"The Many are One"
- sunset in the desert -
The desert where I live may be oppressively hot in the triple-digit temperatures of a summer afternoon; but we continue to live out here because it is probably one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The thing about the desert that I find particularly beautiful is its “wildly expansive” space. I stand outside my house and I can see for miles, the terrain seems boundless, endless. I look up and the skies at night are cosmic - the desert is a great place to regularly experience the “big picture.”
Last night, a violent thunderstorm moved into the region above some of the neighboring mountains; so together with my son who is here visiting us, my wife and I went outdoors to experience what was going on. When we looked to the east, the night skies were perfectly clear, a gleaming array of stars, the moon brightly shining and a gentle breeze was blowing through the palm trees. But, above the horizon of the western mountains lightning violently and continuously flashed in the sky as loud claps of thunder and the sound of gusting winds roared through the neighboring canyons - clear skies and stars, gentle breezes, destructive lightning and roaring wind - it was an experience of cosmic “totality” and the best part of it was that we belonged to it all.
Last night as we stood in the midst of that swirling flow of nature, I felt more than simply “connected” to it, I knew I was part of it. I was but a little speck, but I was not, nor ever could be separated from the whole. The many were One – all that ever was, is, or would be, everything belonged together. Experiences like last night are what keep me living here in the desert.
Priest and author, Richard Rohr, observes:
Before 800 B.C. the thinking on the whole planet was invariably
tribal, cosmic, mythic.
Simply by watching the sky, birds and trees, the seasons, darkness and light,
people knew they belonged.
They lived in an inherently enchanted universe where everything belonged,
I think that those ancient people who we sometimes refer to as “primitive,” “uncivilized,” or “unsophisticated,” may not have been so primitive after all. Our ancient ancestors had a sense of the “big picture” because they lived in the midst of the “wildly expansive” world of nature; and when you live in nature, you very quickly discover that you belong to nature - that everything belongs to everything else.
It seems to me that in our contemporary culture of advanced technology, as we sit alone, indoors at desks, frittering away our lives at a computer screen, we may indeed have lost this ultimately vital awareness that we are all part of an “inherently enchanted universe where everything belongs.”
The poet William Kittredge said this about the isolation of a life divorced from the world of nature:
We evolved in nature.
If you isolate human beings from the natural world for too long,
we start getting nervous, crazy, unmoored,
driven to thoughtless ambitions and easy cruelties.
These summer months seem to me to be a perfect time for us all to reclaim some sanity, to unplug, get outside and connect to a world of nature once again. No, more than “connect” to it, to become aware that we all belong to it – everything belongs.