs, and include a humility and empathy that is missing from dominator cultures. Aware of the interconnection between all life forms, and knowing that the survival of humanity is dependent on other life forms, animists seek an existence that maintains the planetary environmental system, the garden that grows our food and shelters us. Although competition is the norm in dominator cultures and comes highly endorsed by science, cooperation is the intra-species norm throughout the natural world and in non-dominator human societies as well. Extra-species cooperation may not respect an individual’s needs, but it maintains the balance between all life forms. We eat and are eaten. Trees breath out oxygen and humans breath it in.
An individual animist is not only cooperative in his or her social life, but also participates in the collective life of humankind, and understands him or herself as alive in the family or community. He or she will survive as the collective survives, even if the individual dies. If human nature is self-interested, or at the very least survival oriented, then this earthly collectivism is the animist road to survival, and cooperation in the interest of the human collective is the animist way.
I want to be clear that I am not defining animism as a religious form. Religion is a dominator institution. Animism is the experience of a material world that is alive, ensouled, and intelligent. It is a consensual reality, and the animist reality is filled with people of all kinds, from grass seeds to gods. In a dominator culture, a person is, by definition, a human person, and personhood is bestowed on us by virtue of characteristics deemed uniquely human, such as individuality, character, and most of all soul, those aspects that are not defined by material existence. In a reality in which all life forms share these characteristics, all life forms claim personhood. Smaller-than-human and greater-than-human life forms are persons, quickly-moving and slowly-moving life forms are persons, what dominators define as material-only and what dominators define as spirit-only are still fully unified persons.
The earth world is a community of persons in infinite variety―bacterias, rocks, puppies, cows, trees, mountains, angels, demons, and yes, even the gods, are all people. One doesn’t need religion as a separate institution in such an integrated world.
I do not think that the animist reality as I've defined it is the only alternative to a dominator reality, but I do think that the dominators are leading us down a violent, tech-paved road to hell. An alternative has to be found if humanity is to survive as a species in our bodies on this earth. As Charlie says, "Humans, it's time to love or you will surely die."