Archive for the ‘Possession’ Category

A talk from the heart by Boyd Varty, who has learned in his life that we are connected andmade better by our connection with each other — ubuntu — but that is also true of our connection with our Earth, our habitat, and the other animals with whom we share this beautiful planet.

A long, long time ago, I too walked a river near Londolozi in South Africa, and too saw the shadows and faced my deepest fears. I too learned of what it meant to be reliant on others to open the world, touch my heart, carry my spirit to safety, and to experience the humility of our deepest connections of heart, of spirit, of life and how these interconnections are made stronger by extending to the living creatures around us… but these are stories for another time. For now, listen with open heart to Boyd Varty and allow yourself to be immersed in his heart and story. It’s not just about meeting and knowing a great person, it is also about learning to know that together in spirit we are stronger.

Read Full Post »


© 2011 Elizabeth Darby; a View from a place called Home, UK
All rights reserved; please contact me before reposting as a courtesy.




To be

Taken Over

Whether by God or by Human or by demons . . .

Funny how such a word <possession> has so many possibilities.

Earth: Sacred/Possession

When I wrote the title for this blog and the forthcoming book project, it just seemed like the Right Question.

And I’m finding there is nuance to it.

Does Possession in my project’s title mean  possession by God, or of God?

By humans or of humans?

Is the Earth, the land of earth, the inhabitants, habitat, place of our lives a thing owned — in which case are we also ‘things’ when we are taken over as in the common use of the word ‘possessed’ in the spiritual sense?

Are we possessed by the Land as it defines us, as in where we are born, how we identify our soul or personality’s substance (as in “I’m from _______” and thus it defines our very Self as individuals, families, histories and cultures, not to mention our dreams, destinies and wealth or power?

When I envisioned the title, the book and the hoped-for curriculum emerging from this project, the immediate use of Earth as Possession was — at least for a moment — clear to me:

Earth as possession is something someone owns, despite cultures throughout time and place which argue it is impossible to ‘own or possess’ the Land itself. Yet whenever we make an object of it, and buy and sell turf or fight wars over it, we reduce Earth, the Land, to a possession. Is this what we choose to do? Is this sustainable, this perception of our habitat as a possession?

But in going deeper, it is not so clear this concept of Habitat, Land, Home, Earth and how our language defines our relationship with it.

Back to Eric Partridge’s Origins for help:

L potis

a master of (especially property);

has a derivative possidere, literally to sit as master of, to make oneself master of,

to occupy as an act of possession —

Ah, but there’s more to this. The spiritual sense of ‘possession’ as  a demonic force apparently didn’t come into common use in English until the 1530’s. More on that in a subsequent post, but historians will recognize the time as one of religious upheaval in England, when monasteries were ripped down and “witch” trials against followers of the goddess Diana in Spain and its colonies in the wilderness of the New World were underway. A dark time when open engagement with God’s creation was suspect… But more on that later.

According to Partridge, ‘possession’ in the 1400s had a sense of “to have and to hold” as in a bridegroom unto beloved. Power-holder, yes, but the spiritual sense of ‘possession’ was yet in terms of husbanding and the clear connection to the sacred with the symbolism inherent in bridegroom as used in biblical terms.

Is there yet more to this curious concept of possession? Yes, as always a contradiction:

n posse

to have power, to be able to [do something],

 especially exercising one’s ability or mastery or power

A root of possession is ‘being able to master or power’ and it is this relationship we all enter into every moment of every day when both thinking and especially not thinking about how our land, our Earth, sustains us. This is not a bridegroom coming to ‘husband’ a land, but something much darker.

And yet there is more: the idea of Earth being possessed by God and, as Psalm 24:1, thought to have been written about 1000 BC, goes: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein . . . ”

In this engagement, we and the Earth, all of everything, is a possession of God’s; there is no distinction between humans and God’s Creation as the new Pope Francis evokes in his early homilies, asking all of the world’s people, regardless of religion power or mastery, to care for all of God’s Creation. Earth as Sacred/Possession.

But there is still more:

Hidden among the historical roots of this L posse and L potis, is also, perhaps most importantly, the root of the word we know as possibility.

That is, the personal power to make something happen.

And, as we know, there is great possibility if —

— If we define our tomorrows feeling  the Earth to be our Home, our Habitat, our Garden for our children and engaging with it under the mastery of our careful interconnectedness.

Read Full Post »

“All cultures through all time have constantly been engaged in a dance with new possibilities of life.”

Wade Davis
Photographer, Ethnographer, National Geographic “Explorer in Residence”

Please see his appeal on the wilderness of northern Canada —

Read Full Post »

It is the time of Lent.

For many across the world, it is a time when a person of God is in the wilderness . . .

. . . searching for voice,

. . . listening for knowledge,

. . . questing for life,

. . . strengthening for soul,

. . . praying for guidance,

. . . aching for nurture, perhaps even for solace,

. . . searching for the face of God,

. . . and finding sustenance.

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Opal Creek, Courtesy of USFWS/David Patte

Is God in the wilderness?

Is God the wilderness?

Our wild lands remaining are but remnants of the garden created.

Yet they are a source of all of the above. Still.

With such an ancient and most holy tradition of searching for the face of God in the wilderness, how did later peoples come to view the wilds as the home of the darkness, the Enemy, the one who destroys?

And how have we come to become the destroyer of such a garden?

Full of darkness or light, perceived danger or received sustenance, wild is wild.

It is uncontrolled, like God.

It is unpredictable, like God.

It can be breathtaking . . .

and it can be renewing,

like God.

The wilderness is the first, only, and ultimately the last source of nurturing, knowledge, sustenance

—and perhaps solace —

as we face ourselves in this time of reflection.

What face will we see when we do so?

Read Full Post »

From The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture)

From a photo gallery published in the Guardian.UK (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/gallery/2011/nov/16/stranded-polar-bears-alaska-in-picture) by wildlife photographers Will Rose and Kasja at 70˚North, a multimedia project

The polar bears (above) have returned, pacing day after day, on this beach of an island in the Arctic Sea where they are marooned.  The are looking for the sea ice their mothers and the mothers of their mothers taught them was their way to survive. Day after day, they are finding the sea ice is not there.



Biophilia: Eric Fromm (1964) reimagined by the equally brilliant biologist Edward O. Wilson, introducing the ancient concept — some might even say primitive or indigenous or mythic  (and not meaning these are the same thing) — of a human innate love of our bios, our habitat, our living world, from the cute and cuddly to the breathtaking beauty of forests, ocean, sky, natural spaces. It is a Love of the Garden, as I like to call it, in all its wildness, resilience, force, and tear-inspiring awe. We have left the Garden so completely, and thrown ourselves into the black, outer-world of exile where there is much gnashing of teeth, that Wilson offered us a reminder that such care, even such love, of our natural world is a natural, ingrained response within us. At Lexic.com it is noted that the medical definition of biophilia is the instinct for self-preservation (love of one’s life).


BioMimicry: Coming soon in 3.8, helping us to discover — again, as our ancestors knew so well — that as Nature progresses she teaches us to evolve or survive, reconnect and hopefully resolve our destructive tendencies to come (return?) to a way of living that is more sustainable in the face of the laws of Nature. Put in Nature’s way of work: Evolve or Die; To Be (Clever), or Not To Be.


BioEthics: Boiled down greatly to a decision regarding how an individual chooses (or is forced) to live or die in the medical sphere.  Perhaps it should have meant what has become known as Environmental Ethics, a wilderness in which we are led by the brilliance of Holmes Rolston III, among others, in considering how (not whether) Nature has standing and thus value — just because it exists — in our human system of values.  Also consider BioCentrism, as explored by Paul Taylor in the age of environmental enlightenment of the 1970s and 1980s, as an attempt to balance our species’ plague of anthropocentrism.
Biocide: Traditionally a means developed by scientists to kill off living organisms, presumably the ones humans choose to be dangerous or a distraction.  Of course, with little movement on this slippery slope, we find ourselves wonder whether we are also killing off our bios, our habitat in which case it transmogrifies to suicide.
BioEmpathy: The Institute for the Future defines it as “The ability to see things from Nature’s point of view” and is becoming a taught concept within the Episcopalian Church of the US.



I would add another meaning, however. BioEmpathy is not only the ability to see things from Nature’s point of view, but also the ability to feel what the object of our focus in Nature is feeling in any given moment.  BioEmpathy means to allow ourselves to feel the suffering, the sorrow and the mourning, em pathos, in understanding and suffering, just as the “other” feels.



In the instance of these polar bears, BioEmpathy is to be willing, able and strong enough in Spirit to allow your self to feel the pain of hunger these bears feel after weeks of being unable to leave the island in the Arctic Sea. It is to allow yourself to feel their fear and bewilderment at the startling recognition that their “normal” way to leave this island in the middle of the Arctic is not there, and that they are starving.

In the face of this choice of starve or swim in search for sea ice, some polar bears strike out into the ocean, their adaptation as strong swimmers and instinct to survive leading them on.  In the case of at least 8 bears discovered floating dead in the Arctic Sea by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, led by their will to live, these beautiful, powerful creatures drowned during their swim to survive. They died trying. We have no way of knowing how many more of these magnificent mammals are lost each day of each month while trying to survive long enough to adapt to the new conditions of their Polar habitat.



Doesn’t that word alone invoke feelings of desperation and desolation within you, and within your spirit?


Can you feel the bears’ hunger?  Can you feel their confusion at what to do next?


Can you empathize with what they feel at what they see:  in this case no way out and no “normal” Way of survival?


Are you brave enough to feel this — and does it cause a few tears to well in your eyes for these polar bears’ situation?


If so, that is BioPhilia — love of life and love of self-preservation. For you are then feeling alive and connected to another mammal who lives with you on our Earth, our habitat and home, our Garden and Life-Support.



It is only when we can be strong enough to feel as these bears do and to feel their lurch of desperation in our own hearts and a cry of panic in our own spirits, that we then also feel the impetus and inspiration to change and nurture their future — the future of so much of our Garden habitat that we love — and thus change and nurture our shared and common life in our Earth home.

We are able to do something about global warming. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

We are able to do something to lessen or even halt the spread of pollution in their habitat and the invisible leaching of PCB’s through their water. You are, and I am.

They cannot.

Let’s do this — Now.

Read Full Post »

If we view a place as sacred,
we treat it differently.

It’s been a long journey so far.

It has taken me to wilds north and south . . .
From a rocky beach on the southern tip of Africa, watching the Indian and Atlantic oceans crash into each other from a moonlit beach of Tsitsikama National Park. . . .
To watching polar bears wait patiently for sea ice to form in Hudson Bay
one snowy October when sea ice still formed in October;
From wondering what kind of song a grizzly bear resident of Denali National Park would like to hear before she and I met on the hill between us, as the tour bus slowed to watch what happened next . . . .
To the wilds of post-Glasnost Moscow when Soviet citizens –for the first time since the Tsar had been overthrown — gathered to learn in mutual horror what environmental disasters had befallen their beautiful country during the long course of the secrecy that accompanied the decades of Communism.
From watching a female cheetah reprimand her rowdy cubs during a hunting lesson in the Kalahari National Park . . .
To finding spoor and track of a wolf in the northern Rockies, early proof of her return from the brink of extinction to a not-yet-forgiving ancestral territory in Montana. Neither I nor the biologist I accompanied that day knew she lay dead on the highway beyond and her young were trying to survive it alone.
Did I ever know how much this journey would break my heart,
and leave me breathless
(if not sometimes speechless) at the same time?
The simple answer is I’ve known no other way.
Since a child I’ve listened to the voice of God and Nature, sacred and instinctive, woven into one song and found in the quiet of a mountain’s shelter, desert’s amphitheatre or ocean’s cradlesong.
Since Dr. Seuss’ memorable character “The Lorax” left each of us to do the work of caring for this Earth, I have felt obligated, inspired, and frankly, an urging, passionate need to answer the Lorax’s call of, “Unless. . . , ” and to tell the stories of unique awe this Earth holds in the universe.  But I do not tell the stories for me, for my sake, but for the voiceless with whom we share this beautiful habitat, this sacred garden — Earth — which our species is lucky enough to call home.
Because, as my father has said so many times:
“If you can’t create it, don’t destroy it.”
My journey thus far has informed me that this is more than a mere philosophy. It is a way of living. And it is a heart-based paradigm change to which our species needs desperately to warm if not actually evolve into the wisdom inherent in it.
“If you want to change the future of mankind,
you must begin with the heart.”
That is what a dear, beloved guide, Ian Player, challenged me to so many years ago now.
Hoping, working, writing to capture your heart to see our Earth-home as the Sacred Space it is.
Seeing every inch of our home Earth as the original model for the Garden of Eden — as it being a reminder of that original sacred place in the way it reveals symbolism, meaning and life before memory had a human face — presupposes there is something larger, a more important law than those made by and for the human species.
It presupposes we are part of the habitat of Earth, surviving by living– yes even nurtured — within its folds, not a foreign invader to it.  It presupposes our species is not more important than all of the rest of it.  And such a view certainly presupposes we are not outside, above or beyond the effects of this natural world, as any natural event we humans call “disaster” shows us.
Seeing the natural world that provides everything our species needs to not only survive but thrive as “sacred” is a holy way to see our habitat Earth.
That this global habitat supports such myriad life forms— despite how hard we work it, pollute it, cut it down, dig it up and pave it over — is even more amazing.
If you can’t create it, don’t destroy it begets a natural corollary:
“If you can’t fix it, don’t break it.”
How can we fix something we don’t truly understand? We pull it apart piece by piece, but are stymied still by the intricate workings of it as a whole.
The Earth, and its complexity, is still full of unknowns to our species, and like the primates we are, we keep experimenting.  Unfortunately like weekend mechanics, we “adjust” one small thing — remove too much of the Amazon forests or further destroy the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Coast, destroy a species, add a notch too much smoke into the atmosphere, drain one small tributary of one small watershed and, “Oops,” something goes seriously wrong a decade or two later.  Now our latest experiment with CO2 emissions is global, and we don’t understand fully either what we’re doing or how to fix it.
Eventually we’ll get it right — well maybe.
But no doubt when we are finished with it, there will be parts left over that we need and don’t know how they got there, and we will leave a path of destruction from our failures as we try.
We are engaged in an Earth-DIY Makeover job and it is unlikely this tragic sitcom can run a second season without our species finally learning some humility.
Why does this matter? Because on these journeys I’ve always come back to the same question and have yet to hear a logical answer:
What is the future of a species which fouls its own nest
to the point of destruction and disease? 
What kind of species willingly destroys its own habitat?
Those species we see around us that behave in this fashion we deem “pest” species.
In our disassociation between our actions, beliefs and the reality of our habitat’s processes, we choose to live blindly, putting faith in “I’ll worry about it tomorrow” and a technological big brother, rather than listening to the very uneasy whisper within:
That whisper is the voice of survival — the gentle urgings to evolve again — and nags us each time a natural event (oh, yes, from our species view, a “disaster”) hits.
Don’t you feel it? Any natural extreme occurs– tsunami, earthquake, volcano, drought, flood, windstorms or purely withering summer —  and something deep inside us  lurches, just a little.
Although in the U.S., as in other nations where it’s still possible, we retreat into our four walls where technology moderates the extremes of climate, provides shelter, and our stores of food stockpiled soothe us, the lurch still raises an unsettling “What if?” in our cellular memory.
We remember the urge to move on to better territory, to evolve our ways to survive. The primitive cellular memory to evolve that has allowed our species to flourish is hard to ignore.
All of my journeys through pristine wilderness and threatened agricultural lands, wide open spaces and the foulest technological “solutions” would leave any animal thinking about how to survive.
If we view a place as sacred,
we treat it differently.
Once we see a place, man-made or natural, as holy and we tend it with love, respect and, yes, even a sense of awe.
Think of how you feel when a quiet hush comes over you at the sight of beauty. Feel how we instinctively nurture that moment, so as to make it last, as we do the fragile life of a young infant — or our cooing over a baby of any species on Earth.
We are programmed in our cells to nurture, I believe. Countless journeys through this world have shown me this.
Although human cultures which viewed the Earth as sacred have been destroyed by other cultures’ aggressive domination which arose from conflicts over survival (my family eats, not yours) and although milennia of leaders’ encouragement to substitute the intoxication of victorious power for the trump card-power of God — and although we can’t unmake this history — we can still evolve.
Each of us can choose, just for a moment in each a day, to try on this new viewpoint:
If we view a place to be sacred,
we treat it differently.
If we feel in our hearts a place is sacred
we behave differently in it and toward it.
Even if just for a minute each day, we can feel as our ancestors did when migrating from hostile, dry, broken deserts to new green valleys: we can feel relief and thanks for what this habitat Earth provides.
And then we can act in accordance with our new feelings of living in a sacred garden:
We can tend gently and care greatly for all of Earth’s inhabitants.
We can choose to live as part of a whole woven fabric: as in a sacred wild garden.
So let us heed that uneasy feeling that accompanies mighty natural “events” . . .
and evolve already.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: