“Where Do I Fit In?”

In a recent meeting among part of the cohort in the regenerative design course I am taking (Earth Regenerators), the question came up for me: “Where do I fit in?” Rather than simply being a normal reflection of life in a group — small or larger, I think it was more of an existential question.

There is a huge irony to this kind of existential question when asked by a non-indigenous person like myself. This question on the part of a non-indigenous person prompts many hours of soul searching only to arrive at the same answer that an indigenous person already knows. I fit in because I am part of the land. I live on the land. I am supported by and hopefully in turn support the land. I live in harmony with the land along with all other species who live in harmony with the land. Or at least that is what would be most helpful to be doing.

Not being indigenous, I must now go through the long, occasionally interesting process of melding cognitive thoughts together ideally supported by experience and observation in order to arrive at what I now know as the forgone conclusion: I fit in as part of the land, part of nature, part of all species living on this planet. I am expected to do my part as a member of this community of life.

So why all of the drama you might ask. The short answer is that it is the heritage of a person with a “Western Mind” to continually go over the same topics, time and time again, in order to arrive at the key realization that we have forgotten over millennia. In the process, I get to re-travel over terrain paved by Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and others before and after. I get to re-read people like the English poet Wordsworth who figured it out and many others, Neo-liberals, etc. who did not. There is some amusement value in doing this though frankly I might actually like to stop reading and thinking and take a walk in nature. The memory comes up of cross-country skiing on a mountain in New Hampshire listening to the crackling of the trees in the cold and feeling the wind on my face.

Ideally we will arrive at the pre-ordained end point though many others forswear the existential mental partying choosing to remain adrift in an endless loop of disconnection from themselves, others and, of course, the land.

Mostly I am wondering how my simple, personal actions can fit in with a larger effort to simply save our planet and in the process regenerate the land and reframe how we work and live on it. I look at this from the perspective of me, the individual (another non-indigenous pitfall) and from the perspective of a larger as yet un-created grander effort, perhaps bioregions that weave everything together into a giant ecosystem. Reminder to Self: We already live in a giant ecosystem.

Some of the comments from my peers in this group included asking “What does the Earth want?” “What makes my heart sing?” “What am I particularly good at that I could contribute, pointing out that it might simply be a poem that ideally enriches, enables others to flourish and even points out like Wordsworth does our connection to the land.” Another comment was to “allow for things that are non-verbal, like listening to what trees want from us?”

While you may think the last point about trees to be trivial or even silly, I feel certain that I can hear the trees in my neighborhood saying almost in tree-like unison, “please don’t chop us down to build another of your silly buildings.” Another suggested question on a larger scale was to ask: “what does the river want.” I do believe that a common part of the answer to that question would be “please, no more plastic and fake fertilizer.” Or, would you mind sending along a few live fishes and maybe a beaver or two.” Or even, “how about just letting me do my job?”

So, the message to myself is to stop thinking at a system level of just “me” and start paying attention at any one of these larger levels of system. And, remember to ask these questions.

It is likely that the answers to these questions and the overall existential dilemma will be self-evident or at least they would have been to our ancestors a few thousand years ago.

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