“Tell Them about the Beauty of my World……….”
This post should have been written a few months ago. In a ceremony back then, just after I had started this blog, La Madre Ayahausca told me very explicitly in relation to my blog: “Tell them about the beauty of my world.”
It’s not for nothing I am in her remedial class. Most of my work with her seems to take a long time and so far I have spectacularly failed the only test she set me. Thankfully, she is very patient as well as demanding – a good combination of potentially opposing qualities.
Anyway, for whatever reason, now seems to be the right time to write the post she asked me to.
I think the main reason for putting it off was feeling somewhat inadequate to the task she set me, but a few ideas have been germinating recently so here goes.
Firstly, we have to understand that Madre Ayahuasca’s world encompasses both the world of our normal sense perceptions, especially the world of nature, as well as the worlds of the spirits that co-exist alongside and interpenetrate our everyday world. This is all her domain and she is the benevolent but tough queen of all this. For her, a mosquito has the same value as a human being.
If we are fortunate to be graced by visions through meeting her, we can experience the exquisite beauty and intricacy of her world. Most visionary art – such as the examples of Peruvian artist Pablo Amaringo shown in this entry – is an attempt to represent this.
Secondly, we need to see and experience the beauty in the world immediately around us to be moved to do anything about the wholesale destruction of the planet now happening.
The facts about this are increasingly being documented and publicized – but seeing our favorite tree at risk of being chopped down or a landscape we have loved for decades being under threat is ultimately (I think) what will motivate us to take action.
Regular readers of this blog know of my admiration for James Hillman. He has written about the primary importance of beauty in our lives.
“That the world is loveless results directly from the repression of beauty, its beauty and our sensitivity to beauty. For love to return to the world, beauty must first return, else we love the world only as a moral duty: Clean it up, preserve its nature, exploit it less. If love depends on beauty, then beauty comes first, a priority that accords with pagan philosophy rather than Christian. Beauty before love also accords with the all-too-human experience of being driven to love by the allure of beauty”
He points out how our senses are being numbed in the contemporary world. Loud music, vulgar and violent television, overly strong food tastes, excessive sugar, too much time on computer screens, shopping malls, the ugliness of most contemporary architecture etc. etc. are all serving to anesthetize us, to make us not sensitive to the beauty that is being destroyed and not to care about what is happening around us.
There is an excellent book by Ricard Louv called “The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”, which brings together much of the research about the therapeutic effect of contact with nature, particularly on children. The book points out that in the USA with the combination of increasing urbanization, fear of letting children play on their own in case they are abducted or injured, and a culture of litigation, few children are now having the experience of free, imaginative play in nature.
There is much evidence that such play is hugely significant for the healthy development of the child. I have had a number of conversations with people where they have told me of their idyllic childhood memories and the timeless quality of playing alone or with other children for hours in open flower meadows, streams, trees and woods.
Moreover, this kind of play establishes a deep connection to and love for nature. Once this is lost, as kids spend more time on their phones and computers, then nature no longer matters – it is no longer an immediate, lived experience but mediated through nature programs or spectacular video clips on Youtube. As one fourth-grader quoted in the book says: “I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”
This reminds me of the work of Karl-Henrik Robert who founded The Natural Step – an organization seeking to achieve a just, healthy and sustainable society founded on consensus principles derived from science.
He was originally a Swedish cancer scientist and doctor. He noticed that parents were prepared to move heaven and earth to try to save the lives of their children but were hardly motivated to extend their concern beyond this – even when it became clear that environmental factors were behind the appearance of many types of cancer. Our culture typically limits our range of concern and appreciation of beauty to the field of close relationships.
Finally, we can turn to the work of poets to capture this sense of the beauty of the multiple worlds of Madre Ayahuasca. Two examples – the first from from ‘Sleeping In The Forest’ by Mary Oliver:
“I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.”
And the second from Rumi:
“The garden of the world has no limits
Except in your mind.
Its presence is more beautiful than the stars
With more clarity
Than the polished mirror of your heart.”