I was introduced to Father Earth in 1993 and wrote about my experiences in an article: "The Resurrection of Father Earth and the Return of True Partnerships between Men and Women". My life has never been the same since then. When Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With The Wolves, offered her poem, I felt chills and a sense of homecoming. The first line, "There's a two-million-year-old man nobody knows," awakened an old bond that I thought was reserved for women only.
What would it mean if the earth were male and not female? The thought was fascinating. But the last lines of the poem offered an even more exciting possibility. “He lay on top of his two million year old wife the whole time, protecting her with his old back and his old scarred back. And the ground beneath her is fertile and black with her tears. “Estes offers a vision that the earth is neither female nor male, but female and male, a real partnership.
At a time when there is so much conflict in the world and so many divisions, there is definitely a need to bring us together. As the cultural historian Thomas Berry reminds us,
“The natural world is the greatest sacred community we belong to. To become alienated from this community means to become penniless in everything that makes us human. Damaging this community means diminishing our own existence. "
In researching my book 12 Rules for Good Men, I learned that men and women have a long history of evolution. In their book The Universe Story, Thomas Berry and cosmologist Brian Swimme say that a billion years ago a significant change occurred. Instead of multiplying life in the ancient seas through a unicellular organism that splits into two identical sister cells, for the first time a male sperm cell and a female egg cell were created, touched and their DNA shared. The secret of sexual reproduction emerged and has been going strong ever since.
To understand the new partnership revolution we must return to the evolutionary arrival of the first humans. In their book Our Human Story, Louise Humphrey and Chris Stringer, researchers at London's Natural History Museum, they say that our human ancestry goes back at least two million years to the time of Homo habilis (artisans). Our human ancestors lived lightly in the countryside, hunting and foraging until we began domesticated plants and animals about ten thousand years ago.
It was customary to view our earlier ancestors as "primitive" and our newer ancestors as "civilized". The 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, envisioning our ancestral lifestyles, wrote: “No art; no letters; no company; and worst of all is the constant fear and danger of violent death; and man's life lonely, poor, evil, brutal and short. "
Human life since the advent of agriculture has been viewed as a life of continuous progress and improvement. However, an objective view of the past 10,000 years is clearly not all positive. The anthropologist and historian Jared Diamond wrote an essay in 1999 entitled "The Worst Mistake in Human History". Diamond wrote:
“We owe science to dramatic changes in our self-satisfied self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth is not the center of the universe, but only one of billions of celestial bodies. We have learned from biology that we were not specially created by God, but that we evolved with millions of other species. Now archeology is destroying another sacred belief: the history of mankind over the past million years has been a long history of progress. Recent discoveries in particular suggest that the advent of agriculture, supposedly our crucial step towards better living, was in many ways a disaster from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, disease and despotism that curse our existence. "
It is becoming increasingly clear that what we have euphemistically called "civilization" has many advantages – more people are living longer and a variety of technological innovations – but the disadvantages have outweighed the advantages and we can no longer continue on our current path . The global climate crisis was a wake-up call. The coronavirus could be our final call to change our ways. We cannot go back to the past, but we can go back to the future and start the new partnership revolution.
We are out of balance with the laws of nature. The religious historian Thomas Berry speaks directly to our current reality.
“We never knew enough. We were also not familiar enough with all of our cousins in the great Earth family. Nor could we listen to the different creatures of the earth, each with their own story to tell. However, now is the time when we will listen or die. "
I don't know anyone who has listened longer or offers more creative solutions than Dr. Riane Eisler, President of the Center for Partnership Studies. I met Riane shortly after her 1987 bestseller The Chalice & the Blade: Our Story Our Future was released. In this groundbreaking book, she describes two alternative possibilities for humanity:
“The first, which I call the Dominator model, is popularly known as either patriarchy or matriarchy – the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second, where social relationships are primarily based on the principle of linkage rather than ranking, can best be described as a partnership model. "
In their recent book Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Affect Our Brains, Lives, and Our Future, written with peace anthropologist Douglas Fry, they show that our ancestors lived with the following partnership practices for more than 99% of human history :
- General egalitarianism.
- Equality, respect and partnership between women and men.
- Non-acceptance of violence, war, abuse, cruelty and exploitation.
- Ethics that support human care and prosocial cooperation.
It was only in the last 10,000 years that people settled in one place, developed surpluses that had to be stored and defended, and “civilization” or more precisely the “dominator culture” spread through violence and war across the world. The anthropologist Stanley Diamond describes our ancestors of hunters and gatherers as "conscripts of civilization, not volunteers".
As Eisler noted, as opposed to partnership values, dominator practices include the following:
- Top-down authoritarian rule in family and society.
- The subordination of women to men and a stronger appreciation of stereotypical “male” characteristics and activities.
- A high level of institutionalized violence, from beating women and children to war and terrorism, as fear and violence ultimately maintain supremacy.
- The belief that rank and rule are divine or natural and that the threat or use of force to enforce or maintain it is normal and moral.
Although our roots are in partnership, people are also quite manageable. We are at a crossroads in human history. Our only hope of survival is partnerism, but we seem to have fallen under the rule. How do we solve the dilemma? There is a Native American parable for guidance.
An old Cherokee teaches life to his grandson. "There's a fight going on inside of me," he said to the boy. “It's a terrible fight and it's between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sadness, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, feelings of guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. "
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same struggle is going on in you – and in every other person too. "
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee replied simply, "The one you feed."
Like the grandfather in history, we all have the seeds of partnership and domination within us. It is not good to look for enemies "out there" or to blame "them" for the chaos we find ourselves in. As a cartoon character, Pogo noted, "We met the enemy and he is us." The real question we have to answer in each case is whether we are feeding the wolf of partnership within us or the wolf of domination. The choice is ours.
I often get guidance and comfort from Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun from the Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche lineage. In her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Troubled Times, she offers words that seem just right for these times.
“Look at your thoughts. Be curious. Welcome groundlessness. Relax and unwind. Offer a cup of tea to Chaos. Let go of us and them. Don't turn away Everything you do and think affects everyone else on the planet. Let yourself be touched by the pain of the world and let your compassion blossom. And never give up on yourself. "
I am looking forward to read your comments. You can read more of my work here.
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