I love it when someone writes with passion, heart, depth, and poetry about natural and scientific phenomena and as such greatly enjoyed an essay by Brian Swimme in the book Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminist Philosophy. As an educator and a homeschooling mother (as well as a former homeschooler myself), I also appreciated his telling observation that (formal) education is a major cause of the “lobotomy” of which he writes: “…by the time they are done training us as leaders for our major institutions, we have only a sliver of our original minds still operative. What sliver is left? …the sliver chiseled to perfection for controlling, for distancing, for calculating, and for dominating. The rest has been sacrificed in the surgery of patriarchal initiation” (p. 16).
Since most children spend 12 years minimum steeped in this educational culture, is it any wonder that we find ourselves in our current social and political conditions? This surgery of which Swimme speaks leads to a mechanical conception of the operations, functioning, and majesty of the universe, meant to be analyzed rather than marveled over.
Rather than a Big Bang, the birth of the universe is much more aptly described in terms of a Big Birth: “Not bombs, not explosions, not abhorrence…a birthing moment, the Great Birth. To miss the reality of birth in these scientific facts is to miss everything. It is to sit at the heavily laden table and starve. For here is a great moment in human consciousness. Now for the first time in all of human history we have empirical and theoretical evidence of a reality that has been celebrated by primal people for millennia…the mathematics of this initial, singularity of space/time are not enough. We require song and festival and chanting and ritual and every manner of art so that we can establish an original and felt relationship with the universe…our universe is quite clearly a great swelling birthing event, but why was this hidden from the very discoverers of the primeval birth? The further truth of the universe was closed to them, because central regions of the mind were closed…I am sensitive to the charge that poetry [like this] is just an ‘addendum’–that what are real are the empirical facts, while the rest is commentary. On the contrary, what is true is that this universe is a stupendous birth process, an engendering reality…” (p. 19).
This is the kind of theapoetics that makes me swoon! What would our world, our culture, the way in which we give birth, and the way in which women are treated look like if we grew up with a Great Birth rather than a Big Bang?
Swimme continues: “From a single fireball the galaxies and stars were all woven. Out of a single molten planet the hummingbirds and pterodactyls and gray whales were all woven. What could be more obvious than this all-pervasive fact of cosmic and terrestrial weaving? Our of a single group of microorganisms, the Krebs cycle was woven, the convoluted human brain was woven, the Pali Canon was woven, all part of the radiant tapestry of being. Show us this weaving? Why, it is impossible to point to anything that does not show it, for this creative, interlacing energy envelops us entirely. Our lives in truth are nothing less than a further unfurling of this primordial ordering activity…Women are beings who know from the inside out what it is like to weave the Earth into a new human being” (p. 21, emphasis mine).
So, if the patriarchal initiation of modern education doesn’t do the job, what should we teach our children? “We will teach our children at a young age the central truth of everything: that this universe has been weaving itself into a world of beauty for 15 billion years, that everything has been waiting for their arrival, for they have a crucial if unknown role to play in this great epic of being. We will teach that their destinies and the destinies of the oak trees and all the peoples of Earth are wrapped together. That the same creativity suffusing the universe suffuses all of us, too, and that together we as a community of beings will fashion something as stupendous as the galaxies” (p. 22).
I believe this is ecofeminism in practice.