Questioning Our Questions

For those of us on a Druid path, Druidry comes to mean more than the pleasure most of us find outdoors under a sunny sky on a beautiful afternoon, because it has something to say to us all on dark days as well as bright ones. [For some of the ideas in the second paragraph, the quotation in the fourth, and some of the questions in the fifth and sixth, I’m indebted to an article in The Utne Reader by Larry Robinson, about the emerging field of ecopsychology.]

A range of voices — scientific, religious, societal, educational — have told us for a long time that we are individual, distinct objects in a world of other objects.  We are our bodies, and our bodies are machines — sophisticated ones, but machines nonetheless — and the problems we experience are mechanical ones:  we need tune-ups, adjustments, fixes.  We are imperfect, weak, broken, sinful, damaged by our parents, our childhoods, heredity, our own human nature or the cruelties of other people who deny us what we need.  But with the appropriate training, teaching, medication, treatment, therapy, alignment, adjustment, we can regain optimum functioning and get back “on track,” into the “grind,” the “swing of things,” the “race.”

flat rock with moss and leavesIf we look to most advertizing, we’re told that the solution to our unhappiness also lies in things.  With the right food, clothes, phone, car, drink, partner or credit card or (carefully marketed) “experience,” we ‘ll find the fulfillment we’re seeking.  The nagging malaise we feel will abate — some thing can fill it — and company X or service Y has just what we lack.  It’s quite simple.  We are things.  Our problems also lie in things. The fix is a thing; find the thing, and get fixed.

But if we dull and drug the deeper lack by treating it with the surface stimulus of a “thing,” something else happens: “when we treat only the ‘presenting problem’ and fail to address deeper existential concerns, our silence on these issues communicates that we find them insignificant.” By refusing to let the real issue emerge, we shunt it off to the side, we disguise its potency and drive it deeper.  Our “fix” just damages more, like a bad patch job when it gives way just tears a bigger hole. From such acts, whole cultures can decay. If the emperor has no clothes, and everyone follows imperial fashion instead of telling the truth, when winter comes, large numbers will get frostbitten. Such deeply embedded cultural deceptions can erupt into concrete, far-reaching physical consequences.

Thus the questions we’ve been given and told to answer are “What’s wrong with me?” and “What do I want or need?” “How can I get it?” and “Who can sell it or give it to me?” Druids acknowledge  that we must breathe and eat and drink to sustain bodily life, but pose different questions for us to consider in place of the others above:

What’s my place in the world? Not socially or economically.  We might also ask it this way: where am I–literally?  What am I connected to?  What sustains me each day?  What do I have to be grateful for?  What comes to me unasked, unsought?  How does the world around me provide air and water and food?  Who else is walking with me through the world?  What is their place in the world?  What sustains them?

I’ll discuss my own answers in a  coming post.

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