One evening I rolled up my sleeves, clicked on a podcast on Spotify, and took on the daunting task of cleaning out my cabinet where I keep my storage containers and ball mason jars that had become an unruly mass of mismatched, chaotic tower of glass and plastic and metal. While doing this, my chosen podcast ended and Spotify flipped, on its own, to the Alan Watt’s lecture, A Conversation with God. Accompanied by light music playing behind it, it felt a bit like a cranky angel was talking directly to me. So I continued to listen, while sitting on my kitchen floor trying to match containers to lids like a toddler with an existential puzzle.
“We are on the outer limits of a minor Galaxy revolving around an unimportant star on a small, minute, ball of rock. And therefore, that astronomical way of looking at things is simply overwhelming. It makes us feel of no importance, but also very much left out. … We began to put up the most whopping fight of nature that was ever engaged and that fight is an expression of our fury and our feeling of being left out. So that the technological experiment which became possible as a result of the mechanical sciences has largely been conducted in a spirit of rage, and the results are evident and all around us."
He’s got a point - we clearly don’t love the earth or we wouldn’t treat it the way we do. And we love technology. It gives us a sense of control – it can mirror our creative, social and destructive capacities in ways we understand. Social media is our Id and our Ego turned way up. AI is our dream of efficiency – of not taking the meandering route where creativity is sparked by research and exploration and the journey through uncertainty, but rather AI gives us
the shortest possible journey to a desired outcome. It’s productivity on steroids in a product driven world. And we have projected our systems onto nature. Capitalism in particular, but also our ideas of geological boundaries and ownership. How can a person own a 300 year old tree? How can someone believe they own a wave break? Why do we think it’s
okay to look up to the night sky and see billionaire Elan Musk’s satellites moving across it like a graffiti tag? And how could I have so many containers that had no lids? And so many lids that didn’t fit the containers? They can’t just crawl off on their own.
I put my mismatched containers in a pile, wondering where I mig
ht find some matching parts. There’s something infuriating about the container-lid issue. It’s the not knowing what happens to them. It’s facing the chaos of my own imperfections. And I could buy
more containers with lids, but the same thing eventually happens. Perpetual imperfection. Not knowing makes us face the abyss of uncertainty, which is one of our greatest fears. Death, not lids, is the great uncertainty. I would say that our deepest issue with nature is not our hurt at existing in the fringes of the universe, but the perpetual uncertainty that the natural world makes us face. Nothing is scripted in nature, nothing is secure, change is constant. And so we project what we know onto it and onto the idea of God. It makes us feel safer to believe that there is an answer to every question. That God doesn’t rolldice. And it removes us from planet earth, and from our vulnerability as earthlings.
Feeling esoteric from Watt’s talk, instead of picking up a novel before bed, I flipped open the book “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore to a random page. In a section called Body & Soul, he writes, “The ensouled body is in communion with the body of the world and finds its health in that intimacy.” He goes on to say that the soul is not about transcendence, but intimacy, “between consciousness and the soul, between our body and the world’s body, and between ourselves and our fellow human beings.” So one possible cure to our terror of not knowing is not certainty, but rather intimacy.
Wild food creates intimacy with the natural world. It invites us in to learn about it. To explore uncertainty, paradox, not knowing, and unscripted stories. And it grows the intimacy between us and the forests and coastline. We don’t need to understand everything about nature to allow it to nourish our bodies and souls. We just need to show up, to learn a little, and let uncertainty transform into wonder.