Readings on Rootedness

Readings on Rootedness

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”  James Oppenheim

“The body repeats the landscape.  They are the source of each other and create each other.”  Meridel Le Sueur

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future. Simone Weil

In the great myth of the Buddha’s journey, there came a point when he is completely overwhelmed. As he sits meditating under the Bodhi tree, the devil Mara sends temptations to distract him from the wish of his deepest essence. Mara flashes images of the Buddha as a great leader, as a huge success in business with mountains of money, surrounded by beautiful women. He shows the Buddha that can make India great again if he would just give up his quest to awaken, and get up and do something. The Buddha will not move.
When temptation doesn’t work, Mara tries fear, conjuring visions of terrible armies howling for his blood. These armies are external and also internal, legions of anxieties and fears. But the Buddha does not flinch. Slowly, he reached down and touched the earth. The classical explanation is that he is asking the Earth itself to bear witness to his many life times of effort. Not his blinding brilliance or his unique talent, mind you, but his effort, his perseverance, his willingness to show up no matter what. His willingness to fail and fail again. “Ever tried. Ever failed,” writes Beckett. “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The Buddha understood what the Christian author G.K. Chesterton meant when he wrote, “Everything worth doing is worth doing badly.”
Touching the Earth symbolizes humility, coming down out of our thoughts, out of the busy hive of ego, to join the rest of life. The Latin word humus, the rich living earth, is related to the word humility. When difficulty arises, it creates a clearing in the deadening trance of habit. We remember that what really matters is not the list of worries and desires we spend so much time thinking about every day. What matters is much more essential. Being alive, for example. Taking part in life, having a chance to give and receive in the most elemental ways, taking in the beauty of the world and giving back where we can.
At moments when the ground gives way beneath our feet, it’s good to remember the power of touching the earth, descending from our racing thoughts and fears to an awareness of the present moment. When words fail, we can sometimes discover a new voice and a new kind of determination. We can rise up rooted, like trees. Tracy Cochran

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home. Wendell Berry

One person may experience a sense of being part of the grand design through God, while another may discover this truth through nature or a melding of both, as one and the same. It was when he was at his lowest that Bill… headed to Georgian Bay to hear the waves crashing against the rocks. That image sustained him through the winter. Sometimes it is precisely when institutions, be they home or other, fail us, that we need to feel a belonging that goes deeper; a belonging with the tides, to the creative flow, be it God’s and our own; a rootedness with time-honoured sources of strength and sustenance. Leslie Morgenson

As one friend who has moved 10 times commented, “I can’t wait to be in one space for a long while.” One space for a long while. Being rooted. It’s a beautiful idea, so there must be truth to it, though after enough moves, one begins to develop a certain cynicism towards the possibility of rootedness. In fact, I wonder at times if all of the emphasis on Instagram of #wanderlust and #vanlife aren’t in part because if we can’t be somewhere, we might as well be everywhere, which ultimately means we are nowhere in particular—an odd sort of specified, rather than existential, nihilism. I know that, for myself at least, the more places I am, the more I long for a place in which I can get into the habit of being—a place that would arise from the ashes of a thousand burned cardboard boxes. Somewhere that I can wear myself into through the living out of life in such a way that the scratches and cracks remain and are not simply painted over with the cheap repair-off-white paint so common in the pod-like rentals of young adulthood. A place where I care about the coffee I spill on the carpet not because it could fail to return me my deposit, but because if I don’t clean it, I will see it every day and know I should. My own home—a place I where I can get into the habit of being in.  Marina S. Brungardt

But how is … rootedness possible in an age of hypermobility, when vapour trails score new tracks across the sky – and against the backdrop of mass migration caused by war, political repression and climate breakdown? How do we celebrate belonging when ugly nativism is on the rise across the world, twisting a love of land into exclusion and division? Can we, as guests and visitors, truly learn from other lands when cultures and ecosystems are packaged and commodified to meet the insatiable demands of the tourist industry? In a global monoculture, when differences are being flattened by media and consumerism, how do we retain our vernacular? What corners of terra claim our hearts’ allegiance? The Editors, Dark Mountain Project

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. Linda Hogan

I understand now how part of our soul belongs to a place and that the rational mind, with its everyday goals and ambitions, is no match for it. This is what Daan van Kampenhout calls the tribal soul: part and parcel of being human, he says, is to make our tribal soul bonds conscious so we are not haunted by them. Pelin Turgut

I forgot how good it feels to be rooted. And to be rooted is not the same thing at all as being tied down. To be rooted is to say, here I am nourished and here will I grow, for I have found a place where every sunrise shows me how to be more than what I was yesterday, and I need not wander to feel the wonder of my blessing.  Kevin Hearne

“Roots hold me close, wings set me free.” #123 Spirit of Life

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” Theodore Roethke

Longer Texts

Writer Courtney Martin considers her life of both travel and home in an essay from On Being.

From Aeon Magazine, a sociological exploration of mobility in American society and history.

Canadian Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese shares a personal story about choosing roots.


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