Sunday, April 28, 2024

God's Couch

On with the Animal Dreams book report. With Earth Day a week behind us, the book is a good reminder that our destruction of our own habitat comes from a narrative a couple of thousand years old. It’s right there in the beginning of the whole book that framed the values of Western civilization— Verse 26 of Genesis:


“Then God said, ‘Let us make men in our own image after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth and over every creeping things that creeps upon the earth.’  … And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”


In short, we are given permission to plunder, to ravage, to subdue, to take without thought of thanks. And how is that working out? Animal Dreams gives some hints. 


There is a heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at how mining pumice was destroying the ecology of a small Southwestern town, all for the dubious cause of selling jeans to teenagers that look old and worn. How the copper mining was destroying the river, which in turn was ravaging the trees. How corporate raiders made great profit without having to live in the place where they’d have to face the consequences of their actions. Far away, more ravaging and subduing was going on in Nicaragua (where the heroine’s sister went to help re-stabilize the land and crops), fully funded by Reagan and then Bush and killing innocent civilians as well as destroying the land.  It’s all connected and part of our Western inheritance of “permission to plunder.”


But as the book points out, it’s not the only show in town. It’s the one that gets the big microphones and media coverage, but there are scores of other mythologies that have a very different point of view about our role here on this delicate and fragile planet.  Loyd, Codi’s Apache boyfriend in the book, explains to her the point of the ritual corn dances as a way to make a deal with the gods. The gods  do their part by sending rain and fertile soil and the humans agree to carefully caretake the gift of life, light, land and water. As he describes it:


“We’re on our own. The spirits have been good enough to let us live here and use the utilities and we’re saying, ‘We know how nice you’re being. We appreciate the rain we appreciate the sun, we appreciate the deer we took. Sorry if we messed anything. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble and we’ll try to be good guests.”


“It’s a good idea,” Codi said. “Especially since we’re still here sleeping on God’s couch. We’re permanent houseguests. 


“But the way they tell it to us Anglos God put the earth here for us to use, westward-ho. Like a special little playground. But where do you go when you’ve pissed in every corner of your playground?”


There are so many narratives afoot that have created and sustained the horrors of genocide, slavery, ecological catastrophe, patriarchy and all of them in a kind of death-dealing intersectionality. All of them need to be changed. I like the idea of teaching children that we’re sleeping on God’s couch. And that we should not piss in every single corner of the playground. 


Stay tuned for Book Report Part 3.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.