An Inquiry into Renewal: Rooted and Growing among the Seasons
- January 17, 2016
- Posted by: kec_admin
- Category: Uncategorized
This is an article by Karen Hesli. She worked at Oak Grove School from 1980-2017 and is currently a KFA trustee and an OGS board member.
After the welcome rains, and beneath the Topa Topas (sprinkled with snow), the orange orchards are rinsed and sparkling and the roots of the great pepper tree are quenched.
Pine Cottage Library and Study Center, the Archive and the Peppertree Retreat hum with vibrancy where staff, visiting guests and residential students meet.
Likewise, across the valley to the west, the meadows of the Oak Grove campus are greening as teachers and children return from winter break. Their voices harmonize with the clear vistas of the mountains and Chief’s Peak, while the stressors of recent fire storms and heat waves recede. Many of the old oaks that once shaded the grove where K talked, have weakened and fallen from drought, their massive trunks and gnarled branches rest on the ground, decomposing among hundreds of sprouting acorns.
Rooted and growing among the seasons of these historic buildings and lands that bind the west and east ends of the Ojai Valley, is an intention, an invitation, a living question:
How are we to live in this world? For the decades that K traveled the world, started a dozen schools and inquired with thousands, he never stopped asking it. Our great work is not to answer this question but to hold it tenderly. like a newborn, during the dailyness of life. To breathe in, breathe out, to toss out the myths, deceipts and delusions of human existence; to face ourselves. Shall we abide by Tennyson who wrote ‘..it is never too late to seek a newer world.’?
A ‘newer world’ seems like a good idea…but after ‘resetting the machine’, we find ourselves still unable to separate the wash from the rinse. The rinse cycle is hotter or shorter, but not new. Or is it? Then we wonder, ‘With what instrument are we seeking this newer world’? To dislodge this circularity of endless dualities and conundrums is apparently beyond our machine’s capacity. Stumped; the ever evolving, transforming and indomitable ingenuity of life has moved from one intricacy to another, from the molecular cell, to universal cell phone service. Yet as ML KIng so aptly stated, ‘…by what measure is going to the moon progress?’
The ironies roll on like a bad movie.…religions create hate, sanitation systems release pollutants to oceans, farmers poison soils, medicine’s side effects cause disease, economic growth depletes ecosystems, etc. As the earth becomes overpopulated and unlivable, will we all be able to squeeze onto an ark… to live in the ‘newer world’?
Language and words themselves try to point to the indescribable ‘newness’, but during discussions K preferred to negate, (not this, not that) rather than attribute, because how could something that has yet to emerge be described anyway? K states: The earth, the womb and the mind are of the same quality. When the earth lies fallow and the womb is empty, and the mind is without movement, then renewal takes place.”
Yes, words are endowed with limited scope, yet underneath them, one may leap into ….perchance to perceive, to come face to face with…. Dare we say it? ..Insight!!…. Piercing through clouds of thought, a ‘renewal’ of sorts may be what TS Eliot, refers to in ‘Burnt Norton’:
“At the still point of the turning world,
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor toward
At the still point there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement
And not fixity
Where the past and future are gathered…
…Neither ascent nor decline
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance
and there is only the dance.”
Why have humans separated from and dominated the benevolent bonds with this living, dancing renewing earth? What if the heart holds this question ….what if the reverberations of fear, projection and false dichotomies that are spoken in our mind, and then out loud are held and considered, like a sparkling rock held under a hand microscope. We could hear our commentary: ‘Others’ on city councils, university boards or corporate headquarters are making bad decisions; ‘others’ who wear turbans, cowboy hats, uniforms, or hoodies are unworthy; ‘others’ are hated for their skin color, religion, or heritage.
This shared sleepwalk through life indicates that we have not deeply understood our psychological structure which ingrains bias in memory. K liked to use the word conditioning, but many words will describe our deadened brains: programmed, molded, indoctrinated, enculturated, etc.
This atrophy of the heart and apathy of the mind (refusing to see/suffer) are wreaking mountains of destruction, cascading into the current planetary crisis. Might the micro variants of biology’s covids and the macro toxic load of conditioning/incoherence set the stage for a mutation (beyond vaccines and herd immunity) in consciousness? Could the recurring precipices of upheavals, (each perhaps more unprecedented than the last), sufficiently dislodge the psyche’s patterns? Might a confluence of intelligence, wholeness, and love blossom anew? Breakthroughs happen! Just imagine… homo sapien to ‘homo empatico!’
K states “When we discuss the purpose of life, we see that we mean by life the extraordinarily complex state of interrelationship without which there would be no life. And if we do not understand the full significance of that life, its varieties, ….and so on, what is the good of inquiring about its purpose?”
So yes, we have grokked that the garden of intertwined, layered and linked relationships, is suffering at the hands of greed, fear, and self-serving bias. Our inner psychological environments mirror earth’s burning rainforests. K wrote in 1984, “If all scientists put their tools down and said we will not contribute to war, to destroying humanity, they could turn their attention, their skill, their commitment to bringing about a better relationship between nature, the environment, and human beings.”
Parents with children and teachers around the globe are seeking to renew their schools or to start new ones where people work together to understand what is learning really for? One of K’s letters to the schools from November 1978 states ‘In these schools of ours, responsibility to the earth, to nature, and to each other is part of our education…’ Often ‘more education, earlier education, or free education’ are promoted to solve social issues, yet serving the gods of memorization and materialism will not build sustainable relationships on earth. By what unholy god-forsaken notion has conflict resolved or security stabilized amidst an arsenal of 1800 nuclear missiles?
K says, “The greatest need and most pressing problem for every individual is to have an integrated comprehension of life which will enable a person to meet its ever increasing complexities.” If we inhabit the question, what does an ‘integrated comprehension of life’ look like?, it may emerge as….: individuals (= communities) considering together the earth’s multiple precipices as well as restorative actions grounded in the unknown! HA! And ecological-consciousness.
Earth and her vast living systems adapt and change, like the rain that replenishes Ojai’s Casitas Reservoir. To embrace uncertainty and complexity, to release the better angels and finer jewels of our nature, to resuscitate the oceans and rejuvenate the lands, to incubate the mystery that flows through the biased empire of our being, to re-attach to the indivisible;
This is our opportunity. What does it look like to you?
Article written by Karen Hesli