My second quarter at Sofia included a course called Ecopsychology. I wasn’t really certain what that meant when the course began. I’m coming to understand, however, how we’ve lost our connection to nature and through suffering that loss we’ve broken an important connection with our spirit and soul.
One of our assignments for the class was to design a small service project to take into the world. It didn’t have to be big or flashy or showy. Just something small to rebuild that lost connection.
I’d thought I’d share the first half of the assignment:
This class, Ecopsychology, got under my skin.
I’m certain it didn’t mean to, but it did. And now I have this whole new way of looking at the world around me.
It began innocently enough. I thought our readings and assignments were simply reminding me of those things I already knew. Things like the fact that somehow we’re all connected. Not just you and me. But all living things. We rely on one another. Our relationships are complex. Sometimes they are reciprocal, sometimes symbiotic. But that’s how the world rolls. We all give a little, take a little and somehow it all balances out. Or at least it should.
I know. I’m making this sound all too simple and Neil De Grasse Tyson could explain with far more eloquence but the truth is – the point I am trying to make – is that we are all in this together. And by ‘we’ I mean my best friend, my family, the plant on the top shelf of my bookcase, the tree outside my window, the blue sky above the tree, the squirrel dashing across the road (and narrowly missing the FedEx truck), the FedEx driver and Rigby. Rigby is the 9-month-old Portuguese Water Dog that I sometimes take care of. Even Rigby and his loveable puppy brain.
It’s just that the tree and the plant and the sky don’t know they’re part of this. The squirrel doesn’t know it, either. He’s too busy storing nuts for the winter. And Rigby? With his puppy brain? Clueless.
But those of us possessing what we would like to believe is higher cognitive function should know. We should know that we’re all in this together and that the ‘this’ I am writing about is in deep shit trouble.
And that’s what I mean when I say ‘this class got under my skin’.
It reminded me of things I already know, and then it reminded me that we have a responsibility to try to do something about it (at this point, if Rigby had a better command of the English language would cock his head to one side and whine, “Really?”)
Yes, Rigby. We do. And the ‘something’ we choose to do has to be more than hugging a few trees.
I’ll admit it. At first my service project was going to be just big enough to meet the requirement, but small enough to not occupy too much of my time. And, no, I’m not proud but I still believed my idea – to write a blog post about water conservation – was reasonable in light of my state’s severe drought conditions.
But given that my blog’s readership can be counted on two hands and a foot the idea of posting five hundred words on how to conserve water didn’t really seem to be an effective way to connect with my role as a human caregiver to the planet. Besides, writing a blog post wasn’t the interactive experience I was beginning to crave.
I wanted a service project that would last longer than the time it takes to post a blog. What could I do?
The answer came to me in the shower. (A very short shower with a water conserving showerhead.) My project would have three components:
1) A blog post about water conservation that can be read at Practically Twisted.
2) A concerted effort to walk my talk by using grey water from showering and dish washing to flush my toilet.
3) A second concerted effort to not just walk but to peddle my talk. By the beginning of next month I’ll be using a bicycle as my primary means of local transportation. (Truth-be-told I have an ulterior motive. Exercise! I’ve discovered there’s a direct link between the amount a person studies and an ever-widening backside. It’s time for an ass intervention!)
Like I said, this class got under my skin. In a very positive way. I’m already using grey water and the blog post will be up within a day or two. And I can’t wait to start riding a bike again.
This class and this project has taught me to take the time to consider my actions. I notice myself making different choices. I notice myself stepping back to breathe and to witness. And it feels good. It affirms not just my life but all life.