Shamanism is a dimension of human experience that can be found in every culture in any age. It can be observed in a variety of forms, ranging from a fundamental spontaneous experience, derivative culturally shared practices, or as veiled motifs of spiritual, medical, artistic, scientific, and psychotherapeutic interventions.

Paradoxically, as shamanism becomes more culturally shared, it may become less authentic—less culturally challenging—and degenerative. Provoked by an experience of everyday life as a sort of “half-truth,” shamanism is a method that focuses on the erroneous belief in a separation of human life from nature. Shamanism focuses specifically on remaining alert to the creatural dimensions of human life that can be overridden by cultural, socio-psychological dimensions of everyday life.

Shamanism is an expression of an enduring wild state to remain alert to the changing conditions of existence and integrate into the natural world that continues to design and express human life across the long run.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Trees In Their Humanness

Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2011

…the fathomless gaze of all animals when they acknowledge us
 as being at one with them.
James Cowan, Letters From A Wild State

THE GAZE OF ANIMALS toward us acknowledges us as other animals rather than as something separate and above.  But when we return the gaze, the humanness, for example, of trees can seem to be such a disparate view for us, as if humanness is ours alone.  A phrase, such as Trees in their humanness [Lisel Mueller, from “Necessities,” Alive Together] may read as an oxymoron, as impossible.

Far more disparate than finding our humanness in trees, going even deeper, there is this very real way that

We walk about in the footsteps of birds. 
We sit down as pools of rain
And we stand up as uncoiling seeds.

There is within you and I this moon. 
There is within us a field of grass in wind. 
There is within us the walking of ants.

There is this way that, for example, we might rationally understand that we have been contrived from stone—star matter.  But going even further, there is more perplexing way in which
All the stones have been us
[W. S. Merwin, from “Eyes of Summer,”
Writings To An Unfinished Accompaniment].

How could this be, when stone predates us; we, who are so very young in the history of the Earth?  While such views can appear to be esoteric poetic musings, the writers intended them to be descriptive of an unseen reality.  Ultimately, such statements are offered because they are felt to be deeply practical and to have something important to say to us.  Our inability to envision events in such a manner might be lamentable as a measure of our limits, and perhaps even dangerous for survival across the long run of things.

The effusive body of the shaman is self-as-landscape.

Humanness is more than human beings. Events that can appear to be very distanced from us, such as rain and seed are, in fact, most intimate, even more intimate that we are to each other. 

The holy water that is rain and the seed that is grain—the dominant forces that continue to buoy up the most advanced post-industrial, cybernetic culture—are present daily, and are the core of our immanent survival.  Every inhalation is also flora’s exhalation.  And across the long run of things, the flora and waters out of which grain and drink and breath emerge continue to speak “humanely” to us with a wisdom that offers us an optimal way forward were we to awaken to it and listen.  

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