Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Here is an excerpt from the email I mentioned yesterday. It gets at what i think my work is about.


I will be challenged with the question of "How do I work toward ecological literacy in a meaningful way that leads to a healing of the false human / nature split with ecologically illiterate youth who are transient and only in my presence for perhaps and hour."

The real challenge in that hour is not for me to teach them the myriad lessons out there, for I am a student also, not the teacher. The real challenge is to introduce them to the teacher; moreover, get them to believe the teacher actually exists. Once their eyes have been opened, once their ears have been opened and once their minds have been opened, they will see the teacher all around them."

Monday, September 17, 2001

I sent a letter to a friend today and it got at part of where I am trying to go with my ecological work. The work is who I am so perhaps its where I am trying to go with my life as well. I think I hit on something pretty good. I'll have to post it. It was abou thow I need to not worry about being the teacher because I too am a student. I need to show the others that the teacher exists.

Hmm. This sums it up nicely.

"I don't think there is a way for those who work in service to the earth -- for environmentalists, ecologists -- to really woo our culture back into a reciprocal or sustainable relation with the land until we draw folks back to our senses, because our sensing bodies are our direct contact with the rest of the natural world. It is not by being abstract intellects that we are going to fall in love again with the rest of nature. It's by beginning to honor and value our direct sensory experience: the tastes and smells in the air, the feel of the wind as it caresses the skin, the feel of the ground under our feet as we walk upon it. And how much easier it is to feel that ground if you allow yourself to sense that the ground itself is feeling your steps as you walk upon it." --David Abram

Lately I've been looking for a new job. Is that fair to say? Lately? I've been searching for this job for years. I'm applying a for a new job today. It won't be "the one" but it will be closer. Here's the situation. I don't like my current job. Do I apply for this other job that will require a drive of over an hour to get to, will pay me $600 less per month and require me to work some weekends and evenings? What is the price of sanity?

On a totally separate note, I've again become interested in phenomenology and there have been some serendipitous events in the past few days. On Saturday, I was feeling very introspective. I had just gone out to eat with a group of people and, being a introvert, I found it a draining experience. And, my food wasn't very good. That never helps. I returned home and retreated to my bookshelf. Having not yet built my little book nook I hope to erect in one of the bedroom dormers I sat down on the floor to read. The first book I pulled off the shelf was "The mysterious flame." It is a book that delves into the question of consciousness. I had read just part of the first chapter a few years ago after graduating from college. The book was given to me by my high school youth worker. She encouraged me along my path into youth work and she had thought I might enjoy the book. In reality, it put me to sleep right away and it remained on the bookshelf for perhaps two years now.

In general, I don't like having unread books on my shelf. They are constantly nagging me. Perhaps it is my thirst for knowledge or perhaps I just like to say to people, "Well of course I've read all of those." I cracked open the hardcover book and began to read. It was mildly interesting. Some of it reminded me of my freshman psychology class where the teacher tried to refute dualism. That lecture never sat right with me. The book helped clarify my feelings. What bothered me and bothered this author was that science has gone too far. It is so sure that the mind is the brain that the mind becomes unimportant. Everything important can be quantified.

Phenomenology came about as a reaction against this sort of thing. I won't go into detail here. I was not in the mood for this type of book. It was interesting though to read about the subject as I had a professor in college who was very into discussing "lived experience." and often mentioned phenomenology. I decided I should instead pick up "The Spell of the Sensuous." This is one of my favorite books and I have long been ashamed that I never read the first few chapters. It was originally assigned as a reading for a grad level class in environmental rhetoric I took at the University of Minnesota. Given the work load we were told we only needed to read the last half of the book. I picked up the book and began reading a little way in. I apparently had begun the book a while back and left off somewhere in the first chapter. The book was a perfect fit for my mood.

The author David Abram was talking about truly sensing the world around us. He had returned to the United States and was shocked at the lack of smells. We are such a sterile place that the everyday smells that remind us that we are alive and ground us in a sense of place are missing. This is, of course, a gross over simplification.

Both books began to talk about Phenomenology. It was quite strange. The synchronicity continued in the pop culture realm as Chelsey and I settled into bed to watch a little TV. Part one of the two part final episode of xena Warrior Princess was on. We had finished watching X-Files and over the years we've come to watch a lot of Xena since she's always on after the X-files. A good portion of the episode focused on opening up to the sounds around you and sensing the world on a deeper level. Hmm, how very strange.

I guess this is like when you get dumped by a significant other and suddenly you realize that every song on the radio is a love song. I have been so focused on my wedding and so trapped here in my office that I feel cut off from the sustaining forces of life. I'd argue along with Abrams (as I know he does later in his book) that our whole culture is cut off in this way. In fact, it seems to be a founding principal of our great society.

We are all ecologically illiterate children who cannot hear the breeze over the tinnitus in our ears.

Main Entry: phe·nom·e·no·log·i·cal
Pronunciation: fi-"nä-m&-n&l-'ä-ji-k&l
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1858

1 : of or relating to phenomenology--a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence.