Granite Mountain at Muir Lake—last light
looking East, [ buy art print ] South Wallowas . . . [click photo for next . . . ]
(VII.28.08) On the road in the American Northwest.
Youth is the time of acquiring new things;
Middle Age tries to hold on to what it has;
Old Age loses one thing after another,
Then, we are young again.
The one thing you never
want to take for granted
is the freedom which allows you
to take freedom for granted.
THE HOUSE OF CULTURE
In the House of Culture, the roof of spirit is always the
first to go. Then the foundation of meaning, left exposed to
wind and rain, soon begins to fragment and crumble. The
walls of learning and education, however, sometimes remain
standing for centuries, reminders of what has been, with their
empty windows starring out into the distance like the unclosed
eyes of the dead. The question we cannot help but ask
ourselves is: “Why did no one take care of the roof?”
AN EXTINCTION OF A DIFFERENT KIND
Of all the extinctions currently underway—we are told we are at the dawn of
planet Earth’s sixth great extinction, with, for example, a quarter of all mam-
mals under threat, as well as a third of all frogs, to mention but a few—the one
that saddens and frightens me most receives little if any attention. It is the ex-
tinction of the free spirit. By “free spirit,” I mean exactly that: an intelligence
that is not tied to anything, and which can therefore find out the truth of a mat-
ter with integrity, independence, and, most especially, without fear of loss.
This is the man or woman, young or old—age here makes no difference—
who is capable of examining a thought or idea and following it like a thread
through a labyrinth of possible dead-ends, missed implications and inconsis-
tencies, to its logical ground and source.
My contention is that the man or woman of free spirit is becoming exceedingly
rare. I hope that I’m wrong.
BEYOND ALL COMPARE
We can only know disease by comparing it to health, just as we can
only know fragmentation by comparing it to wholeness.
As I walk the land, I frequently ask myself, what would this meadow,
this forest, this river have looked like two hundred, or two thousand
years ago? What grew in between the sagebrush before overgrazing
and cheatgrass and medusa-head took over as far as the eye can see?
What would the color of the water have been, its temperature feel like
to the hand towards the end of summer before the dams were built, and
forests cut down. Questions like these go unanswered if there is nothing
with which to compare these highly disturbed states. This is, without a
doubt, one of the many meanings of wilderness. Wilderness is where we
go when we want to see what health or wholeness really look like and
not just think about what we assume them to be.
A movement of resonance
perhaps, a rhyming not of sounds or words,
but of meaning.
Do you not know this light and quick
movement of energy as two separate
thoughts touch wings and fly off
into the distance together?
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