A few posts ago I presented the idea that we can choose to go with Gaia’s grain, and therefore, against the grain of the currently dominant human-created world. We can attune ourselves with Gaia’s fundamental principles, which, right from the start, are in a totally different dimension from human-centeredness. The latter assumes that human beings are separate from and superior to the rest of creation. Gaia-centered thought begins by assuming that human beings, like all beings, exist within Gaia’s vast web and are interconnected with all physical and spiritual life on Earth. Therefore, if we study Gaia’s rhythms and patterns, we can get clues about ways to start going with Her grain.
One important clue is the circle, and its wilder sister, the spiral. We know that Nature works in circles and ever-returning cycles: the cycle of a day, of the seasons, the moon in a month, the sun in a year, and the ceaselessly-repeating cycle of Life, from birth to growth, to maturity, decline and death, followed by regeneration and rebirth.
In contrast, the linear model of the currently dominant culture is based on a straight line moving ever forward: infinite growth, infinite expansion, with no conceivable end. During 400 years of nonstop growth and ever-increasing consumption in the so-called developed world, the main tenet of contemporary industrial society has become to expect and hope that one’s children will earn more money and have more stuff than their parents. Nowadays, this assumption is being questioned—not, unfortunately, because mainstream people are finally seeing and acknowledging the ecological wrong-headedness of the whole idea, but because it’s becoming clear that in a ruined world of ever-diminishing material resources, this is no longer possible, no matter how hard they might try.
When we stand up to the dominant model, and propose relating to the world and one another with more ancestral values like mutuality, balance and reciprocity, the first scornful objection we inevitably hear is, “You can’t go back.” Well, no, we can’t, nor do we want to. In a linear world, the only options are going forward forever, or turning around in defeat and going back to where we were before. But the world of Gaia shows us a better way: attuning with the spiral to “crank” the modern culture’s linearity around and return to our ancestral values at a new level. We may think of this new level as “higher,” or “deeper,” or both. But we can be sure that whatever new/old ways the circle and the spiral conduct us to, they contain much more promise and potential than anything the modern culture can offer.
One auspicious way of going with Gaia’s grain on the material level is permaculture, a form of sustainable agriculture based on Nature’s patterns and systems, emphasizing crop diversity, self-sufficiency and resilience. In keeping with Gaia’s principles of inclusion and mutual thriving, permaculture is devoted to improving the health of every being within the “circle” of the system, from the soil and crops, to the local wildlife, to the humans who participate. (Contrast this with industrial agriculture, which strives to get increasing yields through monoculture and the use of chemicals. This may boost narrowly-defined productivity in the short run, but it also exposes agricultural workers to dangerous toxins, and eventually ruins the soil and poisons the entire biosphere far beyond the bounds of the fields.)
Gaia’s world also includes all the spiritual beings of a particular place. Our ancestors knew this, and organized their practical and ceremonial lives around connecting and allying with the local Nature beings. Indeed, they knew that the entire ecosystem within which they lived was grounded in life-supporting, regenerative interactions between all levels of visible and invisible beings and forces. When we speak of the Sacred Land, we are acknowledging this multi-layered reality.
One of the most important outcomes of the “cranking around” process referred to above is to return to a life founded on the heartfelt knowing that we have both a calling and a capacity to come into communion with the Sacred Land in all its aspects. When we approach the beings and forces of Nature with patience and humble self-belief, we can begin to learn how to re-enter Gaia’s wholeness, and contribute to it with all of who we are. Then we begin to approach the deepest meaning of “going with Gaia’s grain.”