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The Natural World

The Natural World

Article by Ralph Miller

We are taught in school that human beings are the superior species in nature. This is an idea that is ingrained in us as children. The problem is that this is only an idea … it is only a presumption. How do we measure superiority? If it is determined by which species can potentially endanger all the rest … then perhaps we are superior.

In fact, nature exists in such a delicate balance that a temperature change of only a few degrees brought on by global warming can have devastating effects. If we clear-cut thousands of square miles of the Amazon forest in order to strip-mine the earth of minerals, perhaps at the same time we are creating vast areas that will soon become deserts. The upcoming release of the film entitled, “An Inconvenient Truth” featuring Al Gore, will be a stark reminder of the legacy of ecological crisis we are handing to our children. I’ve seen the trailer and I really hope a lot of people will see this film.

We have become aggressors to the rest of nature. The list of creatures we want to control or do without increases steadily. Insects … what good are they? Forests … we hope they’ll grow back. Bears, wolfs, coyotes … lets move ‘em out of our campgrounds. Let them live somewhere else.
Bear Person

“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered
and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives
in the side of the dawn
and tied her with fences
and dragged her down.”

From the song ‘When the Music's Over’
by Jim Morrison


I’ve been told that there are many indigenous languages that in their vocabulary do not make a differentiation between human beings and any other creatures. In modern languages we make the distinction … we are ‘people’ … and then there are animals, insects, fish, etc. So for example, in some Indian languages the best translation would be that humans are ‘people-people’ and then there would be ‘bird-people’; or ‘bear-people’; or even ‘tree-people’. You get the idea. The point is that cultures that depend on nature every day for survival have a deep respect for all of her creatures. Their respect is even embedded in their language. Out of this respect they seek to live in balance with nature.

We are disconnected from nature. We have forgotten.

My wife Anna and I recently returned from our workshops in Brazil. I had an experience there … an encounter with nature that changed my life.

During a daytime Ayahuasca ceremony the connection to the natural world is very strong. You see and hear the colors and sounds of nature in a way that is beyond normal sight and sound. The dimensions of nature you experience are truly titanic.

The shaman plays various musical instruments and sings songs that are given to him from another world. At one point during the ceremony the shaman sang a song invoking various animal spirits. The shaman’s totem animal is the bear and so he called for many animal spirits including the bear and the sea turtle. The song was a pure devotion to nature asking various aspects of nature and animals to join our ceremony.

There was a point during the shaman’s song when two or three birds that were very close to us began a beautiful bird chorus. You have to understand that in the Atlantic forest of Brazil there is a constant ambient soundtrack of insects, birds and chickens (where we were). But as these three birds started singing all other sounds suddenly went completely silent, as if they had given the trio center stage. Even the insects (cicadas, I think) stopped their distinct high-pitched droning.

At first I thought, “How nice … they are letting the birds continue with their song.” The concept was just a rationalization at first. I thought that it was only me that was having this weird perception.

But then the shaman noticed what was happening and he too quickly ceased his drumming and singing. Everybody was noticing. The birds were continuing their beautiful song and twenty of us listened to the most exquisite melody we had ever heard. And all of nature surrounding us was silent listening along with us too. The chickens were silent. Even the cicadas stopped their chatter. It was unbelievable.

The bird-people had joined our ceremony and gifted us with their song. The song lasted for only around ten minutes, but I will never, ever forget the experience.

When they finished, as if on queue, all the sounds of nature resumed. The chicken-people started their conversations again. “Cluck, cluck, cluck.” The insects again, hummed along.

The idea that we are superior is only an assumption that lies within our collective forgetfulness. We have lost track of who we are and where we came from. We have forgotten that we depend on nature perhaps much more than nature depends on us.

You can look at our earthbound experience in two ways. We are human beings having a spiritual experience or we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Either way, perhaps our journey is about remembering the part of us that is pure spirit. Remembering something within that is connected to everything.

Part of that journey must also include a re-connection to the natural world. In order to truly ‘remember who we are’, we must also come into harmony and balance with the world we live in. Our collective responsibility can only be faced as we each face our own individual responsibility. As individuals, we have to decide to come into harmony and balance with nature.

By the way, we put up a bird feeder in the back yard. I like to watch the bird-people in the morning now.

© Ralph Miller 2006