While taking a walk in my favorite park a few days ago I listened to the ecophilosopher, activist, and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy being interviewed by Tammy Simon on Sounds True podcast. Of the many gems that Macy dropped, one that stopped me in my tracks and has me reconceptualizing my interrelationship with the Earth was her declaration that human bodies are part of the Earth body.
I’ve heard similar statements countless times and have long had some vague notion of how I, in this individual body, am inextricable from the Earth.
But when Macy made the pronouncement that called out the Earth as a body with such specificity, something clicked inside me. (We can liken Macy’s specificity to Resmaa Menakem naming the white body as a way of calling attention to how white embodiment benefits from racist/white supremacy ideology.)
I awoke to the fact that I and all the other billions of human beings going about our small daily lives as if we are the center of the universe, are at best, single blood cells making our way through the body that is the Earth.
From there I began making all kinds of connections, like the fact that like blood cells that need water in order survive, we, made up of blood cells, need fresh clean water. Many of us would not make it past a couple of days without it. And like blood cells, when our bodies don’t get enough water we become thick and stagnant, sluggish.
Like the blood cells that constitute us we need nutrients to thrive. And when we feed on junk and too much sugar we become bloated and laden, sick and diseased.
And as blood cells we die when we are unable to reverse course and return ourselves to a balanced state.
Like blood cells we interact and communicate with each other, sometimes very badly, when we are full of poisons in our hearts and minds, with oftentimes disastrous results.
We also interact with foreign bodies that try to work their way into our bodies, whether they be viruses or ideas, both helpful and harmful. If we are strong cells, we are able to resist the foreign invaders that seek to harm us, kill us, often like kamikazes, all too willing to also destroy themselves.
But if our minds and our bodies are strong, fortified with wholesome nutrition: discernment, gratitude, supportive community, fruits and vegetables that are not sprayed with death-dealing pesticides and pathogens, clean, clear water that is not saturated with chemical run-off and the Earth’s other blood (oil), then we are equipped to fight off the dealers in death and our Earth body thrives.
I could go farther and deeper into these not quite analogies.
The other is me.
Since first taking in Macy’s wisdom my relationship to my own body and my relationship to this Earth body of which I am but a lone cell made up of countless cells, has steadily changed.
And this is how making such awakenings work. Synchronicities start showing up.
Because if I had the slightest notion that I was alone in my thinking, a few days after listening to Macy, I found another relatively new podcast called Finding Our Way, hosted by the teacher, somatic practitioner, movement facilitator, and coach, Prentis Hemphill.
In the inaugural episode Hemphill interviewed the award-winning activist, poet, leader, and author of The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love (2018), Sonya Renee Taylor. Imagine my delight when Taylor came straight out of the box speaking about the body’s relationship to infection.
She asks, “What do we want to spread?”
She then goes on to talk about the epidemiological triad that she discusses in her book which requires a pathogen, a host, and a mode of transmission.
According to Taylor: We, in this moment, operate as the host to our illusions, ways of being, ideas, etc. (aka pathogens—i.e. white supremacy delusion, the other, etc. separateness, homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.) for “the ladder of bodily hierarchy.”
The modes of transmission are all the ways in which we communicate (media, conversations with others and ourselves). She posits that we have the power to stop the pathogens from spreading. We just need to break one of the rungs on the ladder.
This is a moment in time that is ripe for us to break all of the rungs.
So, pair Taylor’s notion of the human body as host to pathogen with my understanding of Macy’s statement about humans as part of the Earth body and you have a formula for true revolution.
We would stop poisoning ourselves with hateful words and deeds, we would stop poisoning others with hate-filled words and deeds. We would work together to keep the Earth body of whom we are but a tiny part—a cell at most—alive and healthy.
Relatedly, as we understand that separation is an illusion, we would stop attacking the Earth body because we would finally understand that killing the Earth body is killing ourselves as we, at least in part, constitute her.
We would know that when we defend her we are not defending some thing (Mother Earth is not a thing)* outside of ourselves, but we are actually defending ourselves.
*I have a hard time calling the Earth “it” because she is a living, breathing being who birthed us and to whom we will return. As such, I respectfully adopt a term that Robin Wall Kimmerer uses to speak of our animal, plant, and mineral family: “ki,” singular; “kin,” plural