We moderns learn by a systematic method of divide and conquer. We start with the separation of spirit and matter. That is okay because the consensus is that we’re the only ones with spirit or soul, the top of the evolutionary heap, our pets coming in a close second. We learn a lot this way, but not everything, and even within the category of matter itself things get messy. You have living things and nonliving things; you have the dead. Things are alive if they move and breathe, grow, excrete, respond, reproduce and feed. We do so we are. So do birds, dogs, elephants, trees, and lawns, yeast. There’s a debate about viruses. But not one about snowflakes, stars, fire, glaciers and volcanoes. Everyone agrees these aren’t living things, but somehow we allow that glaciers ‘calve.’ and stars and fires die.
Philosophers and theologians and even physicists have long debated the classifications. I have read some in this area, but I’m not an intellectual or academic. Neither am I a New Ager experimenting with crystals, or a shaman with deep cultural connections to ancient traditions and insights. I’m just an ordinary person who finds the ideas I’ve been given about the world don’t match the experiences I have in it. It has to do what the Celts call Thin Places or Thin times.
Maybe you know what I mean? A moment, a place, when something –could be a plant or animal or a stone or a river—reveals itself in a new way? You respond to a peculiar spark, a hidden essence that your rational mind cannot fathom, but your heart and imagination recognize as timeless and real.
These experiences bring us out of exile. We are no longer “spirits in the material world” as Sting sang, but participants, body and soul, in the mystery of life on earth.