Of all the readings this week, the one that hit home with me was Linda Hogan’s “Department of the Interior,” in which she describes a disembodied America that mostly attempts to deny its own horrifying past while demonizing wilderness and Mother Nature, externally and within our own bodies. This demonization of the wild correlates with the mind/body split that plagues so many Americans today. “It is a culture that fears and destroys what it perceives as wild, including its own innerness and physicality,” Hogan writes. The wild lives “on the edge of the civilized world… (and is) the place inside humans that behaves according to instinct and inner drive that cannot be controlled by will.”
I will acknowledge that it might be my spirituality (a mixture of Wiccan and Buddhism) that reads Hogan’s words and feels an instinct that she is right, in that “wild” place inside of me. I remember a history that was hidden from me for so long — the “death-loving culture” Hogan speaks of — that puts tribal people in the same category as animals and the wilderness, denying their humanity and their suffering. This increasingly disembodied America has tried to place spirit above body, which has created a void in our bodies that are connected to the earth, to stones and plants, to bodies of water, and to each other. No wonder Americans feel so isolated from one another and alienated from their own bodies! We deny that our actions effect other people so that we may become distanced from the Other, when the truth could be that there is no Other! In her song “Red Letter Year,” Ani Difranco reminds us that the whole world and everything in it is “made up of one unbroken line.” Imaging that line is one small step people can take to find empathy for other humans and for nature.
As I think about what I learned in elementary school and high school history classes, and the different history I’ve learned since, I become extremely angry at our society as a whole. It must have been easy for my history teachers to tell classes full of white faces that settlers in the New World made friends with Native Americans, learned to live off the land new to them, and only became violent against tribal people because of the “wild side” of natives who supposedly captured and raped white women. White Americans later made the same types of claims against black men in order to justify lynching them. Even if the claims were true, does that really justify the use of such extreme violence against a fellow human being? I just can’t wrap my head around that one.
There has been some attempt to reclaim our connection with the earth in recent years. Many people have turned to holistic medicine and started community gardens with an emphasis on helping one another. But having a connection with the earth is more than simply using her resources for your own advantage. It’s also about respecting the earth like you might respect your own mother. It’s about giving back to the earth and not taking more than you need for survival. It’s about using our bodies as instruments of good, tending to the earth like the Bible requires of Christians. I rejected much of the Bible in high school; I didn’t like how it related to women and I especially didn’t agree with how it was used to justify injustice against minorities. I am one of those few people who believes that spirituality and sexuality, spirituality and the body, go hand-in-hand. While I do see how the Bible could be used for good, when interpreted in a certain way, I don’t need Christianity to believe in the principles of social justice that Jesus Christ taught. Those principles of social justice are found in many religions, including my own. It’s time to reclaim our own spiritualities and use them to spread love and not simply tolerate, but support our fellow human beings to celebrate the diversity within us.