I woke up recently with the phrase "everything is alive" in my mind. To muse on that "threshold voice", I wanted to explore what "everything is alive" might mean, and this story from Alice Walker came to mind.
Catherine Keeler asked "How would we live if we saw the world with a 'webbed vision', meaning how would we live if we saw ourselves within a community, visible and invisible, of relationships with all kinds of living, responsive beings, including the food we eat, perhaps even the things we use and take for granted. As if it was all a kind of "great conversation", and creating "good relationship" was a primary concern. We would live so very differently...........
When did the world cease to be alive, and become a "thing"? When did plants, animals, and people become "things" or "resources" or "commodities" ? And how much of the conversation goes on without us realizing it, in spite of our objectification and de-humanization, all the time anyway?
I reflect on a little story of my own. At Christmas time a few years ago, because they were on sale, I bought a turkey and baked it. I felt rather silly, as I had no one to share this dinner with, being alone that Christmas day. I remember feeling rather sad about being alone, on Christmas day, with a baked turkey. I realized I had cranberry sauce, but no gravy, and so I decided to try to find some at the local Walgreens, the only place I knew would be open. As I went into the store, sitting on the sidewalk was a young man with a bottle of Windex offering to clean my windshield for some change.
Normally I'd provide some coins and move on, but the sight of this homeless young man, sitting there in the cold on Christmas Day, was just too much. I got to talking with him, and finding him intelligent, I asked him if he'd like some turkey, and we ended up sitting on the porch eating that turkey dinner together. I later paid him to do some odd jobs for me before he disappeared from that area, and I hope he found his way off the streets. Apparently, I didn't buy that turkey just for myself, although I thought I did. The universe responds.
The Universe Responds
by Alice Walker
A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Everything is a Human Being", which explores to some extent the Native American view that all of creation is of one substance and therefore deserving of the same respect. In it I described the death of a snake that I caused, and wrote of my remorse.
That summer "my " land in the country crawled with snakes. There was always the large resident snake, whom my mother named "Susie", crawling about in the area that marks the entrance to my studio. But there were also lots of others wherever we looked. A black-and-white king snake appeared underneath the shower stall in the garden. A striped red-and-black one, very pretty, appeared near the pond. It now revealed the little hole in the ground in which it lived by lying half in and half out of it as it basked in the sun. Garden snakes crawled up and down the roads and paths. One day leaving my house with a box of books in his arms, my companion literally tripped over one of these.
We spoke to all of these snakes in friendly voices. They went their way, we went ours. After about a two week bloom of snakes, we seemed to have our usual number: just Susie and a couple of her children.
A few years later, I wrote an essay about a horse called Blue. It was about how humans treat horses and other animals; how hard it is for us to see them as the suffering, fully conscious, enslaved beings they are. After reading this essay in public only once, this is what happened. A white horse came and settled herself on the land. (Her owner, a neighbor, soon came to move her.) The two horses on the ranch across the road began to run up to their fence whenever I passed, leaning over it and making what sounded like joyful noises. They had never done this before (I checked with the human beings I lived with to be sure of this), and after a few more times of greeting me as if I'd done something especially nice for them, they stopped. Now, when I pass they look at me with the same reserve they did before. But there is still a spark of recognition.
What to make of this?
But what I'm also sharing with you is this thought: The Universe responds. What you ask of it, it gives.............I remember when I used to dismiss the bumper sticker "Pray for Peace". I realize now that I did not understand it, since I also did not understand prayer; which I know now to be the active affirmation in the physical world of our inseparableness from the divine; and everything, especially the physical world, is divine."**
** (From: "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned We Can Have Peace on Earth",
Living by the Word, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1988.)