Friday, July 21, 2006

In nature there are boundaries

During my busy morning of sitting while I rest and recover from this weeks adventures I watched a devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska.
A docudrama that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Treadwell. He periodically journeyed to Alaska to study and live with the bears. He was killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003. The film explores their compassionate lives as they found solace among these endangered animals.

On his passing a friend said, ‘In Timothy's company, you knew you were in the presence of a spirit that loomed larger than life, who flew at an elevation that few achieve, who lived with a depth of conviction rare as gold in these shallow times. The sight of Timothy's blond head above a crush of buzzing children was like a flame crowded by moths - they, hungry for a moment in his light, in the electric current of his love for all wild hearts. Yet for all his brave, bold ways, there was a fragile, ephemeral nature in Timothy who seemed, at times, not of this world really - not slated, perhaps, to be long among pedestrians.’

Native Indians though thought otherwise, that ultimately he crossed an unspoken boundary that has existed for 7000 years…and maybe because of that, he paid the price. The argument goes on; did he really protect the bears or did he humanize them to the point of disrespecting them, and so doing more damage – that we shouldn’t be habituated to the animal kingdom…my take? I think with the best of intentions this genuine and caring man entered a spiral of destruction, and because of that he lost his life.

My experience is that a stay in the wilderness should inevitably direct one’s attention outward as much as inward. It is impossible to dwell in the margins without our mystical encounters calling us to the position of engagement – engagement with community. It was Bruce Springsteen, as he searched the mystery of love, who said that ‘in the end nobody wins unless everybody wins’. The call of the wild is always with certain people, but it only becomes useful when we learn the spirituality of the animal world: where having gone into the wild, the knowledge and experience acquired is then shared and incorporated into the lives of the rest of the pack.

It is a Protestant myth that salvation is only worked out individually. We need to get back to inclusiveness, friendships, belonging and community - these are the catalysts for effective spirituality from within our post-modern, post-Christian culture. And of course for those of us with children to feed and responsibilities at home, a literal trip to the wilderness may not often be possible. Perhaps we may to find sacred space closer to home to hear the Spirit’s whisper. Either way, spirituality has to reach into those dark places we would rather not visit. Not just the geographic borderlands, but also the wilderness of our soul. The wilderness is as discomforting as it is seductive, but philosophies in isolation are no good to anyone. It is from within these wastelands that we start our journey to spiritual maturity, so allowing a spirituality that will be earthed in the often mundane and broken lives of each other.

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