A Telling Tale

“We have severed our connection to the very source of life, and as a result we are possessed by an ever-growing hunger that we try to fill by consuming more and more, in the process destroying the very fabric of life that sustains us” ~Larry Robinson

Recently, I started to re-read the wonderful anthology, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind. In one of the introductory chapters by ecopsychologist and politician Larry Robinson (no,not the hockey player!), he paraphrases a telling tale which speaks–I believe–to the core of our environmental predicament.

healing with nature in mind

[Bauer’s engraving of the Erysichthon story]

The story that Robinson summarizes is an ancient Greek myth which he borrows from the great Roman poet, Ovid . The tale goes something like this.

There lived a wealthy landowner named Erysichthon. On his land was a magnificent oak tree sacred to the goddess Demeter. While Erysichthon’s men recognized the splendor of the beautiful oak, Erysichthon saw only profit–and ordered his servants to fell the tree. When one of his men who recognized the tree’s magnificence refused to cooperate, Erysichthon decapitated him and proceeded to cut the oak himself. Hearing of Erysichthon’s sacrilege, Demeter cursed him: whatever Erysichthlon ate increased his hunger. Insatiable, Erysichthon consumed everything he had, including his children, and eventually, his own self.

Like Erysichthlon, many of us ‘modern’ people are also cursed, insatiable. We consume, consume, consume–and yet, are never satisfied. Underlying our dis-ease is a spiritual void. Cut off from the more-than-human world by our industrial growth society, we have forgotten who we are, what our true place is on our precious planet.

To move toward social and ecological sustainability, this needs to change. Thomas Berry is correct when he states that,

The ancient human-Earth relationship must be recovered in a new context, in its mystical as well as in its physical functioning. There is need for awareness that the mountains and rivers and all living things, the sky and its sun and moon and clouds all constitute a healing, sustaining sacred presence for humans which they need as much for their psychic integrity as for their physical nourishment.

In recovering a meaningful relationship with the more-than-human world, we will re-member who we are.

We will realize our fundamental wholeness, a quality which cannot be bought or sold, but only experienced.