Approaching mystery

Our refusal of the ecological conversation arises on two sides. We can, in the first place, abandon the conversation on the assumption that whatever speaks through the Other is wholly mysterious and beyond our ken. This all too easily becomes a positive embrace of ignorance. w

I do not see how anyone can look with genuine openness at the sur- p rounding world without a sense of mystery on every hand. Reverence e toward this mystery is the prerequisite for all wise understanding. But a 'mysterious' does not mean 'unapproachable.' After thirty-two years of F marriage my wife remains a mystery to me - in some ways a deepening =S

w mystery. Yet she and I can still converse meaningfully, and every year we

12 get to know each other better. <u

There is no such thing as absolute mystery. Nearly everything is £ unknown to us, but nothing is unknowable in principle. Nothing we ¡5 could want to know refuses our conversational approach. A radically o unknowable mystery would be completely invisible to us - so we couldn't recognize it as unknowable.

Moreover, the world itself is shouting the necessity of conversation at us. Our responsibility to avoid destroying the earth cannot be disentangled from our responsibility to sustain the earth. We cannot heal a landscape without a positive vision for what the landscape might become

- which can only be something it has never been before. There is no escaping the expressive consequences of our lives.

Our first conversational task may be to acknowledge mystery, but when you have prodded and provoked that mystery into threatening the whole planet with calamity, you had better hope you can muster a few meaningful words in response, if only words of apology. And you had better seek at least enough understanding of what you have prodded and provoked to begin redirecting your steps in a more positive direction.

But claiming incomprehension of the speech of the Other is not the only way to stifle the ecological conversation. We can, from the side of conventional science, deny the existence of any speech to be understood. We can say, 'There is no one there, no coherent unity in nature and its creatures of the sort one could speak with. Nature has no interior.'

But this will not do either. To begin with, we ourselves belong to nature, and we certainly communicate with one another. So already we can hardly claim that nature lacks a speaking interior. (How easy it is to ignore this most salient of all salient facts!) Then, too, we have always communicated in diverse ways with various higher animals. If we have construed this as a monologue rather than a conversation, it is not because these animals offer us no response, but only because we prefer to ignore it.

But beyond this, whenever we assume the organic unity of anything, we necessarily appeal to an immaterial 'something' that informs its parts, which otherwise remain a mere disconnected aggregate. You may refer to this something as spirit, archetype, idea, essence, the nature of the thing, its being, the 'cowness of the cow.' (Some of these terms work much better than others.) But without an interior and generative aspect - without something that speaks through the organism as a whole, something of which all the parts are a qualitative expression

- you have no organism and no governing unity to talk about, let alone to converse with. [...]

What those who are receptive to the world's qualities consistently discover is a conversational partner.

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