crystal faeries

divine love consciousness blog

values
1st November 1970
[Values]

Full Moon Feast
Food and the Hunger for Connection
Epilogue: On The Cusp Of Another Moon

"And I knew that the spirit that had gone forth to shape the world and make it live was still alive in it. I just had no doubt. I could see that I lived in the created world, and it was still being created. I would be part of it forever." -- WENDELL BERRY, Jayber Crow

It is easy, when contemplating the devastation of the environment, the overall declining health in our society, the breakdown of community life, and the globalization of the corporate-industrial economy, to despair. So many of us give ourselves a pep talk and go about our daily lives trying to make a difference. We make a great effort to become better stewards of the Earth. We buy environmentally friendly products, conserve water, carpool, recycle our batteries, and try to eat locally. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I almost take for granted that the people I come in contact with have some consciousness of environmental issues, and make some adjustments in their daily life as a result. But I nevertheless have to acknowledge that we are a countercultural minority in this country.

Sometimes it gets tiresome to have alternative rather than normative values. One of the things I find most fascinating about studying life in indigenous villages is that many of the so-called alternative values I cherish -- frugality, stewardship, maintenance of cultural traditions, community life, and a deep ecological awareness, to name a few -- are cultural norms rather than countercultural alternatives.

Daily participation in the life of the village expresses, deepens, reinforces, and supports these values. But our society is so vast, so diverse, so young, and so oriented toward economic prosperity, individual freedom, and worldly power that we have not yet developed a set of ecologically sustainable values that are also widely embraced. As a result, anything that expresses an ecological ethic is fixed with a special label and set apart from mainstream society.

As the Wolf Moon gives way once again to the Hunger Moon and the cycle begins anew, the fate of wolves in this country makes an instructive example. By the late 1970s, environmentalists had managed to get federal funding for an effort to protect wolves and reintroduce them into the wild. By the 1990s this effort had been quite successful, and federally funded animal control forces were being called in by ranchers in some states to kill the wolves that other federal funds were protecting. Wolf lovers and conservationists launched a protest against these killings, pointing out that the numbers of livestock lost to predators is minimal compared with those lost to diseases and other factors. They argued that the loss of a limited number of livestock should be a price we are willing to pay for the protection of a magnificent wild animal. Furthermore, wolves are considered an umbrella species: When we protect habitat of wolves, we protect whole ecosystems and countless other species within them. Meanwhile, ranchers defended their right to protect their herds with guns.

One novel innovation to come out of this controversy was a herd management approach called predator-friendly ranching. Certain ranchers began to protect their sheep and cows from predators by using shepherding dogs, llamas, and humans as chaperones for their ruminant herds. These escorts helped minimize the number of live-stock taken by predators in certain areas. The ranchers agreed not to kill those predators that still managed to attack livestock, and to accept a certain amount of loss as part of the business. A certification for predator-friendly products was developed, and you can now purchase predator-friendly wool, lamb, and beef to support these ranchers.

This is great. But if you're like me, you bristle at all these labels: What will they think of next? We already have songbird-safe coffee, salmon-safe wine, and now predator-friendly beef. Why does everything have to be so complicated? I find myself wishing that the foods I believe in could just be regular, everyday fare. I wish that instead all the special labels were applied to foods produced using dangerous or questionable practices. How different it would be to shop in a grocery store and see labels that read: "Sprayed with Pesticides; Grown Where Rain Forest Was Cleancut; Genetically Modified; Chickens Kept in Cramped Cages with Their Beaks Burned Off; Shipped from the Other Side of the Planet; or Wolves Killed in Order to Protect This Cow." For simplicity's sake we could just cut to the chase with labels like: "Toxic, Cruel to Animals, Unnatural, and Earth-unfriendly." If food didn't have any of these labels, you would know it was organically grown, humanely ranched, free of additives, and processed, packaged, and distributed with a sense of wise stewardship.

This illustration may become compounded once you start following the principles of traditional nutrition. Rather than merely free-range beef, you want grass-fed and grass-finished. It is not enough to eat sauerkraut made from organic cabbage, you want it lacto-fermented, preferably slowly in a ceramic crock. You don't just want bread from organically grown wheat, you want to make sure it was sprouted or naturally leavened. It is no longer enough to have organic, nonhomogenized milk, you want it 100 percent raw from cows that ate biodiverse pasture. You're concerned about chickens' beaks being intact but also want to make sure they got to eat lots of bugs and grasses and feed without too much soy in it. Again, life can start to feel very complicated. The healthy indigenous peoples that Weston Price studied didn't have to struggle with these things on an individual level. Over millennia they had evolved a set of foodways that kept their community healthy and their ecosystems thriving. What they ate was their everyday food; it was what everyone they knew, or visited, or invited over, also ate. Their nutritional needs were met by their culture as part of their survival strategy. Similarly, environmental stewardship was integrated into everyday life.

We face a different set of challenges. When you make a decision to eat nutrient-dense foods and traditional fats, you place yourself outside the mainstream of our culture. The same is true when you decide to be an ecological steward. Your family, friends, religious community, coworkers, neighbors, and others might think you are a bit of a weirdo. I think there is always a delicate balance between adhering to your convictions and participating in community. Because I believe community is so important in our lives, I often decide to set aside my nutritional or ecological preferences in order to share meals and other activities with people whom I value being in relationship with. As much as I dislike using ecologically irresponsible products like disposable plates and plasticware, I don't refuse to eat off them. While I soak my grains when cooking at home, I don't expect that others will do this when I eat at their houses. While I carry around a reusable cup that I use if I stop at a coffee shop, I don't lecture those who fail to do this. We each make compromises every day. Purity and perfection are impossible. This is the real world, and we are fallible and human. It takes a lot of energy to swim against the cultural current, and sometimes you just need to go with the flow.

In the next decades we need to change the course of the flow. Or at least to create more and more little tidal pools along the stream-areas of respite from the dominant paradigm. Environmental factors may well cause a sea change in cultural norms, and those of us who have developed some alternative resources, skills, and strategies will be better equipped to cope. But one thing is for sure: None of us can do it alone. As much as this country has been built. on the ideals of freedom and independence, the sea change will start with a recognition of our interdependence. We will once again acknowledge that everything is connected; life is a web of mutual indebtedness. Every part of nature, wild or domesticated, animal, vegetable, mineral, or elemental, is a precious and vital part of this web. Even the lowliest, least prized scrap of life -- a moldy fungus, or slimy algae, or bit of unimpressive rock -- may have some great gift to offer that will help us out of our trouble. But we will never make it on human genius alone.

I believe that there is a great intelligence at work in the universe. I trust it. I believe it works through human beings but not only through human beings. I believe it works through every part of life, and that even the things that I most decry -- slavery, war, colonialism, commodification, nutritional degeneration, environmental destruction are part of this vast and incomprehensible intelligence. These tragedies contain the difficult lessons to be learned if human life on Earth is to continue.

So there is no reason to despair. There is only the opportunity to participate in Creation -- to participate as fully as we are able. That [we our bodies] shall die one day [is was] a certainty. So the question is only: "How shall we live? How present can we be? How courageous? How trusting? How loving? How thoughtful? How forgiving?"

And so my final prayer is for each of you, and for me, too: That we may find within our hearts the faith, hope, and love to live ourselves into a world where action is balanced by relationship, and vision is balanced by tradition. May each of us have the opportunity to make the contribution to the world that we have been called to make. May each of us give the gift that we came here to bear. And may these gifts feed the hunger for connection that is such an enduring part of the human condition, so that we may have that delicious experience of being -- at least for a moment-well fed.


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