I recently had the joy of again rafting the San Juan River, from Mexican Hat to Bluff. I’ve perhaps rafted this stretch 15 times over the course of 30 plus years of boating. There is something about being on a river that invites me back into the current with the River of Life.
I found myself, on this recent trip, curled in the shade of an Eurasian/African tamarisk tree on a sweltering July afternoon with the sun radiating off the sandstone canyon walls like the sides of an oven. I pulled out my river journal for company and found the entry below, written while curled up in a shady cave high above the Middle Fork of the Salmon River on a hot summer afternoon a few years further back.
This question, of surrendering to the Spirit world, to one’s own spirit, is not so difficult when one perceives that this is not something external to one’s self. No. It is in fact the deepest essence of one’s being, one’s deepest self, that Life invites us to surrender to.
I was instantly transported through time back to the origins of such a note, back through the enculturation and domestication of learning that I owed my life and loyalty to a God outside myself. All of life’s answers and salvation itself lay in my faithful and unquestioning adherence to that loyalty.
“Life is not worth living without God,” mother told me. And she meant it. Only she did not realize the God she referenced was one of her own creation, created out of a fear of life and held externally to her own being. It was to these self-created and exteriorized idols of an ‘idea’ of God that my parents demanded my surrender to. He was and is a particularly virulent God and he came to live inside me too.
I invited him in. It was a strategy of survival. I didn’t know any better at the time. It subsequently took years of exorcism to rid my being of his voice inside my head… and his righteous arrogant angry judgmentalism can still rise up in me. The rivers help wash him away however; better than any baptism I ever got in a man-church.
Falling in love with a river again is like a baptism, a rebirth. It is like remembering this body is, after all, mostly water; it is the river. I am the river…the separation dissolves and so the concentric circles of remembering, of surrendering to what I call above ‘ Spirit’, for lack of other language, to reference something that is whole and not divisible by even the clever human mind… to surrender to such a primordial and original presence within is to fall in love with the wild.
We can not say and do not know where it will take us. Perhaps, like Rumi, we too shall become lost in a love story when we surrender ourselves to passion for this presence.
The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.
Now this is a re-wilding of the Self, this discovery of the ‘lover within,’ the wild and faithful lover within.
To understand the human role in the functioning of the Earth we need to appreciate the spontaneities found in every form of existence in the natural world, spontaneities that we associate with the wild—that which is uncontrolled by human dominance. We misconceive our role if we consider that our historical mission is to “civilize” or to “domesticate” the planet, as though wildness is something destructive rather than the ultimate creative modality of any form of earthly being. We are not here to control. We are here to become integral with the larger Earth community. The community itself and each of its members has ultimately a wild component, a creative spontaneity that is its deepest reality, its most profound mystery. (pg. 48)
This ‘wild’ creative spontaneity that lies innately within our deepest reality, this is the profound mystery of which our wholeness is woven, unbroken; this is our wild resiliency. It offers us a path back to the experience and knowledge of innate belonging and wholeness… a sensorial path that bypasses and transcends ideologies and the clever human mind that would cleave man from nature.
We are nature and the lover within knows the way to back to this sacred grove of wildness. Let her/him show you the way. Her/his presence is already living within, inviting our awakening and affection.
What are your practices for falling in love with the wild? For touching and resting in the presence of this ‘profound mystery’? What is it for you to surrender to this Spirit within?
There is an awakening within faith communities of our religious obligation to care for Earth, much of which is inspired by the work of Thomas Berry. The Renewal Project is one such interfaith resource. Their site also features a short video excerpt with Thomas Berry.
There is no way to appropriately honor the visionary work of Thomas Berry, except through the gratitude of our hearts and the living into our belonging which he foresaw as our birthright, and challenge. Here is A Profile of Thomas Berry by Matthew Fox for those who my be unfamiliar with him, or for the simple inspiration of revisiting a truly great man and a wild spirit.