An earthbound philosophy

It’s a cool 63 degrees out here on the porch this morning, sun already hanging high. Hard to believe the triple-digit forecast. Hard not to believe this is more than just extreme weather we’re having. Hard to stay away from the reality-denying cool of the pool.

Floated with Songlines yesterday, pondering native Aussie wisdom with Bruce Chatwin:

The Aboriginals had an earthbound philosophy. The earth gave life to a man; gave him food, language, and intelligence; and the earth took him back when he died… To wound the earth is to wound yourself, and if others wound the earth, they are wounding you. The land should be left untouched: as it was in the Dreamtime when the Ancestors sang the world into existence.

So, they’re a hybrid of Berkeleyan idealism and indigenous pagan naturalism. Esse ist percipi, to be is to be perceived. And honor thy mother.

There are worse things to be, worse perceptions to sing. As Carl Safina pointed out, most western philosophy (David Hume a notable exception) “hasn’t had the world in mind,” hasn’t appreciated the natural sympathy, the “feeling for the other” that is fundamental to our humanity.

It’s really too late now for us to leave the land untouched, though. We need to retouch and restore it to as much aboriginal health as can be reclaimed. We need to sing our own song, and to remember that we’re somebody’s ancestors too.

Chatwin was already very sick when Songlines was published a quarter century ago, and probably knew he had just a couple years left to the rare bone marrow disease that would take his life at age 48. ”Hazards of travel – rather an alarming one.” Didn’t keep him from traveling and singing, right to the end. His books are still singing,  still shaping perceptions of a healthier planet. The aboriginal truth: we’re not dead yet, it’s not either.

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