By Neal Lemery
I can be so lost and alone, in a crowd of people.
I plug into my electronic devices, suddenly accessing the immediacy of "news", social commentary, so many thoughts of others. Yet, I can be, at the same time, in a dark cave of despair, my isolation and sense of unworthiness becoming the ghosts in the dark.
Friends are searching for their own meaning in life, their purpose, their place in this hectic, yes frantic world of immediate deadlines and obligations.
We heed the call of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, "hurry, hurry."
But, we can be lost, easily pushed to the side of the freeway, as the world goes rushing on by.
What we have sensed that we have lost is being connected with each other. We used to tell stories around the fire at night, and during the day, work together, laughing and singing, always connected. We shared the good and the bad.
We were close to the land, and the stars, the birds, and, through our hands, we were connected to the earth. Our work was something we could see, touch, hold onto.
How we lived our day impacted our village. If we didn't hunt, or plant, or work together, we did not eat. We truly connected with each other, and with the universe. Spirituality was not abstract, it was real. And, we had accountability around the fire at night, and around the shared meal.
Social media is popular, as we are back around the fire, telling stories, catching up, sharing our lives. It has its drawbacks, and we can easily be alone in a crowd, ignoring the person next to us. But, social media life is a form of village life, of community.
Today, friends write about the power of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Friends of Bill W. Why does that message, that simple act of gathering together and sharing, why does that work for so many people? Why does that change lives?
AA works because it is communal, it brings spirituality to the forefront of our lives, it has a belief that our spirituality and our uniqueness as a person is truly valuable, and we benefit from the spiritual energy of others. All religions, all prophets have the core message: be connected, love one another, find peace and meaning in being in communion with each other and with the universe. Avoid separateness, don't be alone. We are all one brotherhood and sisterhood. The person next to us matters to us, simply because they are our brother, our sister.
Yesterday, I reconnected. The sun was out, it was a perfect day, almost hot, and still, with the colors of Autumn around me. I had plants to plant in my yard, and it felt good to my soul to push a shovel into the rich, dark soil, and make a new home for shrubs, trees, and daffodils.
In sixty or seventy years, the trees I planted will reach their prime, and will send their seeds throughout the valley, and stand tall and proud, objects of beauty for those who come after me. I will be long gone, but what my feet, back and hands did for those trees yesterday will be remembered by the trees, on the day they moved here and took up residence.
It felt good to feel the dirt under my feet, and between my fingers. I held the plants, and their roots, tenderly settling them into the ground, settling the dirt next to their roots, and watering them in. One tree needed staking, to hold it up in the coming winter storms. Yet, all too soon, it will be growing tall and sturdy, its roots firmly reaching downward, connecting with and becoming part of this land.
Being the tree planter connected me with the earth, and with the universe. I am part of this place, as is the tree, and the hawk that circled above me, and the wind that blew in off the ocean, bringing the smell of last night's rain.
Today, I am far away, meeting one of my buddies, making more connections with him, as he is planting his own trees, and setting down his own roots. He, too, will grow straight and tall, his soul firmly planted in good soil, taking in the water and sunlight of knowledge and stability, making his life rich and productive.
I've been teaching him about tree planting, and farming his soul. He's a good student, and what I've been saying about what we do in the village, how we are part of our tribe, is stuff he's taken into his heart.
"What are you doing today?" people ask.
Making connections, planting trees, tending my soul, taking care of the brothers and sisters in this world. That's what I'm doing.
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