I reached the line in Gerald May’s The Wisdom of Wilderness that I can’t cross.
We’ve been reading May’s book as part of a discussion group over at The High Calling Blogs. This past week, we read chapter 10, “Natural Being,” in which May recounts a dream he had about encountering a mountain lion. From the dream, May moves to a short discussion about animal being and healing. When he talks about healing, he says this:
“Some of us still see the earth as an enemy, something to conquer, subjugate, and squander. More of us, thank God, now see it as something to cherish and to care for. But even in our cherishing, the earth remains an ‘it,’ a ‘something,’ an object that is not us. The popular language is ‘stewardship of the environment.’ Stewards are managers, overseers, caretakers, and no matter how benevolent they are, they must forever remain apart from that which they care for…Before we can effectively heal the wounds we have inflicted upon the rest of Nature, we must allow ourselves to be healed. And we must allow the rest of Nature to help us…
“I have never been able to do this for myself. It has to come through grace, in the Presence of the One I called the Power of the Slowing, the Wisdom of the Wild.”
May is not talking about God, but he is talking about a kind of god, a god that is creation. He’s infused it with a supra-human spirit and given it voice and personality, but it is still, ultimately, creation, the natural world, but the natural world that has a very human-like presence projected on to it.
There's one chapter left, and I will finish the book. But this is a line I can’t cross. Perhaps I’m too modernist, too corporate, too “religious” – but May has now formally established the point he’s been aiming at all along – oneness with, and the worship of, the creation. It’s an old, old problem, and it’s called idolatry. And it’s ultimately destructive of that very self May is so desperate to find in his book.