Here I’m going to write my thoughts on who we are and what our place is on this planet. These stories won’t be on any chronological order. I could start from the middle, go way back to creation or look into near and distant future. There is no beginning or end.
Sometimes science takes a long time to catch up. Religion takes even longer.
I love science but I don’t see it as the be-all and end-all. If time is not an exact science could science ever be 100% correct? And it’s kind of ironic that let’s say centuries ago if you didn’t follow the Christian faith you were a pagan. (This is still the same in many cultures and places around the globe) Christianity ruled, non-believers were ostracised. Even killed, burned at the stake.
Now, if you don’t believe in science you’re a pagan. You’re not burned for your beliefs but you can be seen as a bit backward. Not up with times. Stupid. People are ridiculous sometimes. Religion and science are both made up. People invented both and neither have answers to everything. And neither would exist without people. We are not the most important thing in the world.
Whatungarongaro he tangata, toi tū te whenua. When people are dead and gone, the land will still remain (Māori proverb)
When my people (or any indigenous culture) describe our natural world it is most often seen by the religious and scientific (or your average person who follows neither) as myths and legends. Not mythical but cute fairy tales that you can tell your kids. Many of our ways and views are seen as being superstitious nonsense. A lot of this has to do with interpretation. Actually, misinterpretation is a better description. But mostly it has to do with an attitude of superiority.
‘We know what’s best for you natives’.
For instance how my people view the forests. Tane (Tanemahuta) is the god of the forests and all that lives within his realm. He was the one who separated the primal parents, Ranginui (sky father) and Papatuanuku (earth mother). Before that everything lived in darkness. All the gods (Tane’s brothers and sisters) tried and failed at separating their parents. But Tane set his shoulders against the ground (mother) and pushed his feet up against the sky (father) and created this World of Light, making it possible for everything to grow. This makes a great story for children but definitely is not seen as truth. (In another post I’ll delve deeper into this concept to help clarify this interpretation of our natural world and creation) And yet we are all supposed to accept that Jesus walked on water as truth. Or that Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs in the Garden of Eden was tempted by a snake. The ramifications of this are still felt today. Just ask any woman about how equal she feels is this patriarchal society.
God made man (men) dominion over all things.
Trees (in our culture) are seen in the same way as people are seen. They are the children of Tane and live in their family groups. We are all equal and live in the same consciousness. Yes, I did say that. ‘Consciousness’ and ‘trees’ aren’t usually coupled together. But trees do live their lives much the same way as we and all animals live. Elders, adults and the younger generations. They are communal, they do nurture each other. They communicate and feel and thrive and strive for the (World of) Light. When a tree is struggling to grow it sends out messages to other trees. Those other trees band together and help the struggling tree or sapling. They are also tribal and will favour a tree from the same family grouping over other tribes (species).
Trees are seen in the same light as people and all living things.
Back in the ancient times when a tree was needed to build waka (boats) or houses it was a big deal. You didn’t just go a chop down anything you wanted whenever you wanted. Because you were killing a living being. You are destroying a home, a habitat for all the birds and insects and potentially other saplings that rely on this particular tree. That one sacrifice meant all, including people, had to make a sacrifice too. All for the needs of people. You’re taking something from a finely balanced community. So there was a lot of preparation. Karakia (incantations) were recited for many hours, sometimes days to try and alleviate the destruction and any potential of revenge (upsetting the balance comes with consequences). Rebalancing and sustainability were paramount. These incantations were directed at Tane of the forests and the many other gods associated with our fine balance of life.
And yet when we say things like this we are ridiculed.
‘Talking trees? Gods? What a load of rubbish! You people need to get up with times.”
Fast forward to a few decades ago. Ecologist Suzanne Simard grew up in the forests of British Columbia and ended up studying the forests for her thesis. Her research ‘led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances’. And they have ‘harmonious yet complicated social lives’. Here they use the word ‘discovered’ the same way they use it when saying Captian Cook ‘discovered’ New Zealand or Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. Forgetting that people were already occupying the land. This knowledge wasn’t just discovered. It has existed a very long time. But only when science says it, it is seen as truth.
I don’t want to take anything away from Suzanne Simard. What she has done is amazing and her continued study is incredibly important. We do know as people that community is vital to us. We are social beings and need each other, more so now than ever. We just don’t put this into practice. We’re too busy, too self-orientated. Too selfish to see past ourselves. And yet we have whole ecosystems that don’t operate with a brain but do a better job at nurturing than we do. The ones who have self-awareness and consciousness and ways and means to sustain the balance of life are the very ones who destroy it. The irony is mind-blowing.
Yes, sometimes science takes a while to catch up to what has always been known. Just because a culture existed many centuries ago doesn’t mean they had an inferior intelligence. In a lot of ways, I think their brain capacity was superior to ours. We rely on machines and fill our brains with a whole lot of crap. Then we have to sift through the crap to find the good stuff. A bit like how our colon works. They had to work things out for themselves. Live and experience and learn rather watch something on a screen or simply be told. Indoctrinated.
There are many things we can’t change is the world. But we can change our attitude. That one of superiority should be the first to go.
Tane of the forests. The Earth Mother and Skyfather. The ocean, rivers, mountains, all the other deities in our natural world. Imagine if we actually treated them as Gods. We wouldn’t be in the strife we are in right now.
Here is a link to Suzanne Simard’s Ted Talk on youtube.
Body is Earth, Mind is Universe.