Does It Love You? - Trust

Big magic: creative living beyond fear - Elizabeth Gilbert 2015

Does It Love You?

My friend Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer is a botanist and an author who teaches environmental biology at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. Her students are all fervent young environmentalists, earnest as can be, desperate to save the world.

Before they can get down to the business of world-saving, though, Robin often asks her students these two questions.

The first question is: “Do you love nature?”

Every hand in the room goes up.

The second question is: “Do you believe that nature loves you in return?”

Every hand in the room goes down.

At which point Robin says, “Then we have a problem already.”

The problem is this: These earnest young world-savers honestly believe that the living earth is indifferent to them. They believe that humans are nothing but passive consumers, and that our presence here on earth is a destructive force. (We take, take, take and offer nothing of benefit to nature in return.) They believe that humans are here on this planet by random accident, and that therefore the earth doesn’t give a damn about us.

Ancient people did not see it this way, needless to say. Our ancestors always operated with a sense of being in a reciprocal emotional relationship with their physical surroundings. Whether they felt that they were being rewarded by Mother Nature or punished by her, at least they were engaged in a constant conversation with her.

Robin believes that modern people have lost that sense of conversation—lost that awareness of the earth communicating with us just as much as we are communicating with it. Instead, modern people have been schooled to believe that nature is deaf and blind to them—perhaps because we believe that nature has no inherent sentience. Which is a somewhat pathological construct, because it denies any possibility of relationship. (Even the notion of a punitive Mother Earth is better than the notion of an indifferent one—because at least anger represents some sort of energetic exchange.)

Without that sense of relationship, Robin warns her students, they are missing out on something incredibly important: They are missing out on their potential to become cocreators of life. As Robin puts it, “The exchange of love between earth and people calls forth the creative gifts of both. The earth is not indifferent to us, but rather calling for our gifts in return for hers—the reciprocal nature of life and creativity.”

Or, to put it more simply: Nature provides the seed; man provides the garden; each is grateful for the other’s help.

So Robin always begins right there. Before she can teach these students how to heal the world, she has to teach them how to heal their notion of themselves in the world. She has to convince them of their right to even be here at all. (Again: the arrogance of belonging.) She has to introduce them to the concept that they might actually be loved in return by the very entity that they themselves revere—by nature itself, by the very entity that created them.

Because otherwise it’s never going to work.

Because otherwise nobody—not the earth, not the students, not any us—will ever benefit.