“God! Why am I here? Please! Just tell me. Show me! God! H-e-l-p m-e! Please! Why am I here?”
The pleading scream erupted out of the deep high mountain stillness from about 20′ above us. It pierced the silence. Dotty and I, my backpacking partner, both levitated with a startle off our butts about 6 inches, landing back on the soil of the little rocky overhang we sat under, completely unseen by the solo man standing on the cliff top above us.
The three of us were at about 10,000′ elevation in the Colorado Rockies. The man standing above us, along with a group of 7 others we later met, were on a vision quest program sponsored by a popular ‘new age’ teacher of the time.
They had come here, to this ‘mountain top’, for reasons of their own and yet all surely were bound together by the common thread of hunger contained in the plea cast into the thin mountain air by the man standing at the cliff’s edge above us. They were on a search for meaning, for belonging, for knowing their place in the wholeness of things.
Dotty and I looked at each other now as we wondered what our place ought to be in relationship to the man above us, obviously believing himself alone in this remote wilderness. Should we disturb his private conversation with God, now? Might he discover us after revealing intimacies only his God should hear and then discover himself not alone, becoming the more embarrassed?
Yet my backpacking partner and I were also completely enthralled and engaged and in awe, sitting in an ancient silence and watching big horn sheep butt heads and twirl and dance on the high cirque above, perhaps 500′ higher above us and all highlighted and silhouetted in an alpine sunset with reds and oranges mirroring off the mountain lake below. Talk about Magic!
Yet the man above us seemed completely oblivious to the primal dance above and the delayed and distant crack of horns. The meaning he sought apparently lay somewhere other than in the mystery and beauty and wild nature Dotty I were swimming in.
Such it seems is often the human condition: to search for meaning in some place that is other than where we are, some where other even than inside our selves.
I spent a youth struggling with suicidal fantasies and so became an early student of meaning. It was through a love of nature that I began to discover both a sense of wholeness, of my place in the universe and of an inherent meaning also.
And then it was through the ecology and soul medicine of the Aspen Grove that I discovered a potent image of human wholeness, of what it is in fact to be human. And then in the psychological research of Self Determination Theory I found the specificity of scientific grounding for much of what I had been attempting to express through the idea of wild resiliency.
I was thus delighted and honored when chosen to present at the 2012 International Network on Personal Meaning Conference: A Positive Global Vision of Healing and Flourishing Through Meaning. This video is a synopsis of that workshop presentation; it is also presents a global vision of human healing and flourishing through the discovery of human belonging and wholeness—revealed to us through the ecology of an Aspen grove.
This theme makes for a great inspirational keynote and/or an inspirational and provocative deep dive workshop into personal and collective human flourishing. Enjoy, and contact me if you’re interested in presentation information for your group.