Our connection to the earth

by Joe Jacob

Who are you? Let me ask that question another way. Do you know who you are? If I were a betting person, I would bet that you really do not know. You probably do have an image of who you think you are. You know your likes and dislikes. You make decisions based on facts or assumptions, and sometimes both. You know what makes you feel good, and sometimes you know what makes you afraid. You might even know what makes you happy or makes you sad. Now that you have thought about these things, do you have a better idea of who you are? I am guessing you are not even close to really understanding who you are because there is one fundamental connection about your life to which you probably have given very little thought.

If you are honest, you know that your awareness is one fleeting moment after another. Sometimes you are deep in thought and sometimes you are totally unaware of your existence. Think about when you are driving. Hopefully, you notice that stop sign in front of you even though for untold seconds or even minutes you have not been aware of the fact that you were driving. Your thoughts were elsewhere. Are you conscious and also, at times, unconscious? Is that the totality of who you are?

I suppose you would default to the conclusion that you are spirit, or as I would say, the life force that animates us. Now when I ask you who you are, you would more than likely say that you are spirit and self-aware. You might even go so far as to say you are spirit and consciousness acting through a physical body. If you have come to that conclusion, you are getting close to understanding who you are, but you still have a long way to go. What I am getting at is that very few of us truly understand our connection to the earth. Our bodies are of the earth, so we are spirit, consciousness, and earth.

If you have been to a funeral, you more than likely heard the person ministering at the service say “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. If you viewed the body, you were well aware of the fact that the spirit or the life force was no longer animating that body. You probably assumed that there was no consciousness present. Those who have experienced death and were resuscitated would debate you on that question, but until each of us does experience death for ourselves we will never truly know.

We often think that we were created because an egg and a sperm came together to make life. The truth is that the genetic code in the egg and sperm took key building blocks from the earth and organized them into a life form. Physically, we are nothing more than 23 elements, 84 minerals and 8 gallons of water spread throughout 38 trillion cells. That is something we all share in common. We are not of our parents or ancestors. We come from the earth itself. We are no more or less than recycled components that make up the earth like rocks, trees, and decomposed organisms all of which nourish us through the foods that we eat. As Aubrey Marcus says, “You are not living on Earth. You are Earth.”

Life is certainly a mystery, but each year I am getting a better understanding of my connection to Mother Nature. As much as I love my biological mother and appreciate all of her nurturing when she was alive, I know that would not have been possible without the ecological processes that made those 23 elements, 84 minerals, and water available to be turned into the body in which I exist. Physically, I am nothing more than animated star dust, the origin of those elements and minerals, and so are you. We come from the Universe and we return to the Universe, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

With this greater understanding of who we are comes the obligation to do all that we can to pass on to future generations a healthier earth than the one from which we came. How do we do that? First, it begins by understanding our connection to the earth. Then, we must care and demonstrate that caring by how we live. To quote Kate Siber, “The earth is the totality of who and what we are; it’s what we are made of, where we come from, and where we will go. To limit our understanding of and relationship to it in any way is tragic.”

Joe Jacob, a Chatham resident for more than 30 years and a marine biologist by training, is president of www.HawRiverCanoe.com. He worked for The Nature Conservancy for 20 years and served as Director of Science for TNC’s Southeast Region.