Can We Be, With All Our Relations?

by | Jun 18, 2022 | writing

Sun shines through pine needles, creating a beautiful whorl of light. Photo, Sara L. Warber.

To Be in this world has any number of definitions, often dependent on who you ask. In many cultures nothing is more defining to one’s Being as their name, who has named them, what their name means, and its history.

Names, though not of particular importance to us when we are very young, are closely entwined with our identity. The impact and importance surfaces later as we begin to make choices about the person we want to Be as we choose the values and ways of Being that will frame our lives.
We also find ourselves coming across odd terms like carbon footprint and wondering, “What that is?” Should we be concerned and what is mine? The term itself is, to many of us, foreign.
Given our degree of knowledge and awareness of the interconnectedness of creation, we are beginning to make choices reflecting on how our Being is impacting the balance of creation.

Holding this in mind, just suppose . . .

It is early days into Earth’s creation. Designs are completed, Wisdom has given her obligatory stamp of approval, and all have agreed to the scheme, wild as it seems. Adam is to be tasked with Naming the balance of creation. Some think it’s a hoot. Others believe it is genius.
Those privy to how the scheme developed remain divided on what they believe to be its merits. Many point to Eve as the better qualified. She is, decidedly, more nurturing and has great instincts. Regardless, the decision is made and the mantle rests on Adam’s shoulders.
Adam’s responsibility is incalculable; as mistakes cannot be easily fixed. We learn, only when peeking behind the scenes, this quirky, out of the box plan, does, indeed, have purpose though it is hidden beneath the surface.
Anyone who has ever been tasked with Naming another knows the process requires a thoughtful heart and cannot be hurried. The Name comes when it readies itself. Characteristics, attributes, strengths, weaknesses, gifts and talents, along with personality, and patterns of behavior are all considered. The history of all we are falls into the mix.
Then, in a spirit of humility and grace, a name comes forth as rich and original as the being themselves. Simultaneously, a connection forms between the Nam-er and the Named. A relationship is birthed that will hold for all eternity.
Madeline L’Engel, award winning author and playwright, describes naming in her work, titled, Walking on Water (public library)  as such,  “….to identify is to reduce someone to a label . To identify is to control, to limit.  To love is to call by name and so open the wide gates of creativity.”
Pulitzer Prize recipient, N. Scott Momaday echoes the same sentiment when speaking of naming in Charles L Woodard’s work,  Ancestral Voice (public library) saying, “I have the idea that names and being are indivisible. When you name something you confer being upon it at the same time.”
Though we can quickly agree with L’Engel, to Name – done correctly – bestows love. Yet, when taken further, adding the balance of her thought,  “. . . throwing open the gates of creativity,” one quickly realizes her words fit neatly into a western  paradigm where we understand it is only humans who hold power and place to create.
Momaday, on the other hand, brings Naming, and all it entails, to the whole of creation when he states a name confers being. With this, he places creation/nature into an egalitarian relationship with humans. Yet, for much of the western world, the perspective is absurd, chock full of difficulty and confusion.
So, we ask, what happened to Adam’s naming. Did he confer a label or a Name? And, what of us? Are we conferring  labels, or do we Name the balance of creation? What is it we want to be doing in our world?
And there rests our dilemma.  Do we sit cataloguing our Its and Whos in ignorance? Maybe. There was a time we could do that. Today, our world requires that we understand how labeling limits not only creation but our own creative ways. The ways we choose to walk with our fellow humans, along with Nature either diminishes or respects.

Today, our world requires that we understand how labeling limits not only creation but our own creative ways. The ways we choose to walk with our fellow humans, along with Nature, either diminishes or respects.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, noted bryologist, an expert in the study of mosses, suggests in, Braiding Sweetgrass (public library) that we refer to our fellow creation – the plants, the animals, the trees, the waters – as Who instead of It. In doing so, we begin to see them for who they are created to be, our partners here on Earth. We then can begin to catch glimpses of the reciprocity, previously, unnoticed.
Though the brain shift can bring revelation, here we sit smack-dab in the midst of chaos. When we quiet our Selves we can hear Earth crying out. We hear it in the fierce winds of hurricanes too numerous to label. We smell it in the crackling wildfires burning hot through community after community of trees, devouring those who have stood for hundreds of years. We sense it in our breath as the air loses chemical balance. We taste it in water peppered with microplastics and microbeads.
While we lament the time wasted and wonder if we have completely blown it, time moves on. Generations have passed and we have spent them focused on bulging profit margins. It is frightening to think we may have bulldozed into extinction the very Beings that hold cures to any number of diseases. Have we decimated all that simply to gain cheaper gasoline at the pump?
Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper for the Ontonagon Nation, has reported for years what Native people have learned through generations on how to work with our fellow flora and fauna. And, he has spent a lifetime warning all who would listen of the unintended consequences of our continuous taking from Earth’s stores.
When speaking to Tim Knauss, of The Post Standard in Syracuse, New York, Oren Lyon states, “. . . The thing that you have to understand about nature and natural law is, there’s no mercy. There’s no mercy to this law. There’s only law. And if you don’t understand that law and you don’t abide by that law, you will suffer the consequence. Whether you agree with it, understand it, comprehend it, it doesn’t make any difference. You’re going to suffer the consequence, and that’s right where we’re headed right now.”
Mr. Lyons continued, stating that western scientists are now aligned with what Native people have been reporting for generations. “Well, what happens in these great systems is, they adjust. They balance themselves, and we’re going to be caught in that balancing squeeze. There’s not much to say about it. We have probably ten years to change direction. That’s about the common statement now coming from the scientists I know. You know (NASA scientist) Jim Hansen. I know Jim, I talk with him. He’s a very matter-of-fact guy, and he says, yeah, probably nine or ten years. And we talk with the Inuits from Greenland, the elders up there, and they said probably nine or ten years. And (ecology professor) Carl Folke from the University of Stockholm – brilliant, brilliant – he says probably ten years. And the Union of Concerned Scientists says that.” Scientists report we have just a few years, some say ten, to turn about and heal Earth. And yet, most of us are still clunkily floundering about, uncertain of our next move, and doing nothing. Everything looms large.

Turning our words will take effort as does any new exercise. We know our brains require more energy to change a belief or action than to keep the status quo. Yet, it can be done. And this is a manageable change most of us can make despite our over-scheduled lives and our constant state of sleep-deprivation.

Just suppose, we take up Robin Wall Kimmerer’s idea to latch onto one of the smallest abilities we possess to begin righting the ship. After all, power moves within words, for good or ill. We are the ones who wield the turn of a Word, and the actions that follow. Perhaps what is needed to right the Earth is an understanding of how to turn a Word.
If humans were going to be able to work with creation or nature as we call it, then we must become deeply acquainted with whom we are working alongside.  A bit of a stretch, yes, but then we are just supposing.
Our words move us into a belief of creation/nature as solely a commodity, and they certainly can move us out. Lest we believe we cannot make that shift, let’s remind ourselves that here in the States we recently made such a shift in how we use pronouns delineating gender, as well as for those who prefer to be known as non-binary. It is a small shift that holds an enormous respect.

And, isn’t learning to work with all of creation/nature – to benefit everyone – what we are doing here?

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Born in Oklahoma of the Kiowa and Comanche Nations, Fayeannette Pierce-Parsons connects to Creator most easily in the mountains, watching the night sky, and Being with nature. As a mother, grandmother, educator, writer and harpist, she is most at home in the high places where earth and sky meet. When at Medicine Wheel or T’soai, time seems to stand aside making way for what is truly important. Fayeannette lives in western Michigan with her Anishinaabe husband, Steve, who also makes time for the most important people in the room, the children and grandchildren.

We are especially grateful to Nova Institute for Health of People Places and Planet for the visionary, scholarly and material support that makes this project possible.