A Tricycle Book Club Discussion with Lin Jensen
EARTH: AN INTRODUCTION
This book was written in an effort to better understand the relationship between society and environment, between the people and the land. A wealth of detail regarding specific interactions within an ecosystem is already being compiled through the systematic methods of inquiry utilized by the science of ecology. We humans are involved in that interaction, and what I’m after in this book is not so much the data but the condition of mind essential to a genuine human interaction with the earth. What has been lost to us that we no longer know how to speak the language earth speaks? What have we forgotten to think of say or do that, could we but remember, would restore our acquaintance once more?
As both a Buddhist and a student of deep ecology, I’m struck by how much the two have in common, each exacting of the follower a genuine paradigm shift in perception. For the Buddhist the shift is an awakening to earth as an extension of one’s own body wherein the dichotomy of self and other dissolves. For the deep ecologist the shift is a similar awakening wherein earth is realized as one indivisible body comprised of all beings of any sort. In both instances, this awakening is of profound proportions arguing for a shared communal relationship with earth that is unknown in modern industrial society.
In the pages that follow, I’ve written a great deal about farms and food because it is there in the orchards, fields, ranch lands, and kitchens of a nation that we humans enact an intimate and essential interaction with earth. But I also write a great deal about human culture and society itself. I can’t reason intelligently about the land without including the humans who inhabit the land, particularly since I’m interested in the impact of the exchange between the two. I suppose that what has driven me more than anything else to write Deep Down Things is that in our society, such as it is now, we are often attending to things that are less and less deep down.
Long before I discovered its expression in Buddhism I felt the body of the earth as though it were my own, just as you did. Just as we all do when we set aside false distinctions to the contrary. It's a love affair really, and one we need to take up again while the loved one is still responsive to our need. If such language seems excessively anthropomorphic, it might be that we’ve forgotten how reciprocal our relationship with earth actually is. We’ve forgotten earth is a mutual exchange, a call and response, a giving and receiving from both sides.
Lin Jensen is Senior Buddhist Chaplain to High Desert State Prison in Susanville, California, and founder and teacher of the Chico Zen Sangha in Chico, CA, where he writes and works on behalf of nonviolence and in defense of the earth.