Sarah Cunningham's blog
I saw this on Facebook and thought y'all would be interested. Can't figure out how to share the link (except on Fb) but here's the text:
I do recommend the movie (and the book) Life of Pi. Survival/vegetarianism/cannibalism/predator/prey/human animal relations, plus literary devices, allegory, levels of reality, what is real/true-- scary moments but great fun. I went with my niece and nephew (both in their 20s) and thought of all you eco-imaginers...
My last site-sit post of the semester...
Brain very busy with multiple thought trains. A dark, drizzly December afternoon.
And when the brain-thoughts get a bit quieter, I melt into the haze, silvery-gray, ripples, drizzles, damp, subdued, non-verbal, non-analytical. Just being. Not figuring out what to say about it. observing. ducks swimming this way, each with v-shaped wake in the still water, then swimming back the other way. not seeming to have a particular purpose.
There were seagulls today, which I haven't seen at the pond for quite a while. The Canada geese were all up eating on the grass towards the middle of campus.
The other title I thought of for this post: from Shakespeare:
...or in the heart or in the head?
(tell me, where is fancy bred? Is this Shakespeare?)
Feeling like I think with my whole body, not just with my brain. I like to think with my whole body, not just my brain. Do I sound insane?
(Yes, Shakespeare: Merchant of Venice.)
These are ecological questions...
Then, the seagulls started a bit of screeching-- not too loud-- and one of them flew up and circled, full circle, around above the pond. I got into watching the wingbeats. A drummer I know once told me he always studies birds' wingbeats, as a lesson in grace and in rhythm. The other seagulls flew up too, and watching the rhythm of all those wingbeats at once made me feel quite stoned: another way of entering an altered state, a natural high!
The non-human roles (green cards):
a squirrel from Elizabeth's site-sit
a baboon from the troop observed by Barbara Smuts
Max, Peter Singer's dog in "The Lives of Animals"
a Pachysandra plant in Morris Woods
a piece of Wissahickon Schist, now part of a Bryn Mawr College building
The human roles (orange cards):
Henry David Thoreau
Terry Tempest Williams
The blue cards looked something like this:
Each group included a red, a green, and a blue cardholder. The non-human character got to speak first.
I did not get a full record of who was in each group, but here are some of the memorable moments:
A baboon fell into the river and was in difficulties. The author in the group (Peter Singer) preferred to wax poetic than to rescue the baboon. The class member playing herself pointed out that the baboon could not appreciate poetry.
Squirrel: Elizabeth is an intruder in my house: Attack!
class member: do you not like humans?
David Bohm: intruding my house Elizabth is
Max the dog: I have worth but YOU do not get to decide what that worth is.
Thoreau: Learn to live on your own, dog. Undomesticate yourself. Then you will learn your true worth.
The hawk swooped past above my head, and settled on a high branch above the path ahead of me. I couldn't tell if it was the same hawk, or even the same species of hawk, as the one I spent quite a bit of time quite close to, not far from here, a month or two ago. This one looked bigger, but maybe because the feathers were fluffed up against the rain. I find hawks hard to identify because they never look anything like the pictures in the bird book. Anyway this one was too high up to have eye contact with today -- but the feeling I got was of an individual, a particular hawk personage, coping with this rainy day, rather than an emblematic hawk. This seems to be what interests me lately: the uniqueness of each individual, of species other than our own. They are just as different from each other as people are. (I read in the Scientific American about some research into the personalities of individual fruit flies! Some are more aggressive, some more cooperative. The researchers mark each one with a different colored dot of paint in order to tell them apart.)
Also I'm interested in the uniqueness of each moment, of each series of moments, of each story...
As I and my fellow first-year students at Bryn Mawr College approach the end of a semester of reading, thinking, talking and writing about “Ecological Imaginings,” I find myself reflecting on something that applies not only to our topic, and not only to our class, but to the broader community, of our own institution and of higher education in general. Despite the broad range of our readings and discussions about ecology, one word which has rarely been mentioned is spirit, or spirituality. Once one notices this lack, it becomes glaring, conspicuous in its absence, since in many instances it proposes the resolution to our dilemmas, the center which would hold together our ethics and our analysis.
Over the last half century or so, the impact of our civilization on our planet has become more and more a cause for concern. Despite the many voices warning of the consequences of over-population, pollution, deforestation, ozone depletion, greenhouse gases, loss of species diversity, depletion of resources, environmentally caused health problems, climate change, and general looming disaster, it has been difficult for us as a species, either globally or nationally, to change our direction. The assumptions underlying our way of life are deeply entrenched, even as ever more people suffer as a result of these assumptions, and despite the growing awareness that we need to change.
Well, here is my - perhaps subversive! - question - perhaps jumping the gun on our discussion tomorrow - prompted by the first two pages of the second half of the Coetzee book!!
What is this class really about???
Is it about ecology?
Or is the real topic hiding right there in plain sight: is it really about how to be academic?
Excuse me if this is obvious! And excuse my punctuation! Dashes - and exclamation points - are probably not very academic!!!
What is the form? and what is the content?
What am I really asking?
(perhaps I alologize again: a bit punch drunk as the end of the semester approaches!)
So much has already been written on our joint ramble with the seniors that I don't have much to add. Yes, it was it was interesting to remember more about our geology session: when it came time to share it with others cerain things resurfaced that I hadn't thought about since the day. Like relating the history of Bryn Mawr College not only to the stones it's built from, and where they came from, but also to the exrtaordianry Bryn Mawr woman geologist who named them! My other favorite moment was the vine-swinging. Three seniors in a row became inspired to emulate Tarzan: the first quite cautiously, then when nothing bad happened the second and third more boldly, ending with a real swing that caused the vine to let go and slowly come snaking down! On the way to the graveyard we saw a huge chunk of (I think) tulip tree sticking into the ground, probably blown off in the hurricane? And I loved the overgrownm alive but also a bit otherwordly atmosphere of the graveyard itself.
I have to rant again just a little bit about all the talk of "invasive" species. Firstly, as I like to say, humans have a lot of damn gall calling other species invasive! And the implication of moral depravity in plants which "take over" and "destroy" other plant species seems weird to me. They're just trying to make a living like anyone else. Do we condemn them for being successful?
One word which has been mentioned rather rarely, in our readings, in our discussions, in our postings, is spirit, or spirituality. Once I notice this lack, it becomes glaring, conspicuous in its absence, since in many instances it gives the answer, the resolution to our dilemmas, the center which would hold together our ethics and our analysis. If we start to notice, as native people's do, that everything has a spirit, its right to its exist becomes clear. Our patriarchal, human-dominated, nature-dominating, exploitive civilization is partly based on, or justified by, the notion that only humans have a soul. Even science has carried on this view, assuming that since we have larger brains and a certain kind of self-reflective consciousness, that therefore we are in a different category completely from any other creature. Of course this view is even scientifically breaking down, as we find out about communication and creativity in creatures like dolphins, chimpanzees, elephants--and fruit flies! But there is still an assumption that we count more, because we are able to think in this way that has allowed us to develop our technology. It goes on reinforcing the view that we have rights over everything else.