“One of the things I love that is so special about the Redwood trees is that they are MASSIVE and yet they only send their roots about ten feet deep… they send them wide and hold onto their community for strength. Good reminder for us all,” says Gentle Thunder, a sister of the “standing people,” her bellowed tree beings. She plays flutes, drum and hammer dulcimer in a way that stirs the souls and seduces us into the deepest reverence for life. The beauty of her music and the systemic wisdom of her words reminded me a new way to look at my quest, a new way to hold my question:
Why can’t we stand together as the redwoods, grounded in our collective intelligence and wisdom in a sustainable way, not only in the precious moments of enlightened communication or the magic in the middle (.pdf), when our heartbeats synch with the rhythm of Life itself?
Granted, the redwoods have an “easier job,” they don’t have to respond to complex demands that accelerating socio-technical changes create for the human species. Yet, as Gentle Thunder said, there is something to learn from them. What if we, humans, welcomed one another’s gifts with arms as open as the root system of one redwood does to the other. What if we cared gifting one another, as if our collective survival depended on it? What if it does?
That reminds me the beautiful story of the Rabbi’s Gift. Have you heard it? David Isaacs told me the story first, many years ago. Since then, it became part of the electronic folklore, spreading by email and websites, of which there are now more than 400 referencing it. It is the story of a monastery with decaying vitality, where the remaining monks seek advice from a rabbi in the next village, about how to re-ignite the spirit in and around their abode. They receive the surprising reply, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
As the story goes, “the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.” If you and I were two of those monks (or a monk and a nun) 🙂 , I would treat you not only with great respect but also a hungry curiosity of what I can learn from you. When that respect and welcoming curiosity start spreading in our “monastery,” we gain admission to our collective wisdom.
Let’s say, we have a “Jedi Council,” a group of exceptional individuals liberated from the tyranny of ego–with only occasional relapses–and working together in world service. Let’s say, we experience such moments and want them to stay for longer, then start living with us. What practice of ours can enable them to do so?
I guess it’s paying attention to what we pay attention to. Why? Because being weak in that practice risks to bring us back to a narrower consciousness, absorbed by the nitty-gritty of daily life and fleeting, chatty thoughts, even if only a few minutes or hours. In those moments, our availability to the evolutionary impulse–that brought us together–is gone. Strengthening our competence in paying attention to what we pay attention to will ask from us something new; nothing less than fully engaging in the serious fun of cultivating a sustainable shared-attention, the foundation of sustainable collective intelligence and wisdom.