Archive for 13 October 2011

Instinct and Wisdom

We’re often disposed toward or away from future experiences by previous ones, and for the bookish and private child I was while growing up, books provided me some of those experiences.  One favorite that I still re-read from time to time is the fantasy classic, LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.  And one of my favorite passages is a piece of wisdom that is pure Druidry in its nature-focus.  When the main character Ged has spent his power in a desperate attempt at healing a child, and afterward lies comatose, his pet otak, a weasel-like creature, gently licks him:

“It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry.  From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be earned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”

This is some of the same instinctive wisdom, an inkling or hunch or suspicion about where wisdom may be found.  It is bodily wisdom, as least at first, the same kind of wisdom or knowing that helped save lives on Sept. 11, when some people obeyed an impulse to do something different that morning, take a different mode of transportation, or vary the route to work, call in sick, stop for a bite to eat before arriving at work, and so on.  We’ve all heard the stories.

If this is instinct, Druidry has no wish to domesticate it, but to extend it, to work in concert with it, to find out its wisdom and humbly listen to it.

I set myself to listen when I can.  I’ve long been uncomfortable around bees, wasps and hornets.  I got stung badly more than once as a child.  But this summer, hanging out laundry, I took myself in hand, and learned to watch them and listen to them and talk quietly to them instead.  Below the clothesline of our house, several bees busily gathered pollen from a clump of goldenrod growing there (we let a part of our backyard grow wild every year).  I acknowledged them and admired their steady labor and music, never hurrying, but also never pausing.  Talking to them did make me feel better.  In turn, the bees did not bother me, though they knew I was there.  The hum of their wings was steady and assured. A few investigated the damp towels I was pinning up, and several flew around me as they left. We worked in harmony at our respective tasks.  By establishing a vibration of peace, we could each do what the moment required.

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