Readings on Kinship
by Fiona Heath
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”. Mother Theresa
“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.” Pema Chodron
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this: this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a moon in each eye,
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?
Hafiz, translation Daniel Lindsky
Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animal with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beingss – our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things… One way to stop seeing trees, or river, or hills only as ‘natural resources,’ is to class them as fellow beings – kinfolk. I guess I’m trying to subjectify the universe, because look where objectifying it has gotten us.
Ursula K. Le Guin
What finally turned me back toward the older traditions of my own [Chickasaw] and other Native peoples was the inhumanity of the Western world, the places–both inside and out–where the culture’s knowledge and language don’t go, and the despair, even desperation, it has spawned. We live, I see now, by different stories, the Western mind and the indigenous. In the older, more mature cultures where people still live within the kinship circles of animals and human beings there is a connection with animals, not only as food, but as ‘powers,’ a word which can be taken to mean states of being, gifts, or capabilities.
I’ve found, too, that the ancient intellectual traditions are not merely about belief, as some would say. Belief is not a strong enough word. They are more than that: They are part of lived experience, the on-going experience of people rooted in centuries-old knowledge that is held deep and strong, knowledge about the natural laws of Earth, from the beginning of creation, and the magnificent terrestrial intelligence still at work, an intelligence now newly called ecology by the Western science that tells us what our oldest tribal stories maintain–the human animal is a relatively new creation here; animal and plant presences were here before us; and we are truly the younger sisters and brothers of the other animal species, not quite as well developed as we thought we were. It is through our relationships with animals and plants that we maintain a way of living, a cultural ethics shaped from an ancient understanding of the world, and this is remembered in stories that are the deepest reflections of our shared lives on Earth.
That we held, and still hold, treaties with the animals and plant species is a known part of tribal culture. The relationship between human people and animals is still alive and resonant in the world, the ancient tellings carried on by a constellation of stories, songs, and ceremonies, all shaped by lived knowledge of the world and its many interwoven, unending relationships. These stories and ceremonies keep open the bridge between one kind of intelligence and another, one species and another.
Linda Hogan, (from her essay “First People”)
There is only one horse on the earth
and his name is All Horses.
There is only one bird in the air
and his name is All Wings.
There is only one fish in the sea
and his name is All Fins.
There is only one man in the world
And his name is All Men.
There is only one woman in the world
and her name is All Women.
There is only one child in the world
and the child’s name is All Children.
There is only one Maker in the world
and His children cover the earth
and they are named All God’s Children.
Carl Sandburg, from Honey and Salt
The work satisfied something deeper in him than his own desire. It was as if he went to his fields in the spring, not just because he wanted to, but because his father and grandfather before him had gone because they wanted to – because, since the first seeds were planted by hand in the ground, his kinsmen had gone each spring to the fields. When he stepped into the first opening furrow of a new season he was not merely fulfilling an economic necessity; he was answering the summons of an immemorial kinship; he was shaping a passage by which an ancient vision might pass once again into the ground.
Given the global challenges humanity faces in the 21st century, we can no longer afford to maintain artificial divisions between peoples and nations. Learning from the indigenous peoples of the world, along with the wisdom-keepers of all cultures and faith traditions, we must begin to understand ourselves as part of a great human family that is itself just one strand in the web of life on our living Earth.
What wilderness patiently teaches is that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, and that there is far more to grasp than what we can see on the surface. Just as all the matter in the known universe barely weighs against the mass of the so-called “dark matter” that we cannot see, so the value of wilderness as a corridor for thought reaches far beyond the material sum of the life it harbors or the natural history it envelops. That is why the ideas and precepts it holds for our future need to be cherished and made a part of our everyday lives, even when those lives are lived—as most now are in cities—in places far removed from wilderness. We need to reacquaint ourselves with the awe and wonder and curiosity that are inherent in our kinship with all life.
Andrew Henry Webber
I’ve been considering the phrase “all my relations” for some time now. It’s hugely important. It’s our saving grace in the end. It points to the truth that we are all related, that we are all connected, that we all belong to each other. The most important word is “all”. Not just those who look like me, sing like me, dance like me, speak like me, pray like me, or behave like me. ALL my relations. That means every person, just as it means every rock, mineral, blade of grass, and creature. We live because everything else does. If we were to choose collectively to live that teaching, the energy of our change of consciousness would heal each of us – and heal the planet.
Richard Wagamese, from Embers
If everything is connected to everything else, then everyone is ultimately responsible for everything. We can blame nothing on anyone else. The more we comprehend our mutual interdependence, the more we fathom the implications of our most trivial acts. We find ourselves within a luminous organism of sacred responsibility.
Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Eugene V. Debs
I believe this affinity of the human spirit for the earth and its beauties is deeply and logically rooted. As human beings, we are part of the whole stream of life. We have been human beings for perhaps a million years. But life itself—passes on something of itself to other life – that mysterious entity that moves and is aware of itself and its surroundings, and so is distinguished from rocks or senseless clay— life arose many hundreds of millions of years ago. Since then it has developed, struggled, adapted itself to its surroundings, evolved an infinite number of forms. But its living protoplasm is built of the same elements as air, water, and rock. To these the mysterious spark of life was added. Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.
“Accepting our kinship with all life on earth is not only solid science,… it’s also a soaring spiritual experience.” Neil deGrasse Tyson
“Our kinship with Earth must be maintained; otherwise, we will find ourselves trapped in the center of our own paved-over souls with no way out.” Terry Tempest Williams
“You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” anonymous
Father Greg Boyle in conversation with Krista Tippitt on kinship and belonging in his work in a Los Angeles neighbourhood.
From the website Brain Pickings, Audre Lourde on kinship across difference.
An examination of kinship and friendship in animals from the on-line Aeon Magazine.
New words for other beings from Robin Wall Kimmerer in Yes Magazine.
December 24, 2018
November 30, 2018
November 30, 2018